Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stones are Easy - Raise the Price of Your Blood

A singular privilege during the recent stay in Egypt was observing the interaction between Aly, some of his comrades, and their cherished mentor Dr. Heba Raouf Ezzat.

I had made an appointment to say goodbye to Aly and he asked that we meet at an outdoor cafe in central Cairo. There with him was his mentor Heba, who was the one that helped place him in an out-of-the-way hospital after his injuries (In Your Face in Cairo). Rumors were spreading that security officers would come to hospitals to arrest protesters. Dr. Heba's home is at Tahrir Square, and Aly had been staying with her also since his release from the hospital.

Aly had talked often about Dr. Heba and it was a real honor to meet her. She is gentle and soft-spoken, but her message to Aly and his comrades at the table was tough and exacting. Their reverance for her was clearly apparent, and in this case of the challenge she was confronting them with, it was evident in their silence, or in their only very slight pushback against some of her admonitions.

Many had just died in the pre-election clashes and it wasn't clear that any appreciable concession had been made to the protesters. Rather, she surmised in response to my query as to why the protests had stopped despite this lack of success, that the people were simply exhausted.

Then, she proceeded to instruct her students broadly on revolutionary leadership, maturation, and tactic.


"You need to be smart enough to know when you are defeated."

"Withdraw from Tahrir Square, and find a way to characterize your efforts as successful." (noting how some of it would be hard for Aly to hear)

"Too many protesters have become stars, not leaders. You should have a leader at Tahrir that can tell you when to stop."

"Get past street politics; you've tried shortcuts and lost."

"Your blood is not cheap; don't just throw it away like that. You must get something in return for it."

"Stones are easy; it is far more difficult to go to long-term negotiation."

"Raise the level of discourse."

"Learn the games of politics to lift your performance."


"You lost the election; now you have 5 years."

"Don't just deal with those you elected [voted for]. Go to all individuals [who were elected] and demand accountability."

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