Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Movie Called Asmaa

In the late eighties or early nineties there were advertisements on the Egyptian TV to raise people's awareness about AIDS. But the problem with those TV ads is that they tended to scare people instead of really educating them. They were full of bats, blood, people scaring, others taking drugs via injection and prostitutes who resemble devils. It was scary to the extent that even after reading more about the disease [Ar], and knowing it's only transmitted via blood, you still feel worried to shake hands with those who have it. The other effect of the advertisement is that it makes you believe the disease is only transmitted via prohibited sexual affairs and drug-taking, which is not true.

And now, about 20 years later, there is that film called Asmaa which tries to break all those misconceptions. The film is directed by Amr Salama, and it's his second film as a director. It's about a woman called Asmaa who has AIDS, and is afraid to reveal her illness to the society because of the misconceptions they have, and even doctors refused to do her another operation when they knew she has AIDS. The plot of the film is very good, and the best part of it is when she struggles not to tell the society how she got infected, even though it was transmitted to her from her husband, yet she wants to break those social misconceptions about how it gets transmitted.



I am not a film critic, but I had mixed feelings about the work of the director and the cinematographer whom I don't know his name. On one hand, the lighting in some scenes was genius, for example, the intention of hiding the faces of those in the group therapy with Asmaa and letting the light hit them from the back came in resonance with their ongoing struggle with the society to hide their illness or identity if possible. The colours used were a bit cold which was also very suitable for the films atmosphere. But on the other hand, some scenes were too video-clippish for my taste, I mean, there was excessive use of shallow depth of field, blurring some areas and the scenes sometimes looked as if they are shot by a Len Baby. Some other times they where a bit over exposed. All those effects are in my opinion more suitable to a video clip than a film, or at least not to be used that much in the film. But you know what, as I said, I am not a film critic, and I can't even tell who is normally responsible for the exposure and composition in a film, is it the director or the cinematographer, and may be someone like myself criticized Gordon Willis' lighting in The Godfather decades ago, then realized later on that he is among the ten most influential cinematographers in history. So, I don't know, but the scenes weren't comfortable to my eyes at least.        


One final note regarding the actors, especially Hend Sabry the lead actress in the film, she is fine, but if it was some other actress the film would have been much better. Same for Hany Adel, who better sticks to music where he is more talented than in acting.  I also watched it in Galaxy Cinema last Wednesday and was expecting the cinema to be more full that that, which is sad, because it's rare to see good Egyptian films like this one and you better watch it yourself and tell us your review and comments on my review here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

5 Reasons Hashtags are like Vampires

Funny or Nostalgic Hashtags are like Vampires, especially in the Egyptian twittosphere, and here are the reasons:
  1. They always come out at night. When it's 1:00 or 2:00 AM, most of the good hashtags are born.
  2. They are as viral as the vampires bites. Once you get them, you start sharing them with every one.
  3. You like to read about them, but you fear them when they attack you.
  4. Vampires are immortal, well, this time they ain't the same, since most of the hashtags don't live more than one day or so, but #Jan25 and #CairoTraffic are examples of immortal hashtags.
  5. Male vampires attack females ones and vice versa yet they like each other at the end, so does male and female tweeps, they attack each other and the opposite sex habits in the hastags yet they enjoy reading those hashtagged tweets by the opposite sex.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

When The Heart And Mind Collide

Should I vote or boycott the upcoming elections in Egypt? This might seem to be an illogical question to most of you, it was illogical to me myself a while ago, till I witnessed that debate on twitter and then participated in the same debate with about 70 other people in Goethe Institute days ago [Ar]. In brief, those who are calling for boycotting the elections see it as a cosmetic surgery for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, they believe that there might also be corruption and the parliament is not going to represent the revolutionaries. On the other hand, some others see it as a fight that we shouldn't run away from, and even if the elections aren't going to be as good as we want it, let's not give in, vote for our best options there, and for sure pursuit other forms of struggle later on.

Down with SCAF

For me, it's like a struggle between my heart and mind. My heart wants me to boycott the elections. Seeing people murdered by the regime, makes me hate to participate in elections sponsored by such regime. Also, it's hard to imagine the SCAF too naive to facilitate elections for a parliament that is meant to remove them from power later on. But as I wrote earlier, it's just a fight in an ongoing war, so why boycott while we can vote for our best options then continue our struggle everywhere else later on. Who said the elections are the end of the story!?

This struggle between heart and mind takes me to another bigger question. I sometimes feel that the revolutionaries are also afraid of the elections because they are sure that they have very small chance to make it to the parliament, and most of the seats will end up in the hands of the Islamists, the remnants of the regime and businessmen. I know, we might hate to say this in public, and many people will call those who say this out loud anti-democrats. But isn't it a shame when democracy cannot differentiate between those who participated in the revolution and those who are against it!? When it comes to elections, they all have equal votes, right? My heart says that the vote of someone like Malek Mostafa who lost an eye, or Ahmed Harara who lost his two eyes in the revolution should be weighted more than the vote of someone like myself whose only participation in the revolution was marching to Tahrir square and smelling some tear gas. My heart might be more fascist and say that those who participated in the revolution should be given more weight in the elections vs. those who were against it. But my mind on the other hand find it unacceptable and all people should be treated equally. Who on earth has the right to give people's votes weights!? Isn't this as bad as those who wanted to limit the right for voting to only those who can read and write? People are pushing to have a law that bans the remnants of the former regime from running in the elections, such law has been issued recently but it's still not clear how it will be applied. And this law is a another example of how my heart accepts it while my mind isn't really in favour of it.

The same struggle between heart and mind is what happens now when people around me are debating the Islamic movements choice not to officially participate in the protests against the recent attack of the security forces on the peaceful sit-in in Tahrir. In fact, the term Islamists here might not be very accurate, because although the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood refused to participate, many of its members participated. Also many non-Islamists are against the protests. So let me use reformists to describe those against the protests and revolutionists for those who are protesting. It's obvious why the revolutionists are protesting, watching a video or two for the crimes committed by the security forces makes you protest. But the reformists on the other hand have their own argument, they say we have elections in few days, so why confront with the regime now while we can wait for the elections, get into the parliament, then when we become the regime we can punish them for their crimes later on? Why protest and risk the possibility of postponing the elections? Why confront with stronger entity and you are weaker than them? See, they have their own logic. Many minds - including mine - may accept their argument, however my heart refuses it. And thankfully I just ignored my mind and listened to my heart this time.

