Massive protests have taken place in several Egyptian cities against the president’s moves last Thursday to grant himself extensive new powers. Read more on BBC.
NAI researcher Maria Malmström talks to anthropologist Samuel Schielke about the protests in Egypt.
− The latest events have positive potential to strengthen the presence and power of a strong opposition. But they also have destructive potential in an increasingly polarised political situation. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood I met last month often expressed the feeling that they are under attack from all sides
by forces that hate Islam. They are bound to see themselves as victims of today’s events, and this carries the risk of radicalising them, making them only more determined to push matters their way, whatever the cost, says Samuel Schielke.
– The collective anger that the vast majority of people in Egypt have been feeling since last Thursday can be a unifying force that all parts of the political opposition can rally around. Furthermore, one thing seems clear, Egyptians of today – both pro- and anti-Morsi – will not accept a new dictator, says NAI researcher Maria Malmström.
Maria Malmström’s research focuses on how current political events in North Africa can be understood by paying attention to people’s feelings.
− It is crucial to understand how the Egyptian uprisings affect people’s actions, thoughts and feelings. Important questions of today are: How do people sense and express the situation post-Arab uprisings? What is the role of public and performed affects in creating new citizens? says Maria Malmström. Read more about her research.
She has also spoken on the current political dynamics of Egypt with Amor Eletrebi, Egyptian poet and writer, who also writes for Al Jazeera. As he points out, it was not political activists who started the protests against Morsi’s decree, but street children and other poor youths who were there to honour the memory of the victims of the events of 19 November 2011 on Mohamed Mahmoud Street. It was only three days later that the organised political activists joined the protests.
– Morsi’s decree on the 3rd day of clashes has suddenly awakened all the old guards revolutionaries; they marched to Tahrir and Mohamed Mahmoud street the day after, on a big Friday protest, the forever split political/revolutionary leaders held hands together for the cameras. And everyone took pictures, had the Tahrir tea, and talked of how much they miss the square and how much they feel it’s almost like back in the revolution days. And by the end of the night, most of them returned home, some camped on the square, but both forgot how much these youngsters, by standing their ground for 3 nights, have given the Friday protest its special nature, says Amor Eletrebi.
-This is something that has not been acknowledges at the local or global level, says Maria Malmström.
– The media only recognise the dominant political voices. As both Amor and the anthropologist Mayssoun argue, dominant Egyptian political activists subsume the voices of those without political power. Instead, the current dynamics play out in the hands of those without political legitimacy. We need to make room for less dominant voices – those of the street children as well as other poor young Egyptians – as important social and political actors, says Maria Malmström.
Egypt, Revolutionaries Becoming Old Guards by Amor Eletrebi
On the first anniversary/commemoration of the 19th Nov. Mohamed Mahmoud battle, a rock was thrown from one side at the other, and that was enough to start another round of clashes between protesters and the riot police in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. The place and all the meanings and memories it holds made it easier for gas masks to find [their] place again among street sellers. The gas masks looked the same as the ones we had a year ago (for 10 pounds/2$ and it expires shortly at the moment it starts suffocating you more than the tear gas itself), yet the faces of protesters and front line troopers were much younger than last year and the youngsters were just the vast majority of protesters.
Many “old guard” revolutionaries didn’t take the youngsters leading this time so well; they started to comment with similar things to what was said about their own battle a year ago; “I see no purpose,” “ save the Egyptian blood and stop fighting the cops”…etc. One old-guard revolutionary even wondered the same thing that Kamal el Ganzoury, the prime minister during December 2011 clashes with the military, had wondered justifying the brutal crackdown on these December protests; “how come a 12 years old kid is a full-on revolutionary, fighting the cops? They’re all street lousy kids,” forgetting that our revolution’s core was sweeping the staled elder generation out of the way, and looking away from the fact that a time might come and we could become old guards ourselves.
Reasons to be on the street were countless though, out of the outcomes of the past few months, yet old guard revolutionaries couldn’t accept that a few hundreds of kids between 7-17 years old won’t give in to the weakness of spirit […] and just snap on their own a revolt on the streets, the only way they got to learn it—throwing rocks at the dogs of the ministry of interior and the regime.
The stand towards these youngsters fighting in M. Mahmoud str. remained ambiguous for the first 3 days; you won’t see many tweets from the square, as not many twitter revolutionaries have joined, and the field hospitals were in bad shape, empty of basic supplies needed, because there weren’t much coming of the usual donations and supplies brought by the protesters who can afford it. It almost looked as if the city was turning its back at these youngsters while they kept for these 3 days on refusing to let it do so.
Morsi’s decree on the 3rd day of clashes has suddenly awakened all the old guards revolutionaries; they marched to Tahrir and M. M. Str. the day after, on a big Friday protest, the forever split political/revolutionary leaders held hands together for the cameras. And everyone took pictures, had the Tahrir tea, and talked of how much they miss the square and how much they feel it’s almost like back in the revolution days. And by the end of the night, most of them returned home, some camped on the square, but both forgot how much these youngsters, by standing their ground for 3 nights, have given the Friday protest its special nature.
For the ongoing days and the few days to come, there’re big moves taking place behind closed doors, away from the streets. Yet, the streets’ crowd of protesters is no different. And the street shall keep filtering the troopers on its front, till it gets the ones who’d pull the revolution back together.
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