[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Egypt.]
Having just arrived in Cairo, I sense a change in the mood of Egyptians. It’s been ten months since I left, and what a grave ten months they’ve been.
Generally, I’m thrilled when I head off to Egypt. It’s vacation time, which includes relaxation and breaks from teaching and marking. I also truly enjoy the bonding, socializing, and dynamics—Egyptians love life and are easy going by nature, in spite of the hardships they incur. Needless to say, I’ve been following events via the media and social media ever so closely, and chances are I’m more engrossed in the happenings than many Egyptians in Egypt itself. Still, I was full of trepidations and anticipation—this last year wasn’t an ordinary year by any standard.
On any given day, Cairo is in chaos. Congested and clogged streets, noise and air pollution, overflowing garbage, and disgruntled folks shouting vociferously at one another are all a true embodiment of the Cairo scene. Today you recognize that things have worsened. The streets seem narrower with even more cars double and triple parked—honks as loud as ever. Traffic has deteriorated even further—something I never imagined could happen but true nonetheless, while drivers have become more defiant and even more reckless. Pollution is clearly visible with smog hovering closer. But most importantly people’s discontent and irritation levels have heightened yet another notch.
The educated, the upper middle class, and the well read, though optimistic, tell you that there is no other option but staying the course and pursuing the revolutionary path to attain success by hook or by crook. By the same token, the uneducated, the economically challenged, and the physical labourers—taxi drivers and trades people—are exhausted and spent; they can’t fathom why the activists are pursuing SCAF’s downfall (the Supreme Council of Armed Forces), denouncing the new government and its prime minister, or becoming perennial demonstrators.
In addition and quite unfortunately, I arrived in Cairo amidst yet another standoff between the forces and the protestors. The protestors had decided to strategically shift from Tahrir Square to a nearby street housing the Ministerial Cabinet Building and thereby obstructing the newly sworn-in cabinet from entering its own building except from a side entrance. A three-week standoff in front of an official office spelled disaster though, so a confrontation was inevitable.
And this time the clashes were severe clearly turning many more Egyptians against the army even further. Ten months ago, Egyptians were unable to decide SCAF’s true identity: is it with the revolution? Is it with Mubarak? Or is it true to itself only? They also wondered if SCAF has the intention of leaving power and returning to its barracks. But now due to the current uncalled for atrocities, the results are in: SCAF is hated as much as Mubarak was. And the majority of Egyptians have a foreboding feeling that SCAF is here to stay.
In clashes reminiscent to Mubarak’s later days, several died and many were injured. In particular the footage of beaten up females dragged from their hair, stomped and harassed, left its mark on Egyptians. These deplorable images are all what Egyptians are talking about today—they are horrified as they should be. One ever so poignant clip went viral. It depicts a seemingly unconscious and non threatening abaya-clad woman dragged and hurled to the ground, beaten by batons, and stomped on the chest, her top ripped apart exposing her blue bra.
Egyptians don’t accept humiliation and degradation easily, more so if that ill treated victim is a woman. And the video of the “blue bra” as it was dubbed led to an acute sense of disgust at the powers in charge. http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3D4M7re7K95_U
If the aim behind these attacks was to control the street, then they have backfired. Even more demonstrations occurred. And thousands of Egyptian women from all walks of life went to the streets asking for the downfall of SCAF. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=44ecbmtUL1c
Every now and then an innocent Egyptian receives the “royal treatment” under the hands of one force or another—be it the army or the police, and the footage goes global. We’ve seen what Khalid Said’s photos did. These photos of the battered-until-death man were definitely instrumental in speeding Mubarak’s ousting. And the “blue bra” footage may cause similar permanent damage ultimately changing Egypt’s course yet again.
Clearly, things cannot remain the way they are for long. Something has to give; I can’t foresee SCAF accepting its own downfall; SCAF will not leave power until it can hand the country over to an authority that would not cause SCAF’s demise; that is if it does hand over power. Simultaneously the revolutionaries are more adamant and more relentless in their expectations. Clearly the forces in play have no intention of condescending and negotiating a peaceful resolution to the current dilemma. In the meantime, Egypt is in a spiral downfall.
Turbulent waters will manipulate my stay this time, and optimism is not an option I can enjoy. This will be the mother of all winters.