While we are still at this mind and heart struggle, let me move away from politics now, to end this post with something more interesting than politics. Don't you face that very same struggle when you fall in love with a girl, yet your mind tells you she is not that much into you? As Forrest Gump put it in the movie, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is". You don't have to be smart to understand that a girt isn't into you when she never lets you do her any favours, never asks about you unless you ask about her first and takes her forever to get back to you. Your mind knows it, but your heart tries to find excuses for her, to deceive your mind. But you know what, you should always listen to your mind here. Isn't it ironic that when it comes to love matters, it's your mind that you should listen to, and when it comes to politics, listening to your heart is the best option in many cases!?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

GVO vs NYT

Recently I've read this research made by Summer Harlow and Thomas J. Johnson from the University of Texas at Austin. They compared how mainstream media (The New York Times) covered the Egyptian revolution (the period from January 23 till February 14, 2011) compared to the coverage of Global Voices Online. They realized that NYT where adherent more to the “protest paradigm”, by highlighting the drama, violence, and spectacle of the protests and de-valuing the protesters since they tended more to quote official sources, while GVO (and to some extent Nick Kristof’s Twitter feed) tended more to legitimizing the protesters. GVO also tended more to put the protests into their context and give the reader idea why all this happened rather then only focusing on the ongoing drama. I'd like to share here this part of their findings:

Results showed that The Times adhered to the paradigm by emphasizing the spectacle, quoting official sources, and de-valuing protesters as reporters maintained an impartial role. In contrast, Global Voices and Kristof’s Twitter feed took different approaches, legitimizing protesters and serving as commentators/analysts, even actors, in the unfolding events. Global Voices also provided more opportunities for reader interactivity.
This study has shown that the NYT, in general, falls short in its protest coverage. Rather than adequately explaining why there is a problem that has driven citizens to protest, the NYT falls back on routine and formulaic reporting, highlighting the drama, violence, and spectacle of the protests and reducing protesters’ grievances to one or two sentences about Mubarak’s autocratic 30-year reign. Although many articles made it clear that the protesters were fighting for democracy—theoretically a good thing—in several cases, such as those stories about the economy, protesters were portrayed negatively, blamed for travel delays or rising oil prices.

While Global Voices and Twitter provided the commentary and analysis that The Times did not, Global Voices and Twitter still can do more. First, both must be careful that, like the NYT, they do not get caught up in the drama and report just about the spectacle of the protests. Additionally, Global Voices, with its writers stationed around the world, quoting from local citizen blogs and Twitter feeds, is in a position to better contextualize and explain the history leading up to the protests than it did. Further, authors from Global Voices and Twitter, free from the burden of impartiality, have the potential to serve more as actors, even catalysts for change, influencing others to get involved and right a wrong. They did not live up to this potential in Egypt.

Related Links:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tunisian Elections Preliminary Results

Those are the main winners in the Tunisian elections. These numbers are based on results published from various offices final results will be tomorrow at 4:00 Tunisia local time. 
  • Ennahda (Ikhwan look-alike): 36%
  • Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Ettakatol, Social Democratic, Mustapha Ben Jafar): 17%
  • Congress for the Republic (CPR, Centre-left Secular, Moncef Marzouki): 16%
  • Progressive Democratic Party (PDP, Secular Liberal, Ahmed Naguib Chebbi): 10%
Check Sonia El Sakka's (@SoniaElSakka) blog for more details, http://arabiaana.blogspot.com/2011/10/when-people-wants-to-live-destiny-will.html

Friday, October 21, 2011

Media Freedom - Four Years Later

I realized today that I've been writing for Global Voices Online for 4 years. My first post there was in October 2007 and it was a curation of many incidents that were taking place in Egypt at that moment. But what really grabbed my attention was that the first part of it was about Mubarak's regime banning a number of newspapers [Ar] for publishing - what they called then - false information about Mubarak's health. Now they say we had a revolution and Mubarak is gone, but do you think much have changed since then!? Just yesterday, the Egyptian TV host Yosry Foudy decided not to air his program for an undetermined period [Ar], as he was going to host Alaa Al-Aswany to comment on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces members' appearance on TV the previous day, however there were pressures on him and rumours say the TV channel was ordered to host a pro-SCAF journalist there too to represent their own point of view!
You think much have changed in those four years!?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The K-Word

Today I received an email from Google AdSense telling me they are going to disable the ad serving to my Arabic blog because I am violating their rules. They also included the URL of one of my posts there saying that it contains adult or mature content, and that's including sexually explicit text.

Well, now let me clarify what content they didn't like for those who don't speak Arabic. The title of the post is an Arabic curse world that literally means The Pus... ehm, vag... ehm, okey let me put in a way that doesn't make them block this blog too, "The female reproductive system of the mother of Israel". But such curse word sometimes means "Screw'em", "Forget about them" or "I don't give a rat's shit about them". It's one of the most common curse words in the Arabic language, and just like the F-word in English, its meaning varies according to the context, yet it remains a curse word at the end of the day.

To cut a long story short, the implicit meaning of the post is, let's stop using Israel and its continuous crimes and bad deeds as an excuse for many of our own problems. For example, many Arab rulers apply emergency and martial laws and claim they are forced to apply them because of the presence of an enemy at their borders. Presidents like Bashar of Syria and Saddam of Iraq, murder their own people, then curse Israel every now and then in their speeches, and claims they are there to resist it, and that is enough for many Arabs to forget their crimes and forgive them. Some people can't - or their language doesn't - make a difference between Jewish people and Israel and they curse one while they mean the other, which is totally racist and nasty. And the list goes on.

Anyway, let me now get back to the main aim of the post. I am now wondering, are curse words considered adult or mature content!? Does this mean that no one can put Google Ads on his blog or site if he is going to use the F, C, or B words for example!? Or - although I hate conspiracy theories - is there a political reason behind this!? Because, in fact, there have been profanity in many posts of the same blog, and some of them are almost 5 years old, so isn't it strange that they realized now they want to remove this one!?

You know what, I don't care to know the reason, I even don't care about the AdSense money, it's just peanuts ... The female reproductive system of the mother of Google AdSense itself! 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Unspoken Languages of the Egyptian Streets

We as humans have a unique ability to communicate via spoken languages. However, in a crowded and loud city like Cairo, we sometimes need more than a spoken language to communicate.

Read more here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Egyptian Political Spectrum

I've noticed that most of the foreign media as well as my non-Egyptian friends, they usually see the political scene in Egypt as a simple bipolar one, Islamists & Liberals, and that's it. That's why I decided to put the Egyptian political spectrum the way I see it. At the end of the day, I am not an expert in political science nor sociology, so it's my pleasure if you have any comments on this.

Egypt - The Egyptian Political Spectrum
In the above illustration I used the well know two-dimensional political compass to locate the different political ideologies here, with one axis for left-right and the other one for how authoritarian or libertarian each ideology is. There is no way to measure how much each ideology is represented on the ground, since we never had a true elections for decades, so the size of each on the graph is somehow meant to illustrate how significant it is, without it being to an accurate scale. Also notice that I am focusing here on ideologies rather than political parties, as currently the political parties we have don't really represent all the ideologies in the streets.

