عن الفقدان والأمل

اخر أغسطس السنة اللي فاتت وصلت لمرحلة مش عارفة اتعامل مع اللي شوفته أو رد فعل الناس للقتل والدم وقررت الهروب لأسبوع خارج مصر واخترت بلد مابتكلمش لغتها. وأنا هناك اتسرق تليفوني وعليه كل الصور اللي اخدتها في أحداث يوليو وأغسطس. ضاعت كل حاجة، بس الزعل بجد جيه بعدين، في شهر ابريل بالتحديد لما لاقيت ان كل الرسائل بيني وبين باسم في 2013 وخاصة الشهرين دول ضاعوا. غير نقاشاتنا في السياسة، باسم كان بيعرف بطريقة ما اني متضايقة او مضغوطة في الشغل ويبعتلى رسالة تشجيع او ضحك. (الشهر ده بالذات افتقدت باسم بالطريقة اللي كنت متأكدة انها هتحصل: مرتين ورا بعض (مشكلتين واحدة شخصية والتانية في الشغل) وباسم هو اول واحد جه في بالي اكلمه علشان اخد نصيحته وقبل مامسك التليفون استوعبت انه مش موجود.)

الحاجة الوحيدة اللي فضلت من اللي صورته السنة اللي فاتت هو الفيديو ده وكنت نزلته على اللاب توب أول ما أخدته لسبب ما. كنت فرجته لباسم وقالي لازم انشره. الفيديو متاخد في رمسيس بعد احداث رابعة بكام يوم وناس كتيرة ماتت الليله اللي قبلها واليوم نفسه كان فيه ضرب نار كتير، مجموعة من مؤيدي الإخوان باتوا الليلة في جامع الفتح والحكومة قالت انهم ممكن يطلعوا واديتهم الأمان. بغض النظر ان اللي فضل في الأخر اتقبض عليه لكن في لحظة التصوير ديه، ناس من أهالي المنطقة قرروا انهم يحموا الناس اللي جوه وعايزة تطلع بره، يحموهم من جيرانهم اللي كانوا بيضربوا أي حد يطلع. الناس اللي عملوا الكردون البشري ده ماكنوش بيحبوا الإخوان او متعاطفين مع اللي جوه وده لب الموضوع: هم غلبوا انسانيتهم مش انتمائهم أوحتى فكروا بعملية وقرروا يتعاملوا مع موضوع حياة أو موت بشكل مختلف عن المتوقع منهم، لفترة قليلة كسروا دائرة العنف مش لسبب غير انهم مش عايزين دم. الإدراك ده هو مفتاح المشكلة. اللحظة ديه اديتني امل في أسوء أسبوع مر عليا في حياتي واللي سمعته من الناس ساعتها دايما بيفكرني بباسم. من ساعة جنازته وانا كتير بسأل نفسي، باسم هيعمل ايه في الموقف ده. والفيديو ده فيه من روحه رغم انه ماكنش جزء من اللي حصل. الفيديو ده فيه شوية أمل في ذكرى أسبوع دموي. وأنا لسه بدور على مكان تاني أهرب فيه شوية.

Jumbled memories of loss and hope

At the end of August last year, I reached a point where I couldn’t deal with what I saw and the reactions of people close to me. I decided to escape for a week and chose a country I don’t speak its language. Two days into the trip, my mobile was stolen and with it all the photos I took of the turbulent July and August events. Everything lost. But it only hit me later, this April when I realized that all messages with Bassem, especially during these two months, were lost with that phone. Snippets of political and personal discussions. And the most precious of all were his brief uplifting messages that he somehow sent at the right time, as if he knew what I needed to hear without us speaking for days or even weeks. These past weeks I realized his loss the only way I was sure it would hit me. Twice, for personal and work related problems, Bassem was the first to come to my mind. But before reaching out for the phone to get his advice, I realized he was gone.

