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The chant for freedom

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Sara Khorshid

Sara Khorshid

By Sara Khorshid

By now it has become cliché for observers in Egypt and worldwide to say that the Egyptian revolution is dead. Everyone knows it is. Everyone knows that three years after the 25 January uprising, the military and the police have consolidated their decades-long power, corruption continues to dominate the state and all aspects of life in Egypt, dissidence is being brutally silenced, and Mubarak’s regime is still in power. What many observers might not realise or envisage is what the retreat of the revolution could mean for its individual loyalists – how this has affected their daily lives at multiple levels.

People say that the Egyptian political scene has returned to business as usual. But this description fails to capture what we are suffering through, apart from the harsher and bloodier crackdown on the opposition.

It is not business as usual to be in a family gathering and hear a relative respond to a piece of news about the arrest of protesters here or there by breathing a sigh of relief and remarking, “Thank God, finally we are getting rid of that regrettable revolution that brought us nothing good.” Or when you are sitting with friends and you find them all proudly expressing their hatred for the revolution and their hope that the authorities take “firmer” steps in its crackdown on “terrorists” – such as arresting every single protester or implementing death sentences issued against “terrorists” promptly so as to deter other “terrorists”.

You no longer know what to say on occasions like those. Your mind quickly weighs the pros and cons of giving one of your old lectures about rights and social justice. You will ignite a family problem or lose lifelong friends and you will still fail to convince them of why the revolution was the best thing that happened in your life. But no, you cannot just stay silent as your revolution is being insulted – it feels like watching strangers speak negatively of a very dear family member of yours. Sometimes you choose to walk away and grieve alone. Other times you, yet again, give one of those lectures about rights and social justice in front of your anti-revolution companions.

They do not seem to understand you though. No one looks shocked when you tell them “but there are reported cases in which the police has tortured the regime’s opponents.”

“So what?” one friend asks. “They are terrorists. This is what they deserve.”

“So what?” you repeat the question. You do not know how to explain that torture is inhumane and unacceptable even if the victim is a terrorist; you used to think it was so self-explanatory.

You realise that you have become alienated even among your family and middle class circles.

Gone are the days when acquaintances demonstrated being impressed as you bragged about being on the revolution’s side. So many things have happened and many people are tired. Some did not originally support the 2011 uprising and they are now more confident about expressing their support for Mubarak’s regime. Others supported it back in 2011, but they have retreated.

You are at loss because of the gap between your opinions and the opinions of those around you. You try to remind yourself that if what you believe in is really right, then you have to find ways to bridge this gap.  You will try to work hard to help expose the corruption of the ruling regime and the reasons why you believe in democracy and social justice. Even if you do not convince many, at least you must try. If speaking up will encourage others who agree with you to break their silence, this, in and of itself, is an achievement.

The anti-revolution camp do not necessarily constitute the vast majority as they claim. And regardless of their size, you should not despair. If you fail to convince them that restoring stability should not take priority over uprooting corruption and protecting human rights, you should not despair. Do not give up when you see signs of their zealous support for preserving the special status that the military has secured and the human rights violations committed by the police in the name of the war or terror.

They seem to expect so much from this regime and they will eventually be faced with its failure to fulfill these expectations. The economy is unlikely to recover because leaders who do not rally their people’s support for economic plans are doomed to failure. The security situation is not expected to get better because the security apparatus is part of a rotten state that has demonstrated its inefficiency at various levels. The corruption that prevails in the state’s bodies automatically defies the concept of the rule of law. The prevalent injustice will breed more dissidence and tensions (e.g. massive death sentences against dissidents versus lenient verdicts for the killers of protesters and the regime’s crony capitalists).

Regimes cannot go too far with abusing their power and making mistakes at no cost. Mubarak was so confident about his grip on power that he mocked his opponents saying, “Let them have fun,” yet he was toppled by the very youth who were born and raised during his three-decade reign. Morsi insisted on wooing Mubarak’s “deep state” instead of rallying the revolutionaries behind him to uproot this deep state and cleanse the country off its corruption. Then it was the deep state that conspired against him and ousted him. Similarly, the current regime cannot continue to alienate all its opponents, accuse them collectively of being terrorists and punish them accordingly – then expect to achieve stability and preserve its rule.

By now, it has become cliché to recall the glory of the 25 January Revolution and remind others of the victory that a segment of youth achieved and how they inspired millions of Egyptians to chant for freedom and social justice. But the fact remains that the revolution was glorious and it rose from darkness and ended the frustration of many. If it happened in 2011, it can happen again.

Sara Khorshid is an Egyptian journalist and writer who has written on Egypt, the region, and Muslim-Western relations for the past 11 years.


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