from May 2005 to May 2011

by Nariman Youssef


Friday, 27 May. Protests are being planned all over Egypt. Some opposition groups are calling it the “second Friday of rage“, others (myself included) see it as a second wave in an ongoing revolution that was not finished in the first place.

It’s been exactly 6 years since the first visible protests against Mubarak’s regime. I was reminded of that by an email from Alia pointing out what a long way we’ve come since May 2005. She included a link to a post she’d written back then following the brutal assault on opposition protestors in Cairo (read more about that incident here.)

I remember that day. I wasn’t actually there –was living in London at the time –but I remember calling friends, scanning the internet for pictures and stories, and doing very little at work for days (and maybe weeks after) besides immersing myself in the –then still emerging– world of Egyptian blogs. That day marked the crystallization of a very sinister possibility: that when the real oppressed of Egypt rise, it might be against other Egyptians who are on the same side, also oppressed but with the kind of clothes or cars or discourses that allow them to be framed as the other and consequently as the culprit. It was scary to see how easily we could all be played against each other in a game that serves the oppressors to consolidate their power.

Yes, we have come a long way. But the dangers we are facing now are sadly dependent on the same dynamics as back then. On a daily basis, we still have to resist being played in a game of “us” against “them”, while the real oppressors are watching from somewhere altogether outside the frame.

For me, the necessity of Tahrir (Tahrir as shorthand for ongoing protests everywhere) goes beyond presenting demands or exercising pressure on the SCAF or calling for the release of Amr, Michael, and thousands others. All these are important issues, but more than that, for me the necessity of Tahrir lies in the way it brings people together, from all sectors of society, from across the ideological spectrum.

It’s a space where we keep rediscovering ourselves and each other, where we see that the world abounds with possibilities of creativity, tolerance and freedom, and that we don’t have to be stuck in the narratives that have been imposed on us. Tahrir is a meeting place, a thinktank, a sort of Athenian Pnyx for the many many individuals who are already part of a better Egypt, or even (I’ll allow myself to ignore the little devil of cynicism over my shoulder and say it) of a better humanity.