Ikwan (Muslim Brotherhood): It's one of the oldest Islamist groups in Egypt and in the Arab world. It was founded in 1928, and since then it was never an official political party however it acted as a political party with its members running in the parliamentary election under the group's name. As we will see later, they are not as authoritarian as the Salafists, but the internal structure of the group and their views in the early days of January 25 revolution where the group officials opted a political struggle in the parliament rather than participating in demonstrations against the regime; all this makes me put them higher in the Authoritarian-Libertarian axis. They believe in democracy, which is one of the things that separates them from many Salafys, however they agree with them in their views that Islamic Rules (Sharia) should have higher precedence over the majority rule and personal freedom. So if the majority of the people choose something that according to their view is against religion, it shouldn't be passed. Just like many Islamic groups, their views regarding private property and ideas such as maximum wages put them to the right of the economical axis.
Their existence since more than 80 years all over the country, and the religious and social services they offer to people give them strong reach to voters in elections. They participated in the revolution a bit late, but no one can deny their effective participation in it, however the authoritarian part in their DNA came to live again right after Mubarak stepped down, they are against the continues demonstrations and sit-ins the more libertarian parties participate in nowadays, they prefer to give the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) chance to deliver democracy to the people as they promised, which makes some say that they decide to side with SCAF (the current regime).

Salafists: This is not really a homogeneous political ideology. Salafism - sometimes referred to as Wahabism - is mainly a religious ideology, or more precisely an umbrella of ideologies, and is composed of many sub-groups and sects. There are no statistics to measure the actual number of Salafys, however it is clear that their number is big. Most of them are against opposing or revolting against the regime, even when it is an unjust one. And this was clear when many Salafists opposed the revolution during and after it, whether in Egypt or in other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia. They are even more radical than the Ikhwan when it comes to Sharia Rules vs. the Majority Rule, and that's why some Salafists used to believe that democracy is against religion, however now after the revolution more than one Salafy parties are being formed (for example Al-Nour Party), they are having presidential candidates (for example Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail), and they are starting to participate in the political process.
Salafists have their own satellite channels, they also exist in mosques - especially in rural areas - and that's why their effect on voters is not to be neglected at all. They sure share the same point of view with the Ikhwan when it comes to opposing the current sit-ins and demonstrations taking place in Egypt.

Jihadists: This was one of the trickiest ideologies to be places on the map, on one hand they fall under the Salafy umbrella, however they are different when it comes to opposing the regime, as they believe in armed struggle against unjust regimes that do not follow the Islamic Shariaa. Al-Quaida is considered a part of the Jihadist movements by the way.

Leftists: Let's now sail to the opposite part of the map. There are sure many sub-ideologies here, but I will focus more on the common or more obvious characteristics to me. Also please notice that I am using the leftists terminology here where the leftist-liberals are just called leftists, while right-liberals are called liberals. Most of the leftists and liberals believe that the revolutions is far from over, and during the recent sit-in it was them who were there. The leftists nowadays are the ones who fight for workers rights the most, they consider demands such as minimum and maximum wages as core-demands of the revolution, and that's why the see the revolution is far from over, while for most of the parties who are located on the right part of the graph, they believe such demands are marginal demands and can be achieved later on. The leftists disagree with those parties in the upper-right quadrant of the graph on the definition of martyrs (people who died in the revolution), Some Islamists for example are against calling anybody a martyr unless he was fighting in a religious war, some others such as Folool and Couch-Party members try to differentiate between those who were peacefully protesting and those who were attacking police stations. Hence it's the leftist who are the ones who care the most about the martyrs, helping their families to get their rights back, and all those responsible for their death to be punished.
The leftists do not have any significant traditional media outlets, however they are more active online. They also should be focusing on syndicates, workers unions, and on the votes of workers and martyrs families in the coming elections, however most of the young leftists and activists are not members of any political parties.

Liberals: The main reasons for the liberals to participate in the revolution are human rights and freedom, which were murdered during Mubarak's regime. And when it comes to economical reasons, they see the problem with Mubarak regime as it was a corrupted one, and not as a capitalist one as the leftists like to say. They cannot side with the Army or accept the idea of giving them a chance to deliver democracy to people as some Islamist say, as long as they see civilians being tried in military trials and protests being crack down.
The liberals have satellite channels to reflect their opinions, but their main two problems:
Some former regime members (folool) and business tycoons try to masquerade as liberals, and speak in their names. That's why some so called elites, are considered to be representatives of the liberal stream, and they call for stuff that may repel the people away from them. Most of the time those anti-democratic - sometimes even anti-liberal - demands they make are made because they are afraid of other majorities on the ground, especially the Islamists.
The other problem is that almost all of their demands are too ideological to attract real voters compared to stuff like minimum wages or applying Islamic shariaa.

The Couch Party: This is not a real party, but a metaphor used here to refer to people who are not much into politics, and prefer to watch demonstrations from their couches instead of participating in them. They are sometimes called the silent majority as well. For me they form a huge bulk of the voters in any upcoming elections, and all other political forces should be doing their best then to affect and acquire their votes.

Folool: Those are the ex-members of Mubarak's regime, as well as those who still like him. Their numbers are not big, however many of them still occupy key positions in the regime, even SCAF is hard not to be seen as part of them. All revolutionary forces whether they are Ikhwan, Leftists or Liberals are trying their best to remove the folool from their positions and to neutralize those of them who have the ability to buy votes in the coming elections.

Disclaimer: I consider myself a liberal, so my views above might be from a liberal point of view.

Update:
I received comments from both Tarik Salama and Cerium, they both believe that Couch Party should be placed a bit on the right as they are far from being centrists, Tarik believes folool should be placed further to the right as well and Cerium believes that the Salafists size is a bit less than they are illustrated here.
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the sizes of the parties on the graph are not to scale, as I do not have any accurate statistics, they just reflect how significant I see them in the street.
And regarding the Counch and Salafies, those are the most non-homogeneous groups, so placing them on the map, and deciding their sizes on it was a bit tricky. It's all subject to how you see each of them, and the different ideologies you see they include under their umbrellas. They both may even intersect with neighbouring groups on the graph. For example there are Ikwanis who are affected by Salafy ideologies, or Couchians who do love or at least sympathize with Mubarak!
Anyway, all this is open to discussion, and for sure the further elections might help us create more accurate graphs.

Update:
Back to the bipolar views, I've notices from the discussion on twitter that there is a trick here when it comes to how Leftists and Liberals see each other. Many leftists for example see the map from a vertical point of view, hence they believe they are closer to liberals against the authoritarian parties, while some hardcore leftists on the other hand see the graph from the horizontal view and for them it's all about the economical ideologies and this is what matters the most. I myself prefer the vertical view.

Update:
If you are looking for a list of current parties and their position in the political spectrum, I recommend this interactive graph in The Atlantic website, also there is this Political Parties Map made by Arabist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Psychology of The Revolts

Mohammed Yahia raised an important point on twitter a while ago:
I can't get over the feeling that for many people Tahrir has become an evening outing. I wonder how many here are revolutionaries?
Well, you should be expecting me now to say that Yahia is a counter-revolutionist and he knows nothing about Tahrir nor those people who scarifies their lives for the country. Right? On contrary, I totally agree with Yahia yet totally disagree with him on the same time.