The only thing that survived the stolen phone was this video, which I had downloaded immediately for some reason. Bassem had watched it and told me to post it. It’s of the Ramsis clashes/crackdown few days after the Rabaa dispersal. Tens were killed and MB supporters were trapped inside the Fatah Mosque overnight. Earlier that day, I briefly got caught up in the gunfire. Authorities then told those inside they would have a safe exit. Never mind that many were eventually arrested, but for the moments captured here, residents of the area decided to provide this safe exit. They wanted to protect those inside from their neighbors who have been beating up journalists and anyone looking like Brotherhood. The essence of the story here is that those people forming this passage loathed the Brotherhood and those inside, but their humanity won over their affiliation. Call it even practical and logical thinking. They decided to unexpectedly break the cycle of violence for no reason other than being fed up with blood. This realization is the key to solving our problems. This video gives me hope that this realization could one day prevail. What people told me that day always reminds me of Bassem. Since his funeral, I’ve been asking myself in many occasions, what would Bassem do. And this video captures his spirit even though he had nothing to do with it, a spirit I wish would prevail. So here you go, get some hope during the anniversary of a bloodied week as I plan my next escape.

Realizing death

In two weeks, it will be the anniversary of one of the worst days in Egypt’s modern history. In addition to the hundreds that were killed on that single day, Aug. 14, and hundreds more in following days and months, many friends and colleagues had close calls. It’s the anniversary of when many of us, myself included, narrowly escaped death. The sight and sound of whizzing bullets is still very much alive. A lot has happened since, here and in the region. And it only made the idea of death much more real. It has become a constant possibility with the name of every fallen journalist/colleague, when seeing the scars and implications of gunfire injuries still visible a year later, and especially when every morning starts by checking that friends covering war zones are still alive. I’ve been bracing for the worst for more than year, but more so ahead of these two weeks. And the passing of a dear friend this year was a reminder that death isn’t only tied to danger or certain jobs. This is not meant to be as bleak as it sounds; this realization of death has translated into an attempt to enjoy life as much as fearing its loss and it often comes with an urge to always tie up all loose ends.

هو أنا بقيت بأشتم ليه

من ثلاث سنين كنت بأتعمد أتكلم  بصوت واطي وأنا بأحكي لأعز أصدقائي عن الشتيمة اللي اتقالت في خناقة حضرتها، شتيمة تعتبر مقارنة باللي بأقوله دلوقت ولاحاجة. في أصدقاء كثير بيستغربوا التغيير اللي حصل من ساعتها، زملاء الدراسة من الزمن البعيد ممكن يحصلهم صدمة لو عرفوا الشتائم اللي على لساني: في العربية رد فعلي لغباء السواقيين اللي حواليا تطور من حمار لعرص وعلق، أول كلمة بتيجي في بالي كرد فعل لأخبار كتير بأسمعها هي احا، ده غير الإستخدام المتواصل لكلمة بضان، اللي شايفها أدق وصف لناس وحاجات كتير حواليا.

التغير مش تغير في الشخصية، لسه الشتيمة جوه العربية و الزجاج مقفول ولما بأفتحه بأشرح للسواق التاني بهدوء أو بعصبية إزاي كان هيلبس كام عربية فبعض، واستخدامي للألفاظ المسماة بالبذيئة محدود وسط دوائر الأصدقاء المقربين ولسه زي ماأنا مابستخدمش أي نوع من الشتيمة في خناق أو نقاش وخاصة مع ناس مأعرفهاش.

التغير هو مجرد تقبل لإستخدام مصطلحات كانت تصنيفها للجزء الأكبر من حياتي هو عيب وغلط ومايصحش، إالخ، إلخ، يعني أقدر أقول إن الحواجز النفسية والإجتماعية اتكسرت أو أتغير مفهومي للأباحة\قباحة والبذاءة.

 السؤال اللي طرحته على نفسي وأصدقاء سألوه هو ايه سبب، ممكن التعرض لـ والتعود على سماع الألفاظ ديه بصفة مستمرة، الألفاظ اللي أصبحت متاحة بطريقة مباشرة أوبالتلميح في حياتنا، في الشارع، والإعلام، شبكات التواصل الإجتماعي (تويتر، فيس بوك)، إلخ. يمكني تعرضي ليها أكتر شوية.

بس كسر الحاجز النفسي المرتبط بفهمي للبذائة أساسه النقاشات أو الخناقات بتاعة الكام سنة اللي فاتوا، بعد كام مرة من محاولة اقناع ناس أعرفها إن ماينفعش تقتل شخص أو توافق أو تبرر قتله لمجرد اختلافك معاه، بعد كذا نقاش عن التعذيب قدام مبررات من نوعية “في ناس ماينفعش معاها غير كده”، وبعد سماع تبريرات لحالات اغتصاب سواء في السجون أو الإعتداء الجنسي الجماعي، الأباحة\قباحة اللفظية بيبقى ليها تعريف تاني، أقل وطأة من قبل كده.

