Into the Trenches

Inside the Fortress

A short memoir from the aftermath of the January 25, 2011 revolt … the day we stormed into our very own Mordor, the state security headquarters in Nasr City.

Open the pdf to read the full account, first published in the April issue of Egypt Today, 2011. 034-035_VU_AmnDawla


The wheezing, rickety Mubarak machine

Living history: The 18 days and beyond
Living history: The 18 days and beyond

The fact that ikhwan are fascist c**** doesn’t mean that I would ever forget how bad and miserable Mubarak days were, how his politics broke me and killed the dreams of many people, and scared the shit out of others.

If you were happy or OK during Mubarak days, rejoice, you must have been one of those 1% who could survive in this country without losing their heads. Maybe you are rich or connected, or both, or neither but you definitely had something most of this country’s people didn’t have. Not everyone was as lucky. Definitely not those who begged for food, or lived on the streets across country, or were stripped of proper education, or basic human rights, or were killed in train accidents, or flogged in protests or drowned when their overcrowded fishing boats capsized on the way to Greece, or Cyprus in a dangrous and desperate attempt to find a better life elsewhere. Definitely you were not close to one of those who died in bread queues riots or fought bloody battles for butane gas cylinders to heat their food. Or knew someone who perished in a dirty hospital due to negligence, or tried to endure as a loved one rotted in Mubarak’s prisons for angering the powers that be.

The mess that we are in today was primarily created under Mubarak’s rule, Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. Oh yes. That guy whose powers were God-like, and whose cronies and family were untouchable. The one living in an ivory tower while our phones were taped, our reporters controlled or harassed, and our poor were stepped over if they stood in the way of the economy sharks, or whose freedom was bought in pennies in voting seasons.

If you’re OK with these sorts of draconian powers, the past era’s injustice, lack of freedoms, and enslaving the public under the guise of “stability, control of the masses”, fine, go ahead, praise his days all you want, reminisce out loud but I don’t want to be in earshot. I won’t allow it.

Islamists wouldn’t have ruled us today if we were an aware, educated, and self-respecting people (not hungry and barely able to make ends meet, ignorant and gullible as we are thanks to Mubarak and his well-groomed albeit sleazy party members). People are easily led, or misled, when they’re desperate or raging or both. If you can’t understand this, I honestly won’t waste my breath on you to make you get it. You either get this or you don’t.

Anger at this stage is understandable, being disenchanted with the country is a reality we all face, even saying Mubarak wasn’t as bad as ikhwan or Morsi is still perfectly acceptable considering the status quo, but to go beyond this and glorify Mubarak and his thieves, blame revolutionaries entirely, or fiercely denounce/curse/insult supporters of the January 25 revolution is unacceptable, and I won’t allow it to happen around me, virtually and in real life.

If you don’t care about losing me as a friend, fair enough, do what you will. That’s also understandable; I’m high maintenance and I can be annoying, granted.

But if you do, then please respect that there are people who invested in the January 25 revolution, emotionally, physically, mentally, with money, effort, etc and who had very high hopes and were there to enact a real change that was far from poetic, for us (those who took part in the revolt) it was a reality and a breath of fresh air. In fact the only time I felt I belonged to this country was during the 18 days. I didn’t plan it, when I went down on January 25, I was a mere observer and I was cynical as the next person. But something inside me changed that night, on the 25th.

And from then on, I ceased to care about anything except wanting to be there. There was an awakening and I felt it rock me inside out. I was ready to lose my job, go into endless arguments with family and friends to be able to be there, to risk my own safety even. In Tahrir, I found that “inch” that made me the person who I am. I finally recognized myself, and found something to live for, and I wanted to live on to see it happen.

If you haven’t been there, and felt it like I did, you may never understand the root of my anger at those who curse at the revolutionaries now and accuse those who supported the January 25 movement of “ruining the country.”

There wasn’t a roadmap for success, or “Revolution for Dummies” or one of those “101 ways to remove a dictator” guides to tell us what to do. We improvised. We put our lives in danger. If this had not succeeded, we’d be all behind bars. Or assaulted. Or shot. Or raped. But we risked that. Not for fun. But for a dream. Our leaders failed us, some conspired behind our backs, and for many the blood of those who fell was cheap.

Perhaps that “revolt” was more wishful than tactical. More dreamy than political. I can admit to that.

Did the revolutionaries make mistakes? Absolutely. Are they flawed? Yes. Were most of them doing their best, according to what they knew best, in an attempt to make this country a better place? I have no doubt. And if you were there, during the 18 days, you would’ve understood.

Did I condemn those who stayed at home at the time? Never. Go back to my notes from the 18 days. I plainly and clearly asked people, among “my ranks” (for lack of a better word) not to interfere, I said truth isn’t and wasn’t exclusive to the Tahrir people, it wasn’t here or there and to each his cause and battle, I said. So let’s fight ours.

And no, there was no obligation from our side to listen to those who bitched and moaned about the dangers of removing Mubarak, to those who are now known as “felool.”

If you or the “felool” couldn’t see the signs, if you couldn’t tell that this country was going down the drain ANYWAY, regardless of the revolt or if you didn’t foresee that a big change was imminent, then again, it’s not my fault or the fault of the revolutionaries that you couldn’t see it.

You thought you had foresight. You believed it. Well, if you had your way, we don’t know where we would’ve been today. And no one can tell for certain. We had a different vision (concerning Mubarak’s stay in power) and it was just as dark and gloomy as the scenario we’re experiencing now. And we are entitled to our forecasts as you are. We acted, you acted. And there’s no way to tell –despite what’s happening today– which decision would have saved us, or propelled us into ruin.

Maybe this route will save us, after all, if we don’t give up.

Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood, are here. They’re fascists. To me, they’re also an extension of Mubarak’s disastrous rule. They’re corrupt to the bone. But so what? We will fight them and the remnants of the past corruption with all our might. As one of my favorite TV characters once said, “we will do what we have always done. We will fight them until we can’t.”

I’m actually glad they’re fully exposed. So that no one would come later and claim that the Islamists weren’t given a chance. If we succeed in climbing out of this rut, and I believe we will, we will definitely come out wiser … and more educated about the choices we make.

If you want to continue whining and pulling your hair, if you enjoy playing the victim (or don’t know better than that), or if you can’t control your fear of the present and future, be it real or exaggerated, please do step aside while we (those who still have some fight left in us) continue to battle the “bad guys” (in all their forms) while we fix the country or ourselves or either or both.

I hope this is clear for friends, acquaintances and strangers alike. No one is immune to this new campaign of mine; of removing from my life those who constantly lament Mubarak and relentlessly attack the revolution of 2011 in long, repeated loops. Sorry. I really, really am sad things are coming down to that.

But between friends and certain ideas I side with and can’t do without, I’ll have to choose the ideas. And perhaps regret the friendships lost later. I’d rather regret those than to give in to despair or accept assaults on ideas and ideals that I find liberating and transcendent.