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The revolutionary arena: a battle of minds

Rana Magdy. All rights reserved.Six years have passed
since that fateful day on January 25, a day that changed Egypt.

Two years ago, as
Egypt started palpably plummeting into a terrible state, people started asking:
“Was it worth it?” The question lingers with no definitive answer till this day.

How did we arrive at
this state? After having witnessed the events leading up to this point in time,
I can no longer offer a political analysis of the situation without factoring
in psychological changes that affected the various sections of Egyptian society.

The most significant
changes that took place over the past few years were within people’s minds,
more so than in policy, both political and economic. People’s beliefs and
emotions form their motivations which shape today’s political arena. People’s
drives are a result of their mental and emotional changes. Resistance to the
status quo comes from within the mind, as does acceptance.

This is the battle we
see before us today, a battle of minds and will.

The seed

Six years ago, when
people took to the streets to protest, they were not fully aware of how deep the
rabbit hole went. They were not aware of the depths of corruption and the
lengths those in power would go to in order to safeguard their interests. People
viewed Egypt’s institutions as capable of change and underestimated the
formidable bonds of corrupt interests that were more powerful than a
revolution.

When people began
protesting on January 25, they were motivated by a handful of incidents that
proved to be the tip of the iceberg of endemic corruption.

A few examples of the
major events that led to the January 25 and January 28 protests were: the cold blooded murder of Khaled Said by the police and attempts by forensics,
prosecution and an array of other Egyptian institutions to cover it up; and the
unabashed wide scale election fraud in 2010 by the ruling National Democratic
Party (NDP).

Numerous other factors
also contributed to people’s general sense of dissatisfaction, some of which
were: government incompetence and corruption, the cut back on welfare,
Mubarak’s succession plan to hand over power to his son Gamal Mubarak, extortion
of the middle class by security agencies and mass income inequality.

What initially started
out as calls to end corruption and police brutality rapidly turned into chants
for the removal of Mubarak.

These reasons for disgruntlement
built up over time and became unbearable in 2010, and when Tunisia managed to
remove Ben Ali, the people became motivated to join the planned protests to
decry police brutality on January 25. This date was symbolically chosen because
it was ‘Police Day’ – a national holiday.

What initially started
out as calls to end corruption and police brutality rapidly turned into chants
for the removal of Mubarak. It’s true that from day one people chanted, “The
people want to bring down the regime”, but it was transformed into real resolve
only after having been provoked by the police’s brutal response to protests.

Perhaps people’s
ignorance of the measures the regime would take to maintain its interests is why
the people continued to escalate and didn’t back down, hoping that change would
take place once and for all. After all, it seemed ridiculous at the time that
the regime’s response to calls of ending police violence and brutality was more
violence and brutality.

The roots

Rana Magdy. All rights reserved.The role of journalism
slightly changes under oppressive regimes. These regimes are not merely
built on brutality and repression, but on lies to justify the necessity of the
crimes committed against the people.

Real journalism is
about conveying the factual story within a context of some moral guidelines. In
other words, at the risk of oversimplifying, real journalism is about spreading
the truth. But truth that counters an oppressive regime’s lies becomes an
instant enemy and so do its bearers.

In this manner, I
consider myself part of the movement to overhaul Egypt’s corrupt political
system by exposing crimes and lies spread by the regime. Anyone who has simply reported
on facts and is not afraid to challenge the official narrative is part of that
movement.

It is also in this
vein that I consider any journalist who has truthfully reported events that
took place within the context of Egypt’s revolution part of that movement. Because
even if they claim neutrality, a truthful account would naturally be biased
against the oppressor.

The movement that came
to life as a product of January 25, in its purest form, became a fight for
truth, rights and justice. Those referred to as ‘revolutionaries’ are just
ordinary people who managed to believe in this fight in some way or another.

It is this adamant
rejection of the reality of the regime’s ugly crimes that is most conducive to despair.

In a sense, the
greatest triumph of January 25 was to lay bare the truth about Egypt’s rulers
and institutions, and to galvanize blocks of citizens into resiliently exposing
that truth. Yet the greatest disappointment remains that facts are not enough
to set things right. This is possibly a global trend with the rise of racism
and intolerance.

Now, it’s back to a
battle that is shaped by people’s emotions and mental state rather than by the
facts at hand. In Egypt, denial runs deep and people would sooner turn their
backs on incontrovertible facts than change their minds.

It is this adamant
rejection of the reality of the regime’s ugly crimes that is most conducive to despair.
To see a nation full of brainwashed individuals who can no longer engage
logically in an argument or acknowledge facts presented to them paints the
bleakest of all pictures.

Growing up I never
imagined dictatorships and authoritarian regimes in color. I imagined them in
morbid colors, sometimes in black and white but mostly in sepia, a desert shade
where air was polluted distorting nature’s colors.

Yet here I am living
through the darkest page in Egypt’s modern history and I can still see my world
in color. It’s only when I remember everything that we have been through that
the memories all turn really dark once again, with a heavy burden of sadness
and helplessness taking over my senses.

The pests

It is difficult to meaningfully
list all the events that took place over the past six years that led us here,
but there are a few key aspects of the struggle that have remained a constant
thread.

There was never any
democratic transition at any point, even with the relatively fraud free
elections that brought Mohamed Morsi in as president. Morsi was negotiated into
presidency and the results were announced later than scheduled on account of
that.