مثلاً يعني ايه أكثر اباحية من عرض بديهيات الإنسانية للنقاش وسماع تبريرات لإنتهاك الجسد سواء بالقتل أو التعذيب أو الإعتداء الجنسي؟ محتوى الحوار في حد ذاته نزل لدرجات أوطى من الشتيمة. هل لمجرد أن احنا اتربينا إن الشتيمة غلط ده يخليها عيب في حين نقاش ييرر الجرائم البذيئة يعتبر محترم لمجرد خلوه من لفظ ما؟ مااحنا المفروض اتربينا على تقديس حاجات زي الحياة، كنا بنتعاقب على الضرب أكتر من الشتيمة وفكرة القتل بالنسبة لينا حاجة بعيدة عن حياتنا.

والموضوع مش مقتصر على الكلام فقط، في مفاهيم ومعتقدات عن الأدب والاحترام فقدت معناها بالنسبة ليا مع كمية العنف والجثث اللي شوفتها، ايه أكثر قبحا من طفل يتقتل أو يتعذب أو ينتهك جنسياً وفي نفس الوقت تلاقي اللي يبرر أو يقبل ده (سواء من وزراء أو رؤساء وزراء أو حتى ناس عادية؟ أكيد مش الشتيمة.

الشتيمة ممكن تعبر عن مستوى اقتصادي أو اجتماعي وأظن أن ده سبب تصنيفها كأباحة\قباحة غير مقبولة في حين نقاشات اساسها تبرير وتشجيع الإنحطاط الأخلاقي مازالت تصنف كرقي لمجرد تجنبها بعض الألفاظ.

الأسئلة ديه دايما في بالي وساعدت أنها تشيل جزء كبير من تخوفي من استخدام الشتيمة، لكن مش كله، لسه مش عايزة أي نقاش بشارك فيه يتحول لشيتمة وبرده مش عايزة يوصل لمستوى من العهر إن أحنا نناقش إذا كان القتل والتعذيب والإغتصاب مفيد ولا لأ.

Five months in news

Here are links to articles and news stories I wrote the past five months.

**16 women journalists on the Middle East front lines

 –Flattered to be listed among these brave women.

Lawyers in Muslim Brotherhood case seek new judges – CNN, Feb 22

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Lawyers representing Muslim Brotherhood members in a jailbreak case that includes former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy called Saturday for the judges to be changed.

As has been the case in previous proceedings, Morsy appeared in the courtroom from inside a soundproof glass box, a requirement he rejected last Sunday as a “farce.”

Read more

Detained Al Jazeera journalists appear in court as trial opens – CNN, Feb 21 – With VIDEO

Cairo (CNN) — Three Al Jazeera journalists were among eight who appeared at a hearing in a Cairo prison court Thursday, accused along with 17 other defendants of spreading “false news” and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt declared a terrorist organization in December.

“Tell her I love her. Big wedding when I get out,” Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy told journalists in a message to his fiancee, appearing in high spirits on the first day of his trial, despite a worsening shoulder injury.

Read more

Facing new charges, Egypt’s Morsy taunts court from glass cage – CNN, Feb. 16

 (CNN) — Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Sunday taunted court officials who placed him in a soundproof glass box during his trial on conspiracy charges, a proceeding cut short by his lawyers’ objections.

“If this farce continues, leave the trial,” Morsy told his lawyers through a microphone. “Those who are afraid of my appearance before the people have no public support,” he added.

Read more

**In second court date, Morsi struggles to be heard from his glass cage – Mada Masr, Jan. 30

Standing in a soundproof glass cage, deposed President Mohamed Morsi made his second public appearance since his July ouster on Tuesday in the first session of what his lawyers described as a “show trial.”

Along with 130 others, Morsi is charged with helping to facilitate a mass prison break from the Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011, where he himself had been incarcerated.

Read more

**Egyptian activists behind bars on uprising’s anniversary – CNN, Jan. 25, With Video

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — As Egypt marked the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, many of the activists associated with it were behind bars, awaiting trial, or facing a vilification campaign that turned heroes into traitors.

Meanwhile, the police whose brutal force stoked their anger three years ago vowed to protect the weekend celebrations.

Read more

**Normalizing Conspiracies with an Egyptian Puppet – EgyptSource/The Atlantic Council, Jan.9

Officials from the mobile phone operator Vodafone were questioned last week by Egypt’s public prosecutor about coded messages allegedly hidden in one of their online ads. The video, said to contain a secret message for terrorists, features internet sensation Abla Fahita, a puppet who rose to fame mocking Egyptian housewives who use the internet as their source of recipes and gossip.