First of all, I am not a psychologist, sociologist, or any other -ist, however I believe that we as humans have way more things in common than we can imagine, and that's why most of the time you can tell how people think by seeing how you yourself think in the first place. Hence, I asked myself, why do I go to Tahrir?

For sure I go there for a cause, I demonstrated in the 28th of January and the days that followed for a cause, and to make my voice heard. Yet, I cannot say this is the only reason. It might be one of many reasons, it might be the main reason, but still it is not the only one. In fact, I think we go to Tahrir and revolt for the exact same reasons we blog, tweet, or do any social activities online.

We blog for a cause, but also we blog for the ego-factor. Don't we like it when people share, comment or Facebook-like our blog posts? Why do people in demonstrations hold creative banners, shouldn't non-creative yet descriptive banners do the same job? Why do those people with creative banners smile when cameras follows them and their banners? I am not sure if the sense of pride is a part of this ego-factor or not, but it is common both in blogging and revolting too. It's not like I'm saying that people demonstrate to show off, but there is that sense of pride you have when seeing yourself participating in making a difference.

We tweet for a cause, but also we tweet to network. And so it is the case with going to Tahrir. We socialize there too. We meet people, we are social human beings and this is how we work, we love to meet and communicate with people. Throughout our lives we love networking.

Anyway, the question here, do those reasons make us less honourable? Do they make our revolution less ideal? Here comes the part where I disagree with Yahia. For me those reasons make us and our revolution more human. We are humans, and we shouldn't be ashamed of our human nature. On contrary, we can make use of them to defend our causes even better. It's totally human that the same people who sacrifice their lives in Tahrir square are those who sing, camp, play video games, socialize and love to be seen there. And sometimes love to be featured on CNN while they are there.

Update:
Mohammed Yahia added a comment below, it'd be nice if you can read it too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Science Journalism Workshop

Last Sunday I attended a workshop about Science Journalism. It was organized by the Embassy of the United States in Egypt, and I'd like to share a summary of the workshop and the stuff I learned there with you here.

What Makes a Good Science Story

Curtis Brainard (@CBrainard) who is a Science Editot for the Columbia Journalism Review started his presentation by saying that Science is one of the four pillars of human civilization. It's said here that economy, politics , moral tradition, and the arts & sciences (and the dissemination of them) are the four pillars of what we call civilization. He then said when school children are asked to put how they see science on paper, they usually draw a Professor-Calculus-like character inside a lab with his coat and glasses. Which is something that has to change, and science should be seen as a part of our daily lives and not to be just locked down inside labs. But he then wondered, why space-travel and cosmology is one of the most popular sciences among American children despite the fact that it doesn't really have significant effect on people's lives. He then continued, may be because they are inspiring and extend out limits of what's possible and reachable.

He then tried to summarized the most covered topics when it comes to science journalism:
  • Health: It's said that people think about their personal health and wealth the most. So if we put money and financial news aside, we are left with subjects related to health, nutrition and fitness as ones of the most important subjects to readers.
  • Environment: Then comes environmental news as they too have big effect on people's lives and sometimes their future.
  • General Sciences: And in the third rank comes other scientific subjects, which are sometimes more challenging to be covered especially when they are not so related to people's lives
Then came the question, what are the possible angles in order to cover one of the above stories:
  • Pure Scientific: You can just put your story in a pure scientific form.
  • Life and Health: You can also relate the science in there to people's health and lives in general.
  • Business: You can focus on the business behind the science, and who will make money out of it and how.
  • Art: Or you can relate the science to art. Which is one of the most challenging yet interesting ways to present your stories. Like those stories that try to discuss the scientific facts behind science fiction films, or other films like Harry Potter. I also think some infographics might be part of this.
Mr. Brainard ended his presentation by saying that science is all about how to make our lives more "efficient", and how to make more with less. And he added that good science stories are not about trees, planet earth, or experiments in labs. They are and will always be about people and how science affect the lives of those people, and experiments on environmental change sometimes are more important to measure how people see the risk instead of measuring only temperature changes.

Science Story Ideas

Chris Mooney (@ChrisMooney_), the author of "Unscientific America" and the "Republican War on Science" gave another presentation where he said that Science Stories are very Political ones by nature, since science changes people's lives and most of the time such change generate resistance to it. He referred to the case where scientific theories such as evolution contradicted with religious beliefs, and those who are against the use of vaccines and relate it to autism. So many Science Stories can be in fact Stories about Science and the related politics, such as research budgets, and rules that makes scientific research results available to public and patents, etc. He also spoke about the importance of blogs and new media, as new source, and how the idea of rivalry between old and new media should be changed.

Deborah Blum (@deborahblum), a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer, also wondered in her presentation, in nations where science education is not working well, is it really science journalists role to educate people and act as as second educators to cover holes lefts by schools? She also spoke about the importance of Investigative Journalism, and for a non-journalist like myself I was glad that she described the term Investigative Journalism in more details as "that type of journalism that is meant to give voice to the powerless and cover issues that governments and corporations try to keep secret".

Ms. Blum also listed some websites that are useful to science journalists:
The Anatomy of Science News Stories

David Dobbs (@David_Dobbs), a features-writer specialised in behavioural and psychological science spoke about his own work-flow when writing a new story. He started by saying that he normally writes features (articles with about 5k words). He then summarized three important features that have to exist in good features or stories:
  • Compelling and interesting new idea.
  • Wonderful researcher, i.e. someone who can speak for hours beautifully and jargon-free on his subject of research that he is passionate about.
  • Subject: A story that glues the idea and the research and makes an interesting example of it or tell the history of the research in an interesting and/or detective puzzle-solving way.
He then moved to the main structure of magazine features in general:
  • Opening: It starts with a theme, or somebody talking
  • Background: Mixture of history of the subject and some needed context to put people in the mood. For example why such research was needed, what problems did people face earlier, etc.
  • The Story: This occupies the majority of the article.
  • Close: It's helpful to end with an action.
The above sections should be only in the writers mind, and there should be no or just blurred separations between them on paper.

Few more links:
Chris Mooney wrote a quick wrap of the workshop and their trip to Egypt, "Four Days in Cairo"
Beryl Lieff Benderly (LinkedIn) also participated in the workshop but it's my bad as I didn't take proper note of what she said.
And finally, here is an article about writing feature stories.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Notes from Greece

Syntagma:
I arrived to Athens on Thursday, June 30th. I decided to go visit their Tahrir Square (aka Syntagma Square). The moment I arrived to the metro station beneath the square, I felt how similar it is to Tahrir Square. A girl was collecting the used metro tickets from people in order to not throw them on the ground. Doesn't this remind you of Tahrir Square, and the feeling of patriotism people used to have there!? People then told me they have witnessed in the previous night one of the most brutal police crackdown in their entire lives, and tear gas was used excessively then.

