Sunday, January 30, 2011
On the streets of Cairo, Egyptians are re-drawing the map of the Middle East, and arguably the world. In a couple of hours it would be almost a week since the protests against Mubarak's regime and government began in Egypt. It was surreal but somehow expected now that Arabs are already enjoying the support of the recent history of a nation's victory against an authoritarian regime in Tunisia.
To attempt to analyse what is happening now politically, socially or even from a media perspective is a bit complicated, as it is always dangerous to pose premature findings and analysis on what is happening while it is happening. Indeed, it is writing from the time of conflict that deems to be the hardest, whatever is said now could be proven wrong in the next minute.
For Arabs everywhere, what is happening now is unprecedented in the contemporary history of the Arab world. Most Arabs revolutions happened before this generation was born, or when they were really young to comprehend the impact of the change. The myth of the 'Al Sha'ab El Aaraby’, which translates to the Arab nation, was often contested and ridiculed; the masses are mobilised; they are aware, but too hungry and too poor to demand change.
Again, that judgment has now proved wrong amidst the epic uprising of the people in Egypt and Tunisia, and the collective solidarity and hope that is visible in all social media between Arabs living in the Middle East, or those forced out of their homelands in other countries. Social media programmes like twitter, facebook and other blog sites are overloaded with photographs, uploaded footage from AlTahrir Square in Cairo and articles that explain the political and social ramifications of the Egyptian uprising. Social media helped propagate the news and development on the streets of Tunisia and now Cairo to millions of people all around the world, and around the clock. This arguable shift from mainstream media to citizen journalism was challenged by the thorough coverage of the Tunisian and the Egyptian uprising by Al Jazeera channel, which is providing an extensive coverage of all major cities in Egypt and mapping as well the international reactions.
The one thing that is evident in the reactions of young Arabs in the Middle East and in Diaspora that this revolution is reflective of a generation that will not tolerate injustice anymore. A generation that is aware that change is not only possible, but also inevitable. The excitement builds up as several Arabs think of the Domino Effect, and what other possibilities are in the very near future. This fear is also stretching to Arab governments that are this is the time of the people, not the ruling elites. Now Kings, Sheikhs, and Rulers must be aware as the word Enough is being repeatedly used in the Global Arab public sphere.
The creation of a global public sphere amongst Arabs virtually is not only successful in disseminating information and footage on what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia, but also has reignited the collective nature of Arabs around the world. They now feel that they belong to something bigger than post-colonial segregated geographies, they now belong to the Sidibouzeid and AlTahrir revolutions. It doesn't matter today if you are originally from Iraq, or Algeria, there is this collective identity that was Tunisian a week ago, and Egyptian today. And regardless of how people feel about this immediate shift in the national and local paradigms, the truth remains that what is being witnessed now is an unparalleled re-mapping of the modern world.
In London, where I currently live, hundreds gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy yesterday to show solidarity with the protesters in Egypt. I was caught chanting Anti-Mubarak slogans fully aware that I meant every Mubarak in this world. Students from British universities joined to show solidarity and it soon became an international uprising against all injustice in the world. Mubarak, Obama and Cameron were suddenly all one.
It is evident at times like these, how injustice can bring thousands of people together, irrespective of where they come from. There is a strong sense of relation, because unfortunately suffering has become an international language.
I found myself contemplating songs, slogans, prayers and thoughts as I tried to put logic to what is happening these days, and how all of a sudden the word government means nothing to me. I remembered all the creative contestation we exercised in the form of political jokes and proverbs, and smiled at the prospect of a new time, and a possibility of change.
I wanted to pray Al Duhur, but thanks to my knowledge and understanding of how media works, I was worried that a sensational snapshot of myself praying on a Egyptian flag would be used to characterize this as anything but a revolution of all the people. A photograph of a veiled woman praying on an Egyptian flag would provoke an Islamist discourse and push forward all agendas trying to make this look like a political movement, rather than a popular one. This over-analysis is excused, for so many reasons.
After some good five minutes of intense contemplation, I prayed on an Egyptian flag behind the protesters, and it felt right.
We all stood there for hours, some longer than the others. It was very cold, which I realised only 4 hours later when I rushed to the closest tube station just to warm myself almost crying from the pain. One can only try to imagine what the Egyptians are feeling now, as they camp on the streets of Cairo in the blistering cold, fighting not only for their right for freedom, but also for our hope for change.