On Civilian Outcry

Illustration by Amalia Rinehart

“The Revolution Will Be Televised” reemerged as an aphoristic expression of the important role that portrayals of the Egyptian Revolution have had as both mirror and actor. But the narrative that emerged for the sound bites and headlines has been oversimplified. Much media coverage portrayed these events as an uprising of the youth, and it is true that many young people were involved. Yet this was a movement of not only youth but of all generations, and it was not a quick explosion, but a protracted and continuous fight. It had long existed in protests and in the organizing of civil society before January 25, 2011, and has remained unfinished long after February 11, 2011, when Mubarak stepped down.

Though Mubarak is gone, “a thousand little Mubaraks” have sprung up to take his place. The biggest impediment to a free society now is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces; through the ferocity of their iron fist, they have ensured that change has been slow to come. SCAF has secretly held 14,000 detainees in military prisons, a majority of whom are between 15 and 30 years-old, with many sentenced to five or 10 years of prison for breaking curfew and whose incarceration has repeatedly been denied. Due to SCAF pressure, the Egyptian media had long been unwilling to cover this fact until undeniable evidence and the foreign media’s adoption of the story made it impossible to ignore. This is not even to mention the corroborated reports of the army’s forcibly administered “virginity tests” to intimidate and humiliate female protesters. Change has been slow to come, but the fight can still be won if fatalism and despair are defeated. When the time comes, the unshakeable optimism and steadfast tenacity displayed by the nucleus of revolutionaries who have continued to return to the streets can rekindle the momentum of the larger movement. Sometimes, fate makes one segment of society the locomotive engine that drags the train behind it, and that is what these revolutionaries must – and will – be.

Rasha Azb

Bold activist and revolutionary, as well as journalist and columnist discussed front-lines activism in the Egyptian political struggle.