Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Turning the Clock Back

When asked if this renewed activity at Tahrir Square will be called the second revolution, Amir, 26, said rather that it should be named February 12. He wished, in other words, that they could move back in time and not leave the Square on February 11 when Mubarak resigned. Amir's sentiment that the revolution has not been successful - that they trusted the interim leadership to move the country forward - is widespread among many youths in Egypt. For such-minded youths, their passion has not weakened but they feel disappointed and angry that too much feels the same: too little transparency and accountability.

Kholoud was able to list the several achievements of the revolution - e.g., the resignation of Mubarak and Shafiq, the referendum, etc. - but she is troubled about the lack of progress on other fronts, particularly the failure to prosecute the security officers who killed so many in February. She is also concerned, indeed offended, that too many people have become apathetic to the drive of the revolution.

Aly is worried also. Things are harder now for him. During the revolution, it was clear who the enemy was; now, with the figureheads out of the way and the political structure partially dismantled, the continuing inertia feels ominous, signalling as it does to him that the persistent injustice and self-interest are fundamental to the social and political systems. He has seen that it is not enough to make simple alterations in political leadership, but that society needs to change. Ths frightens him because, in part, it means that the enemy is his own people.

Sayed has had enough of the revolution and totally opposed to the continued protests. They seem silly and aggravate him, distracting as they do from forward progress, particularly the recovery of the economy. Walid shares this position to a degree. He appears to share some of the passion for the protests but knows somehow that it will take time - even years - to make the necessary changes. Meanwhile, life must go on and the temporary leaders must be given the moment to begin the changes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Where Have All the Tanks Gone?

Arrived last night in Cairo to begin the second round of interviews with the youths I came to know when first here four months ago. Have kept in contact with the main group of them regularly in the interim via Facebook and email, and all seem eager to talk again. Will also expand the group by including some more diversity - Christian, MB, and Salafi - as well as from areas other than Cairo and Alexandria.

Since the original visit in Feb/March, we've received funding to do a two-year project, consisting of: 1) repeated interviews with the core group of youth, every four months; 2) a national survey next year, and 3) begin work on a documentary. To that end, two producers have joined me on this trip and will be meeting the core group of youth to help determine which of them would be best to highlight in the documentary.

So much for brief update. As to how things are now here, I'll know much better as the week-long visit progresses. For the moment, the one conspicuous difference is the absence of military tanks. Previously, there were small tanks dispersed on all arteries leading to Tahrir Square, and large tanks on the artery that leads to the American and British embassies. Walking those areas last night with Sterling and Arthur, I saw not a single tank. One also sees more police (dark blue or white clad). This is noteworthy because it seems like a degree of normality has taken over the city, but all the more interesting given that the protests have become large and vigorous again in the past days. The current concern is the delay in prosecuting the security officials and officers responsible for killing over 800 protesters duirng the revolution, now nearly 5 months old.

Apparently, the Square was filled during Friday's protest, and yesterday (Saturday) we saw that many had camped out in the center of the Square, re-enacting the process of the original protests that lead to the revolution. It will be interesting to see how long this new level of protest is sustained.