A photo of a torched CSF truck painted with red hearts near Tahrir Square took the virtual world by storm a couple of days ago.
It seems some creative soul decided to decorate the recently torched truck with festive hearts, possiby to display his deep and undying love for his beloved amid the rubble.
Valentine’s Day in Egypt is celebrated with a vengeance each year. This is nothing new, but the creativity of young Egyptians never ceases to impress.
This flair for innovation under pressure has become more pronounced since the revolution.
During the 18 days of the Tahrir sit-in, whilst waiting for Mubarak to resign, protesters opened a drawing school for street children. To this day, some street children living in Tahrir Square ask if the protesters will come back and bring the school with them. Songs and rhymes and chants were created on a daily basis; plays were organised to help explain the political situation to people who could not read.
During the first day of clashes, birdshot was still unfamiliar to demonstrators. Targeting the eyes and face, birdshot hurt thousands when clashes erupted again during the SCAF’s transitional period in 2011, but protesters were innovative in the face of danger. Many brought wire sheets used to keep out mosquitoes and tied the material over their eyes so if they were hit, at least damage to their eyes would be minimal. It saved some, though hundreds still lost their eyesight.
When the Egyptian police, together with the military police, decided to engage the protesters in a rock-throwing tournament, protesters geared up with construction hats.
Those who could not afford them brought plastic wastebaskets in an attempt to protect themselves, while some used aluminium cooking pots. Amid the clashes, aluminium pots would be spotted and a slew of jokes would follow. Fallen lamp posts were used by some protesters as old-fashioned catapults to throw rocks at the “aggressors”.
Teargas was one of the worst enemies. Protesters discovered that vinegar was the best solution, as it dilutes the fumes of the gas. Tahrir doctors discovered that yeast mixed in water calms the skin due to its alkaline nature. Bottled yeast sprays could be seen all over the square, with volunteers spraying the faces of those on the front line of clashes.
And with the clashes came the most innovative idea of all: the “motorcycle ambulance”.
Ambulances could not get into the narrow streets to retrieve the injured fast enough. People volunteered their motorcycles to go right into the middle of the clashes to get the injured out. They would work in pairs; a driver and an aide who would carry the injured between them and drive them to the nearest field hospital. The bikes used their headlights and honked as signals to indicate that they were carrying a critically injured person.
The artistic impulse flourished in post-revolution Egypt. Graffiti became the number one tool of the artistic opposition. The walls on Mohamed Mahmoud Street became murals of those who lost their lives in the fight, satirical images of new dictators from the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi, or adverts fighting sexual harassment.
Medication was always needed amid clashes. A group therefore came up with the ‘Tahrir Supplies’ Twitter account, dedicated to making those outside the square aware of the medical supplies needed in field hospitals. Tahrir Supplies also helped arrange carpools for those heading to the square to save time and helped people walk in groups for safety.
As sexual harassment spread and organised gangs of harassers became the norm in the square after Morsi came to power, the idea of Tahrir Bodyguards came to life. Tahrir Bodyguards uses Twitter to coordinate volunteers who come to the aid of women in trouble in the square, as well as arranging campaigns to fight this phenomenon.
Meanwhile, as the mainstream media under both Mubarak and Morsi continued to ignore what young people had to say, an alternative surfaced. Activists took projectors to the streets displaying crimes by police, the SCAF and the Brotherhood, showing the people what was happening during clashes and spreading awareness of corruption. The campaign became known as ‘The … Liars’, the dots standing for whomever the campaign was exposing.
Poverty has played an essential role in forcing Egyptians to find innovative and creative ways of coping with their situation. Currently, Egypt is suffering from increasing poverty and worsening social conditions and is plagued with a government that still does not have their priorities in order. Egyptians are under extreme pressure and are trying to be innovative with money to make ends meet, but with price hikes of between five and ten percent in the last week, innovation may not be enough.
The people who initiated a revolution demanding dignity and a good life have been promised a lot by the Brotherhood, which is why the people elected them. Seven months into Morsi’s rule and people have become poorer and angrier.
Protesters are younger than ever, mainly teens. Their innovative nature is now applied to inflicting the most possible damage on a regime that has failed them completely, highjacking their dreams of living a decent life under the pretence of religion. It is an explosive combination: youth, anger, and creativity.
This combination promises that the coming months may prove monumental for Egypt, with young people creating new methods of resisting the Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, as Morsi and his government continue to disregard the people’s will, CSF trucks will continue to be torched and youngsters will continue to draw the eternal red hearts on them.