Tear-Gas Bomb

I found them hanging the tear bombs in the square as a proof of what happened. I photographed bombs made in Brazil, yet I was told that there were bombs made in USA and Israel as well. Some areas of the metro station were burnt, and I knew that
they were having a field hospital in there, and it was attacked by tear gas too. A friend of mine has been to both Tahrir Square and Syntagme, and she told me the tear gas in Syntagma was much worse than the one used in Tahrir. May be because ours were expired.

Hot Dogs in Syntagma

This all happened after the Greeks started a 48-hours general strike due to the harsh austerity measures demanded in return for EU and IMF rescue loans. According to The Guardia the austerity package would raise taxes on minimum wage earners and other Greeks in addition to earlier cuts that have driven unemployment past 16%

Protesters

The protesters are as creative as the Egyptians with their drawings, and banners. And every day at midnight - before the last metro departs from the square - they hold voting on the ideas being discussed that day in their open assemble held in the square.
The people in Syntagma and the spirit there are just wonderful.


Flotilla:

Meanwhile ships of the Flotilla carrying food and medical supplies heading to Gaza arrived to Greece. The Israelis are doing whatever they can do to stop those ships. Ships docking both in Ireland and Greece were sabotaged, and it's so obvious that the Israelis are behind this. I really don't know how they never give a shit about people's lives! People on flotilla said that they face unusually more complex routines whenever they go to finish any papers.
Some other have speculations that their mobile phones are tapped and there might be Mosad spies on board.


Justice in Palestine

Israel is spreading rumours that the ships carry weapons, this might be both to give themselves excuse to kill people on board later on, and to make their own soldiers more violent and eager to attack them cold blooded.

Israel is also putting a lot of pressure on countries to stop the flotilla. The Turks might withdraw, especially as they are busy with problems on their Syrian borders, and later on the minister of police in Greece order to stop Canadian vessels from leaving Greek to Gaza. It's the same minister responsible for the crack down on Syntagma by the way.

Related stories:
YNet News: Greece asks Israel for teargas grenades
Lopez to Gaza: Detained in Greece, Freed by Syntagma
Greece: We Gave Birth to Democracy, and We Killed It!
Twitter: Latest updates from #Flotilla2 hashtag
Not Gr33nData: From Cairo to Athens

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

UK: They've Got Internet

I've been to London last December. It was my first time there, well I had a transit there last year but it doesn't count. Anyway, you might be wondering what is the thing that I liked the most there. Is it Big Ben, London Bridge, Madame Tussauds' Museum, The Fireworks in the New Year's Eve, or Wembley Stadium? In fact, what I liked the most is that they have got ... they've got Internet there.

Tower Bridge - London

Well, the internet is all over the world for sure, but compared to here and to all the other countries I visited before, it's only there where you have almost everything online. When I wanted to get a visitor visa, all I had to do is to fill the form online, reserve an appointment, also online, and then I submitted my papers and got my visa in two or three days. What about the Schengen for example? You call a stupid IVR system, a guy answers you and gives you an appointment one month later, or may be two! And they need 15 more days to process your papers and issue your visa later on! I really don't get it. How many person goes to UK compared to those who go to Greece or Czech Republic for example!? Why do you need all this time to get your Shengen while the Brits give you the visa just like that!? To be honest, the Chilean visa was quick too. They sure do not have that advanced system like the British one, but they are internet literate compared to the Schengen states. I sent them all my papers via email, they processed them, called me after a week to set an appointment, and I got my visa on the spot.

Once you arrive to London, you realize that you can use the internet in stuff you never thought it is needed there. You want to know how to go from the airport to your hotel, well there is a website called Transport for London, it has got all the means of transportation from the Tube to ferry boats, it has got their schedules, the functioning and non-functioning lines, everything. You give it your starting point and target destination, and it lists you all the transportations options you have, and how long each trip option will take you. You can even opt-out some methods of transportations or limit it to tube only for example. Google maps are travellers best friend nowadays, but it's not always that useful all the time. And TFL is more customized to London and to the means of transportation there.

I'm someone who never knows his clothes sizes. Mainly, because here in Egypt we are used to the culture of fitting rooms and the helpful salesmen who keeps on getting you different models and sizes till you find the most suitable one for you. There it's not the same, on one hand people are used to purchasing their stuff online, and clothes are no different. On the other hand, it's okey to return something you've purchased back to the shop if it is not okey, which is something next to impossible here. And may be that's why the fitting rooms are not that popular there like they are here, and the salesmen are not that helpful like here. People on the other hand seem to know their sizes by heart, on the boxing day, people were like crazy grabbing stuff off the shelves without thinking!

Wembley Stadium

Being a tourist, you usually want to know what are the best places to go, and there are many websites that lists the important sights all over the world. But I just got the feeling that searching for English places there is much easier than doing the same thing for places in Jordan or Chile for example. It's like the English people are very active on the internet and they populate the databases of those website more than any other people. Also, who ever thinks of going to a Stadium for a tour when visiting a new city. But guess what, Wembley Stadium has got a website for its own, where I scheduled a visit, bought a ticket, while still sitting on my couch. It's this internetish thing that made me go there, where other cities might have even better stadiums but they failed to market them online, and make it easier to schedule a visit for them.

The weather in London changes a lot. I learnt there how to wear in layers, it's not the thickest jumper (pullover) that will make you feel warmer, it's one more thin layer that will do. But also the Londoners are used to check the internet before going out to know what to put on. See, they've even got a website that tells you whether to have an umbrella with you today or not.

We all are connected to the internet, but some countries and some people have it integrated more into their daily lives. And the United Kingdom is one of the best internetish countries to me, at least out of those countries I've been to so far.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zeynep Tufekci: Collective Action Under Autocracies

Last Monday the prominent sociologist Dr. Zeynep Tufekci (@techsoc) gave a lecture in Cairo University about "Social Media and Collective Action under Autocracies". The topic is one of the most over discussed topics nowadays, yet finding a lecture by someone like Zeynep who is specialized in "Social Impacts of Technology" and "Theorizing the Web" is more like finding a needle in a haystack.

Zeynep started her lecture by assuring that even though the credit for the ongoing uprising in the Middle East goes to the people, yet we cannot deny the impact of the methods and tools available nowadays; the Internet and Social Media in our case. However, her stress on this fact didn't stop the debate that took place after her lecture. Being allergic to media-generated terms such as "Internet Revolution" makes some people here insist that it's either the internet or the Egyptian people, as if they both are comparable to each other. Anyway, let's skip such debate as I don't want it to distract you as it did to me somehow then.