The Prosecutor General saw that the report, filed by a wannabe singer and fame-seeking conspiracy theorist Ahmed “Sbyder,” was worthy of investigation and questioning. The prosecution didn’t ignore it like other complaints, including  an earlier request for an investigation into how a TV anchor acquired and aired recordings of activists’ phone calls.

Read more

Egypt’s government fails to end civil strife, terrorism – Al Monitor, Dec. 30

The sight of blood and charred debris, the screams of loss and pain and the rising death toll often leave people speechless, unable to comprehend a thought.

The state of shock swiftly turns into hysteric consensus over any idea that appeals to the crowd or part of it. Probing questions are quieted or dismissed as preposterous.

Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, even though a court is still to give a verdict to that effect, caters to this reaction and helps in distracting from the unpopular type of criticism directed at the government.

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**Mosa’ab Elshamy: On escaping death and capturing tragedy – Al Akhbar English, Dec. 16

As the deadly crackdown on the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi was coming to an end on August 14, word spread that a photographer called Mosa’ab Elshamy was killed. It wasn’t long before the 23-year-old photographer assured his friends and colleagues that it was another Alexandria photographer by the same name who had been killed at the same Rabaa al-Adawya square where he was taking photos. The relief was soon replaced by the realization that another set of strangers were mourning the loss of their friend. This type of tragedy and conflict is what Elshamy is skillful at documenting.

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Prison sentences for women as Egypt clamps down on protest –CNN, Nov. 28

Cairo (CNN) — Lengthy sentences handed down to 21 women and girls who were arrested at a pro-Morsy demonstration have highlighted growing unease over the Egyptian authorities’ treatment of dissent.

The protesters, including seven minors, were sentenced Wednesday in Alexandria after being arrested at a demonstration in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsy earlier this month.

Read more

And follow up here

Also watch Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Alaa Eldin Ezzat, whose daughter Ola was sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Egypt’s old and new battle over revolutionary discourse – Al Monitor, Nov. 21

CAIRO — On the evening of Nov. 18, Helmy al-Sayed carried a placard that almost got him kicked out of a march in downtown Cairo. The words on it and the ensuing argument represented the type of problems march organizers wanted to avoid by holding it a day before the second anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes and away from other events planned by opposing groups.

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The Nonsensical Distance in Egypt’s Protest Legislation – Al Akhbar English, Nov. 18

Cairo – Walls. Walls. Walls. The geography of Cairo’s traffic has been gravely altered by the cement walls blocking streets to the Ministry of Interior, the cabinet and the parliament, all in close proximity, in addition to other facilities in central Cairo.

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**Notes From Egypt’s Show Trial – The New York Times, Nov. 6

CAIRO — DURING a court recess on Monday, I approached the floor-to-ceiling, webbed-metal cage confining Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt, and seven other defendants.

I sneaked a peek past a security guard. Mr. Morsi stood surrounded by his former aides and fellow defendants from the Muslim Brotherhood. They were dressed in white garments, as required by the authorities. He wore a blue business suit.

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Youssef Turns the Joke on His Former Fans – Al Akhbar English, Oct. 29

Cairo – Bassem Youssef was facing a challenge in the build-up to the first episode of “al-Bernameg” following a four-month hiatus. Opposed to common belief, it wasn’t an issue of lack of material after Mohamed Mursi and Islamist TV channels disappeared from the scene. It was Youssef’s own audience, those who had avidly cheered and defended his painful mockery of Mursi and co. Now that they are supporting the state and status quo, and, like their Islamist counterparts, nodding to TV channels whose content is rich in material for Youssef’s show, the joke essentially would be on them.

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Has Egypt Lost the Plot? – Al Monitor, Oct. 14

CAIRO — Posters of Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi outnumbered all other trinkets sold or distributed during the street celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 War. The day turned into “Sisi Fest,” rather than a celebration of Egypt’s armed forces, during which a campaign for the general’s presidency found large numbers of supporters.

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National Songs in Tune With the State – Al Akhbar English, Oct. 4

Cairo – Most Fridays, state-owned and private radio channels blast a single genre of music all day long: national and patriotic tunes. Instead of around-the-clock political analysis on the weekend or airing songs that might be insensitive to whatever is going on, a growing library of classic and contemporary national songs has been providing a safe programming choice since the January 25 uprising made Friday the day of protests.

