The picture on the left is doing the rounds on the internet labelled as a Palestinian child victim of US-backed Zionist bombing in Gaza. In fact, it seems that it depicts a Syrian child injured by Russian and Iranian-backed Asadist barbarism. No matter – the two are interchangeable today. Both are fighting hyper-violent tyrannies rooted in the Sykes-Picot carve-up of bilad ash-Shaam. And while Zionism bombs Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Asad’s forces continue to bomb Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk camp, Damascus. The film below shows some of the aftermath of this bombing. Below that we reprint an article by novelist Ahdaf Soueif, in which she describes the changed Arab environment meeting the latest aggression on Gaza, and points out that Israel’s action is in part aimed to take “the heat off Bashar al-Assad’s murderous activities in Syria.”
Can literature inspire revolutions? What role do artists and intellectuals play on the frontline of popular uprisings?
The Guardian publishes Ahdaf Soueif’s dairy from Cairo. “What we have here,” she writes, “is the opposite of a vacuum; we have democracy in action on the ground in Tahrir Square. We are full of hope and ideas, and our gallant young people are guarding our periphery.”
As you start reading this, you will know something I don’t: you will know how this day – Friday 4 February – has turned out for us. I’m writing this at 7am. I slept in my brother’s house last night, so now I’m hearing different patterns of birdsong and muffled conversation from the street. The renewed pro-democracy protests are set to start soon and we shall all make our way to Tahrir Square. We shall be families – with the young people in the lead. We’ve called friends who’ve spent the night in the square. They say everything’s quiet.
On Thursday the new vice-president said the protests had to end. And the new prime minister stated he had no idea how violence came to happen on Wednesday in Tahrir, but that it would be investigated and, meanwhile, he was apologising to the people. And meanwhile, also, the government’s battalions of violent-crime-record personnel and plainclothes security forces were being moved around the city, yelling and brandishing banners and weapons and confronting protesters.
But let’s do this in sequence. These are short extracts from my diaries of these days …
Ahdaf Soueif writes from Cairo for the Guardian.
I knew something was wrong when I woke up to the sound of car horns. It’s been so quiet and peaceful the last few days we’ve even started seeing the bats once again flitting in and out of the fruit trees at dusk. This wasn’t the normal noise of Cairo traffic; this was aggressive, patterned and constant, like what you get after a football match only lots more so.
Out of my window I saw the crowd marching across 15 May flyover. It’s odd: the pro-Mubarak lot are so much more regimented – and so much less civil: the noise pollution, the rude gestures at the street, the sticks, the attitude – and at the same time the perfectly scripted banners, the “stewards” marshalling and directing them.
By midday they had started to attack Tahrir Square; the attacks are continuing as I write now. I’m getting regular updates from the square from my son, nieces, sister and other friends in the thick of it. The people who on Tuesday night were listening to music and debating modes of government are now putting their bodies on the line. It’s all they have. The pro-Mubarak lot, of course, have sticks and stones, and swords and chains and dogs and trucks and … the military stand by and do nothing. Continue reading “Its Place In The Sun”
Patience is a virtue – maybe even the supreme one in Egypt’s popular hierarchy of values, but patience also has its limits and, now, at last, it seems as if we’ve arrived at ours. And fittingly, it’s the young of the country who are leading us. They’ve had enough of unemployment, deteriorating education, corruption, police brutality and political impotence.
As is now well known, they organised Tuesday’s protests over Facebook and in closed virtual and actual meetings. Talk about grassroots! “They” is some 20 groups that have sprung up over the last five years. The question has always been how and when will they coalesce? They did on Tuesday; they fused, and with them multitudes of Egyptians young and old – inspired by what happened in Tunis.
They organised protests from Assiut in the south, to Sheikh Zuwayyid in Sinai, and Alexandria, Suez and other cities the length and breadth of Egypt. For Cairo they chose three locations: Shubra, Matariyya and Arab League Street. These were strategic choices: naturally crowded neighbourhoods, with lots of side streets off the main road. Young activists started their march in nearby areas, collected a following and by the time they reached, for example, Arab League Street, they were 20,000 marching.