A revolution is a collective action. So Zeynep started by listing the challenges to collective actions:
  • Information Diffusion: How information and news are spread plays an important role here. In the second half of the past century it was TV that has the ability to whether spread or censor the news about a demonstration in real time. And that's why it was a classical scenario in coups to occupy the national TV building in the country and announce the new power in charge from there. But nowadays social media also can spread such information and in real-time, and that's why occupying the TV building was never a main goal for the revolts in Egypt nor Tunisia. It's no more that autocracies hold monopoly on broadcast via TV, radio, and newspapers.
  • Shaping the Public Sphere: The nature of flow of information affects how the public think. In the one-to-many broadcast days, people used to get their information from that single source (or few sources). But a neighbour never know how does his neighbour think. He never know whether his neighbour knows how he himself sinks as well. Once more it was autocracies who hold monopoly on shaping the public sphere.
  • Hidden Preferences: As you can see from the above point, people might be living next door and they both might be opposing to the regime, but they never know they are unless they talk to each other about it. And regimes knew this, and the role of their security forces was to use people's fear to make it hard for people to talk to each other about it.
  • Synchronization: One more obstacle is that people synchronize their beliefs and actions. It's hard to be achieved in a one-to-one manner where communication is slow and dangerous, while the in a networked world this becomes easier now.
  • Mass Action: Finally, for the mass-action to take place it needs all of the above, as well as courage, and there was no shortage of that.
From the above you might think that it's either a world with social networks connecting people or an Orwellian society. And you might think that without social networks we'd have never had a revolution. And that's why Dr. Zeynep Tufekci asked: "Does social media give us same results, or may be just faster? Or, it does qualitatively change the dynamics?". Again, I believe the main goal for the lecture was to study the effect of the Social Media while putting aside all other factors in order not to be distracted by them, and because they are out of our scope now. Zeynep then started to discuss what social media changed in more details.
  • Network-Level Effect: As you can see, it isn't a one-to-many information flow any more. It's a many-to-many flow now. She even referred to Epidemiology to find out the factors that affect whether a quarantine (censorship in our case) will work or not. The two main factors here are the speed of transmission and the shape of the network. It was common in old Arabic films to see revolts distributing notes written on pieces of paper, manshourat. Those pieces of paper share many common characteristics with tweets, but if you give it a second look you will find out that a tweet is transmitted from one peer to another much more quicker than those notes. Also geography and other human factors affected the shape of network where such notes were distributed as opposed to the network present now on twitter. So even in a many-to-many network there might exist separate cluster connected by connectors or bridge who once cut might isolate significant parts of that network. Please refer to slides 31, 32 and 33 here for more information how highly connected networks are more immune to censorship. Zeynep then compared two identical demonstrations Gafsa 2008 and Sidi Bouzid 2010, where both of them were distant cities however the demonstration in Gafsa was crushed and isolated while that in Sidi Bouzid resulted in overthrowing Ben Ali. It worth noticing here that Facebook users in Tunisia in 2008 were about 28,000 users while in 2010 they reached 2,000,000 users. And for sure a network of 2M users is most probably more highly connected and information there diffuses qucker and more easily.
  • Field Effect: How your presence within a certain network reshapes your opinion. I had a discussion with Dr Zeynep on how geeks who speak different languages and the early adopters of blogs and social networks tend to be more liberal and less conservative. May be this is due to the field effect too, where they get exposed more to different cultures and societies. But the question here, those who work in Mobile Operators and ISP's are supposed to belong to this category, yet they submitted to the governments orders to cut off the mobile and internet connection during the early days of the revolution. May be we have to differentiate between hackers who are into technology as a hobby and those who are working in the field of ICT and deal with technology as a part of their job? I don't really know!
Social Media also open doors to oral culture. And now even if you don't have good command of language, you still have voice via videos, photos, and oral-language tweets.

Social Media effect is not one way. The slogan for those protesters in Wisonsin was "Demonstrate like Egyptians". What the media used to call Arab Spring is now being spread to Madrid and Athens.

Social Media can help in spreading rumours, but it can also help in correcting itself. Claims of Muslim Brotherhood about empty Tahrir Square on #May27 were quickly taken off their site due to overwhelming contrary evidence via photos, videos, etc.

Social Media increased participation and made the diffusion of information quicker. But this is not necessary a good thing all the time. It's both uniting as well as segmenting people more. The increased participation can risk increased polarization.
Finally, Dr. Zeynep Tufekci said that the collective mood of Egypt now is Optimistic and Proud, with a little Cautious.
You can see the lecture's slides here. An interesting panel was held after the lecture with the participation of Mahmoud Salem (@SandMonkey) and Sarah Abdel Rahman (@Sarrahsworld). They both discussed the current situation in Egypt and shared their comments on the lecture. Al-Masry Al-Youm published an article about the lecture and the panel here. This is a video recoding for another speech given by Dr. Tufekci later on in Personal Democracy Form #PdF11, and it touches base with some of the main points discussed above. This article by Esther Dyson about the illusions of democracy and the internet is not really related but worth reading as well if you have time. And finally, I highly advise you to follow Zeynep's blog, TechnoSociology.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm not buying books from Shorouk any more

I went to Shorouk book-store few days. I was having a cup of coffee with me, but no one said anything about it. Then I put it in the cornet beside me, and made sure it's out of reach of people's kicks in order to free my hands to have a look at the books on the shelves. After I finished, I turned around to find out they just decided to throw the cup in the trash without even asking me.

I told the above story to many people, and almost all of them believed it was my fault. And how could the shop keepers know it's mine in order to ask me before throwing it away? Yet, I am still not convinced, not because of the cup incident itself, but because of the reaction of the shop keepers afterwards, who refused to apologize or say anything reasonable but blaming and yelling at me! And it ended up with them calling the security forces for me, and I found myself too curious to see how will those security forces react towards something silly like this, so I waited for them to come. And in fact, the security guys were even more confused than myself, and they kept shaking hands with both of us, and asking us to calm down!

I am not sure if you will agree with me or not. And I will not tell you which branch was it, as my goal of writing this post is far from revenge, but my be just digressions. However, I am not really a reasonable person most of the time, and I think I made my mind now, I'm not buying books from Shorouk book-stores any more. God bless Virgin Megastore, Diwan, Kotob-Khan, Alef bookstores and even e-Books.

Friday, May 20, 2011

From Cairo to Athens

It's always interesting to visit new places and then share your experience with others. I visited Jordan three years ago and blogged about it. I also visited Santiago, Chile and London recently, but I was lazy to write about my trips there. So, here I am writing about my recent trip to Greece.

I was invited by two Greek newspapers, Konteiner and Re-public, in order to give speech about the Egyptian Revolution and the effect of Social Media on it. The event was called "Networked Revolts", and you can find the slides of my presentation here, and here is the video recording for my speech there.

Statue

Well, let's go back to the main aim of my post which is writing about the trip itself. It all started in the aeroplane. The man sitting beside me, who was by all means not less that 40 years old, was about to sell his kidney in order to have the window seat, he kept on annoying me till I swapped my seat with him. Also on my way back there was another guy who told us that he went there on a boat without visa and stayed for two years working there, and apparently they now found him and he was forced to go back to Egypt. So, if those are the kind of people to go there, I think the reputation of the Egyptians in Greece is not the best.