There were no attempts
for the creation of independent state institutions to instill checks and
balances – neither by SCAF, Morsi, Adly Mansour, or Sisi. What did exist, at
intermittent times, is true power for the people on the ground pushing for
change, but this was never translated into power within national institutions.

Egypt has been kept on
a tight leash with the army’s grip on power ensuring the protection of its
military economic empire as its primary mandate.

Egypt has been kept on
a tight leash with the army’s grip on power ensuring the protection of its
military economic empire as its primary mandate.

The goal of the
Egyptian security apparatus has been to quell the protests against rulers. With
the failure of the democratic movement to create a sustainable framework, Egypt’s
blueprint for moving forward became entirely security based.

That roadmap was
accompanied by a revenge agenda, mainly targeting the people, for daring to
question their leaders. Young people taking to the streets, revolutionaries
continuing to push for change and the Muslim Brotherhood who dared envision
themselves in power have been the prime targets.

A snapshot of today’s
Egypt is unpleasant. The leadership is reckless with its resources, benefiting
the corrupt at the expense of people.

An Italian researcher Giulio Regeni murdered by Egyptian security forces. Egypt’s legendary
football star Mohamed Abutrika along with over 1500 others arbitrarily placed
on a terror list. Political prisoners are in the thousands.

The police are killing
with impunity and abusing their positions. The judiciary and public prosecution have no
structural independence, often politicized or coerced. The military is expanding its economic empire, rigging the economy for its benefit.

Minorities such as Copts,
Nubians, Shiite Muslims, north Sinai Bedouins are still discriminated against
with no signs of a move towards equal rights. Loan agreements are being made without any consideration of
the effect they will have on future generations. Prices have doubled and the
pound’s purchasing power has greatly diminished. The media is being strictly
controlled and all critical voices are being silenced.

The opposition is
being targeted by all means available: prison, military trials, asset freezing, forced disappearances, assault on privacy by leaking private phone
conversations, physical assault, threats, etc… pretty much the full range of
the arsenal available to despotic regimes.

In many discussions
about the Egyptian revolution, the narrative revolves around existing
structures of power that participated, such as the military, the NDP and the
Muslim Brotherhood. These structures certainly had a role to play and their
motivations affected the outcome, but it was not only these organized
structures that created the present context.

The fight

Rana Magdy. All rights reserved.I would argue that it
was more the unorganized and their individual, yet collective, actions and
decisions. Take for example Mohamed Mostafa “Karkea”,
the Ultras fan and tennis champion who left his home to join protesters when
they were being shot at by the army in December 2011. He was in turn killed by
the army.

Or Mina Danial who
believed in a secular state yet joined the march to Maspero in October 2011, because
he believed that all citizens must leave their closed communities and demand
equality for all as citizens of this country. Mina was killed in what became
infamously known as the Maspero massacre.

Maybe all these
attempts failed to bring about the demands of their bearers, however, those and
countless others helped shape what the revolution is: a battle of minds.

The activists who
foresaw a military overtake and marched to Al Kobba Palace on July 2, 2013
denouncing both Morsi’s undemocratic trajectory and the foreseeable military
rule. Many were detained and put on military trial.

Or the activists who decried military trials for civilians while the constitution was being written, and were
in turn punished by being thrown in jail.

Maybe all these
attempts failed to bring about the demands of their bearers, however, those and
countless others helped shape what the revolution is: a battle of minds.

Similarly, those who fell prey
to the regime’s counter narrative helped shape the counter revolution. You hear
them say the same things, parroted over and over, to justify crimes. They recycle
phrases such as, “at least we’re better than Syria and Iraq”, “Egypt is
fighting a war on terror”, “Sisi saved Egypt” and countless other statements
that cannot withstand the test of facts and logic.

The middle class,
divided between calls for justice and their fear of losing what they already
have, has certainly shaped this arena. The poor are caught between those
promising religious piety and those promising protection under a banner of
nationalism. Of course, neither of these promises are fulfilled, but their
faith in what could come next helped shape the context in which we’re now
living.

When people rose up
six years ago, they only saw dreams of a better country. Now fear and violence cloud
their vision. The middle class that rose up against the murder of Khaled Said
delivered a clear message, that they too could be killed at any point like
Khaled Said. Their murderers would be protected by state institutions much like
the murderers of Khaled Said. In short, the response to the middle class was: “Indeed,
you are all Khaled Said”, and remains so.

Egypt is now a land of
fear and oppression but a few brave souls remain behind bars as others fight
for truth and justice.

Egypt is now a land of
fear and oppression but a few brave souls remain behind bars as others fight
for truth and justice. However, the battle now is also against people’s fear
and denial.

Six years ago, there
was no collective consciousness that there were others who saw the same reality
of corruption, greed and oppression.

Six years on, there is
an ambiguously shaped entity referred to as ‘the revolution’ whose members are
possibly in hundreds of thousands, yet unable to bring about many of its
dreams.

Six years on, ‘the
revolution’ brought on an awareness and a will to fight oppressive structures
that opened up the gates of hell.

The power of the
revolution was not in the political changes it brought about but on the
influence it exerted on each individual en masse. In a sense, it was a
collective journey experienced personally by each individual.

The true cost of that
journey of awakening and awareness was to antagonize the oppressive powers into
resisting a vision of a country without their oppression.

The result is what we
see today, an era of political, cultural and economic decadence and a body of
resistance that remains scattered, crushed, targeted and defamed yet resilient
and adamant.

Was it worth it?
Perhaps that remains debatable, depending on each individual’s personal journey
and perspective.

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