Read more

Few reminders of our simplified readings and writings

This type of articles (The Case Against the Global Novel -By Pankaj Mishra) reminds me that the political analyses that comprises most of my reading material has –for the sake of clarity and presenting well-argued cases under the 700-1000 word limit — fallen in the trap of over simplification. Even the more sophisticated articles we read (and write) follow the traditional structure focusing on a single thread aimed at a conclusion. The layering of thoughts and ideas that often raise questions more than providing answers would be easily labeled as unclear and jumbled. In some cases, that could be true. But most writings available now lack the vigor that stimulates the mind beyond the obvious. This is not to say that the attached article is perfect. The writer’s choice of accumulating examples threw me off at times. It could be me accustomed to the traditional structure or maybe due to actual, but tiny, lapses in presenting the argument. Still, the language and the type of writing is more thought-provoking and inspiring than material available for daily consumption, even by my favorite writers. Sometimes lucid writing is not the best, but some wandering of the mind is required as well.
This also applies to Jonathan Franzen’s Guardian article What’s Wrong With the Modern World, despite the criticism it got.
**While reading, check this nod to literature’s role in pushing societies to conform to “traditions”, “realities” and “ideas” that don’t really exist except in their imagination or perception of how everyone else acts.

In many of the new nations that emerged in the 20th century, literary fictionists were often expected to supply the myths and legends that an insufficiently imagined community needed in order to become cohesive and coherent. The Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk complains that when he decided to become a writer “literature was allied to the future: its job was to work hand in hand with the state to build a happy and harmonious society, or even nation”.

قراءة سريعة ل”خبر” الأهرام الرمضاني

 نص الخبر: مصدر يكشف برقية أمريكية للجيش المصرى: لا تفكروا أبدا فى إسقاط مرسى.. وأوباما حاول تهديد السيسي

البرقية المختصرة: الخبر بيقول إن أمريكا بعتت رسالة تهديد من اربع كلمات، ساسبنس اخر حاجة. على اساس انها SMS  بين اتنين مش رسالة من حكومة لحكومة، وباعتينها اكيد بالعربي بما إن “لاتفكروا أبدا فى إسقاط مرسي” استحالة تيجي في اربع كلمات بالإنجليزي.

وبعدين المشهد المهيب للبوارج الأمريكية وهي بتهدد السواحل المصرية وطيارات الجيش بتاعنا بترد على التهديد بتهديد، المفروض منه إني اصدق ان الجيشين وقيادتهم اتهبلوا، داخلين في تهديدات صريحة بالحرب على السواحل المصرية، وده طبعاً بسبب الSMS  اياها.

المفروض إني أفهم من المشهد إن أمريكا في عز تذبذب موقفها من الأحداث في مصر كانت بتهدد بحرب علشان مرسي، يعني أمريكا بقالها كام سنة مش عارفة تحدد موقفها من ضرب إيران بس اخدت قرار التلويح بالحرب في كام ساعة علشان خاطر مرسي. يعني محمد don’t mix  مرسي في خلال سنة بقى أهم لأمريكا من تهديد السلاح النووي الإيراني، بقى “حليف أمريكا الأكبر في الشرق الأوسط”، ده طلع جامد اوي واحنا مش واخدين بالنا. واللي زاد وغطى إني المفروض برده أصدق أن الجيش المصري في ظل اللي هو فيه في سينا، وهو لسه بيستلم اخر شحنة طيارات من أمريكا وضباطه بيتدربوا هناك، بيخاطر بادخال نفسه في حرب مع أمريكا.

 ياريت قاعدة عامة نتعامل على اساسها الفترة الجاية: لو هنأفلم على بعض ياريت يكون الكلام مستوحى من حاجة تانية غير مسلسلات رمضان. مش معنى ان في ناس بتضيع وقتها في الفرجة على غادة عبد الرازق وعلا غانم ومصطفى شعبان انها مستعدة تصدق ان العالم وقياداته السياسية والحربية بيتعامل بنفس الطريقة. بس برده كل شيء ممكن، ماحنا صدقنا ادهم صبري زمان.

(انا مش هاعلق على خبر السيسي ادى مرسي تليفونه فمرسي راح مكلم منه امريكا، واتفاق الشاطر وباترسون ان مرسي يدير مصر من رابعة، علشان ده مستوحى من نكت القهاوي مش حتى المسلسلات).