I learnt just few Greek words during my 5 days stay there. My favourite is Kalimera, which means good morning. There is also Kalispera, which means good afternoon. Efkharisto, thank you. and finally Yasso for hello.

Costa

I was staying in a hotel in Panepistimio street, so I took the metro to Sintagma station, and walked from there. It's an 8 Euros special ticket when you are going to or from the airport. There is another metro line that can take you from Sintagma to Panepistimio, but I preferred to walk to see the city. Sintagma or Syntagma Square, which means Constitution Square, is located in central Athens. The Grehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifek Parliament is there, and it also is the frequent site of political demonstrations. So in brief, it is their own Tahrir Square. The square is also like an open area with seats and stairs where there were many people just sitting there enjoying the sum, some guys were trying some tricks with their skateboards. Later on I found a shop than only sells skateboards in another area called Monastiraki, which I might talk about later.

Prayer Beads in Athens

The next day I went to the Acropolis. On my way, I went to the Plaka, Monastiraki square and nearby streets. The shops there are very much like Khan El Khalily in Egypt. They do even sell similar stuff. Never imagined to see praying beads and blue eye other where outside Egypt. It's the same are where I ate roasted corn after fancying it without finding it anywhere in Egypt since a month.

Sleeping Dog

Also in the same area I ate Baklava, in Diodos. I found it less sugary then ours though, yet it was very delicious. And while eating it I met that scary dog, which came out to be so calm and peaceful especially when it slept. In fact the streets of Athens are full of dogs and motorbikes, but the dogs are all peaceful, and the motorbike drives are way better drivers than the ones here.

Aegina Port

On Sunday all the shops were closed, so I decided to go to one of the near by islands. I walked down Athens street (which is so much like, well, may be Sidi Bishr area in Alexandria). Took the metro from Monastiraki metro station to Piraeus, which is like the port of Athens, and apparently the famous Greek bank is named after it. I then took a boat to an island called Aegina.

Hantour

I didn't have much choice in selecting which island to go, I arrived late to Pireaus and its was the only one that fitting my schedule, yet I believe the best photos I took were there. So, I believe if I had chance to go there again, I will visit the other islands which I hear are even better.

Temple of Zeus

Despite the huge fame of the Acropolis, I liked the temple of Zeus even more. May be because Zeus is surrounded by green fields, or may be because the Acropolis looks like it's under construction all the time with all those cranes and metal cages surrounding it.

Graffiti

Then I went to what they call the Anarchists district. There were lots of graffiti in the streets, leftist posters, a building for the Communist Party (KKE). Graffiti and beggers who play music instead of those who follow you asking for money, are two things I'd like to see here in the Egyptian streets some day. Any way, in Athens there were the two styles of beggers, the musical ones as well as the Egyptian-style beggers.

Keynes and Nietzsche

I think the books sold in the streets of any country help you understand how the people of that country think. And books about John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Nietzsche are rarely sold in the streets here in Egypt. May be in big book-shops but not on the pavement!

Lady of the Balloons

Finally, I think Greece worth a future visit if I had chance to in order to discover the different parts of it. And I'll leave you now with more photos I took there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free Tarek Shalaby

I wasn't really convinced about the sit-in people wanted to have in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, but my friend Tarek Shalaby as well as many others were in favour of it.

Free Tarek Shalaby

I've met Shalaby many times, and I guess I can tell that he has great passion in supporting the causes he believes in, and you can see this in the fact that he was one of the first people who made tents and slept in Tahrir Square during and after the Egyptian revolution. But on the other hand, he is not one of those who might break the law nor destroy any public properties. So I am sure he was peacefully demonstrating in front of the embassy that day when he was arrested as well as others.

This makes me really wonder, on what bases was he arrested? Even more, I want to know on what bases are priorities of arresting people made? I haven't seen all those who burnt churches or looted shops being arrested, while now a peaceful protester and one of those who participated in the Egyptian revolution since its very beginning being arrested! Did you know that Shalaby risked his life in order to carry food and medication to the Libyan revolts a short while after Mubarak stepped down!? Isn't it ironic that he came safely from the country ruled by the lunatic bloody Gaddafy, and now he is arrested by the Egyptian officials!? You do the maths ba2a.

One final note:
I know many people who went to revolt in January 28 for different reasons, but the main reason that made me participate that day was the murder of Khaled Said by the hands of the police. I did not know anything about Khaled Said as a person, but I feared the unjust of the police, and feared the possibility of me or any of my beloved ones being murdered someday without a trial or anything. And Kaled Said was not the only case I've seen in the past few years, there were lots of them. And that fear is what made me resist the other fear of participating. And I am afraid that a similar fear of an unjust be created soon and force many people like me to have another revolution, may be next week, may be next month, or may be next decade. I just don't know.

Free Tarek Shalaby!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Revolution: Does It Worth the Trouble?

Today a Syrian friend of mine asked me a very interesting question, "Now after you toppled the regime in Egypt,would you say that it worth the trouble? Is life better for you guys now?"

As you know, there is an ongoing uprising in Syria now, and with the domino effect we are witnessing here in the Arab world nowadays, each country serves as the crystal ball for the next domino tile to predict its own future in it. In Egypt, many times when in doubt during our revolutions, we used to cheat from Tunisia, and copy what they have done when they faced the same issue. And now it's Syria's turn to use the Egyptian crystal ball.

I do not watch the Syrian national TV, but let me guess what messages are being aired there nowadays. For sure they are telling people now that such uprising is going to harm their economy and the country's stability, and here is Egypt as an example, their economy is getting worse day after day, and guess what? they are still ruled by the army. No democracy there yet! Right?

Anyway, instead of putting my two cents here, I preferred to ask my friends on twitter and see what do they think?

I myself believe that we've broken the barrier of fear, and if this is the only achievement for us, then it's enough. Menna Fawzi shares the same opinion as she believes that now any future dictator will be sure that we can topple him/her any time if they failed to listen to our demands. Aly Amer believes that putting the pillars of the formal regime in jail is an enough threat to any possible future corrupted regimes. Samia Jaheen and Nahla Ghoneim believe that - even if we haven't seen the fruits of our revolution till now - yet no one can ever see a fruit without planting the seed first. No matter what, it's a long journey to freedom and democracy and we are obliged to start it in order to find out the taste of freedom later. Sarah Raafat also believes that this is the best gift we can offer to our children. And finally NG Noah and Samer Hassan agreed that there is an immediate fruit of what we have done though, we finally have something that we never had before; Hope!

I'm not sure if we have answered my friend's doubts or not. I also know that our answer might seem to be a bit dreamy and optimistic. But she has to believe that this is just the truth, despite all what they say about us in Egypt, it came out that we value dignity more than stability, and we value hope more than economic growth.

Friday, April 8, 2011

From Paper to GIMP

A Journalist

This is my workflow when drawing stuff.
  1. I draw them on paper, using a pen.
  2. I scan them as greyscale, and normally 300 dpi.
  3. Then I open them with GIMP, try to use eraser to clean the drawing a bit.
  4. Increase Contrast till all dirts are gone.
  5. Increase Levels to make the lines stronger and solid.
  6. Change image mode to RGB.
  7. Add another layer, with white background, and set it's mode to multiply.
  8. Start colouring on the newly added laters, and add more layers if required.
  9. And that's it.
I never used Photoshop before, however I think the above steps should be almost the same there.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

6 Years Blogging

My first blog post was in the 19th of February 2005, and here I am celebrating my 6th blogging anniversary today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Unordered Notes on Jan25

I am one of those people who were never used to writing their notes and memories in notebooks. My handwriting is a good proof on how I never wrote memories before having a blog. But during the Egyptian revolution, and after the regime turned the internet off, I found myself reaching out for my notebook and pen and started taking notes of the events taking place around me and thoughts taking place in my mind. And here I am writing those random memories before the notebook gets lost.

Mubarak Thugs

On the "Friday of Rage", the police forces ran away, leaving the whole country unsecured. Later on we heard that many building were on fire, and after that many prisoners escaped from their prisons. Up till now, there are two scenarios for what happened. The first one states that when the policemen were defeated in front of the protesters, they decided to take revenge from the whole country by doing all this. This scenario even goes further by saying that the police helped the prisoners to run away in order to attack people. It's also said that it's a part of Mubarak's plan to give everyone choice between chaos and order, between his rule and his violence! The second scenario, which is the policemen's favourite scenario by the way, says that the police forces where outnumbered by the Egyptian citizens, and millions of people all over the country started attacking them, burning police stations, and breaking into jails to liberate the prisoners there. But the question is, if this scenario is true, isn't it suspicious that all of the Egyptian people were against the police forces? Doesn't this make us wonder if the police brutality all over those years was to be blamed here!?

On Friday, people were chanting "we want to topple the regime", but later on at night, and when everyone was expecting Mubarak to step down, they experienced his roller coaster when he said that instead of stepping down, he will change the prime minister! The funny thing is that in the next day, I heard chants like "we want to topple the president", as if he is really too stupid to understand what they meant by their previous chant.

NDP Tools

After thousands of prisoners escaped from their jails all over Egypt, and there were no policemen to be relied on for people's security, the TV started asking people to get down to the streets and secure their own homes. Some people went to the streets with their guns, some others took knives with them, and I went their with a broom in my hand. We stood there all the night, waiting for army forces to be deployed in our district in order to secure it. After a couple of nights and a series of fake alarms and few gun shots here and there, a tank approached us. I then found myself experiencing one of Gabriel García Márquez' magical realism where a tank was just passing by my home in the empty streets that used to be full of cars all day long the previous day, and my first reaction to seeing the tank was saluting them with the broom in my hand.

During the revolution the Egyptian state owned TV, kept on wondering why there are many foreigners in Tahrir square. They started to claim that those are traitors who are here to topple the Egyptian patriot regime! They even went further by claiming that they are bribing people with KFC meals in order to keep on demonstrating. It's one of the common tricks usually used by dictators where they claim that they are the only patriots there and all those opposing to them are traitors. It's their own way to get people's sympathy. Anyway, an Egyptian thinker called "Ammar Ali Hassan" commented on the presence of many foreigners in the square and the real reason behind it. On one hand, put yourself in their shoes, imagine yourself in a country where there is a revolution taking place there, won't you be eager to witness it!? Also, the idea of revolutions itself is somehow a romantic idea for them. In the democratic world of today, you have many other means to topple a regime such as votes, and polling stations. And they have no chance to witness a revolution except in a historic Film about Che Guevara, or in one of the Middle Eastern countries.

Youth and old men

During the revolution they insisted in the media outlets to give it names like "Youth Revolution" or "Facebook Revolution". But the people in Tahrir square were from all ages, and sure many of them are Facebook users, however I am sure many many others never heard of Facebook or the internet. May be because it started on Facebook, and it's believed to be the first revolution in history to be arranged by Facebook events. But still, the revolution survived in its early days when there was no internet in the whole country. I sure many people agree with me on this, and here is El-Baradie saying the same thing in one of his tweets, "Do not paint this as a *youth* revolution. Youth were the spark but all Egyptians embraced it and turned it into a glowing fire".
Also during the revolution - and even now after Mubarak is gone - the media outlets are trying to figure out who are the leaders of the revolution. I am speaking for myself here, but I am sure that many other as well have never met most of those people who appear on TV every now and then under the name, "the representatives of the Egyptian youth in Tahrir square". Sure some people like Wael Ghonim planned for demonstrations on the 25th of January, and I think we all should be thankful to them, but even Wael himself refused to be called a leader. The calls for the revolution were spread like a real chain reaction, and it in such kind of revolution it is a real waste of time to try to find leaders and representatives.

Different people had different roles in Jan25 revolution. Some people helped in picking the timing for starting the demonstrations, some others where in the front lines, some were arrested, some lost their eyes dies to the police rubber bullets, and hundreds were even dead. Some people slept in the streets for days in Tahrir square, and some even came out with the revolution's twitter hashtag, #Jan25. And if I am to compare myself to all those people, my role was the least significant role in all those. I tried my best to be in Tahrir square almost every day, as I hated to see the square empty for a single day, and also during the revolution, Tahrir square was the only place that made me feel I am in the Egypt I like. Yet, I'll always be proud to be one of the millions who participated in toppling the regime.

Related Posts:
Mubarak's Roller Coaster, http://notgr33ndata.blogspot.com/2011/02/mubaraks-roller-coaster.html
No More Confusion, http://notgr33ndata.blogspot.com/2011/02/no-more-confusion.html

Friday, February 4, 2011

No More Confusion

In my previous post, I said that I was confused, I couldn't tell then if the revolvers have achieved at least a significant part of their demands, or the revolution was murdered. I was confused for few moments if we should wait and see if the regime will fulfil its promises in the coming few month, or if we'd rather continue to protest.

Clinic

But thanks to Hosni Mubarak, I am not confused any more now, as few hours after his speech the regime sent their thugs to attack the peaceful protesters. And yesterday, I was taking some medical supplies to Tahrir Square, as the Ministry of health doesn’t give a shit to the wounded people there, and on my way Mubarak’s police officers stole the medical supplies and told me it’s either to give them the bag or they will arrest me. The officer also called the protesters, "they are traitors, and we shouldn't offer them any help". So it's clear that after all those years, they still prefer to play the Arab-dictators favourite game, the "Patriots vs. Traitors" game.

The stupidity of the regime is the revolvers best weapon now, and the regime made it clear that their promises are not to be trusted. Hope this is clear too to those who fell for the pro-regime propaganda that is being spread on Facebook in the past few days.