Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tahrir aw mawt

Liberation or death

Musicians wander Tahrir Square alone or in small bands. On tablas they beat out the rhythms of a people awakened: Guitars sound here, ouds and riqs somewhere else; and occasionally these softer instruments bow to the power of mizmars like the ones seen below. These are the sounds of liberation, of a people who could stand no more, could bear no longer to live on their knees before a tyrant who stole their nation’s wealth and gave no token of freedom. They are also the sounds of profound fatigue: These people have been here for eighteen days, and to these tired, hungry rebels the music is a needed tonic; it gives them a fresh access of strength and will as they wait out their unwelcome ruler’s intransigence.

Musicians build morale in Tahrir Square

Musicians build morale in Tahrir Square.
[ Image Source ]

And on Friday, as the world knows, these weary revolutionaries outlasted Hosni Mubarak and his gangs of goons. They won, and the tyrant has resigned his office, after a generation in absolute power, and fled. The hopes, wishes and prayers of a planet were answered, and Egypt is free.

They won. Egypt is free. But the revolution is not over; the first battle ended in victory, but the second, and greater, still lies ahead. For it will not be enough to remove the odious Mubarak unless they can also remove the ruling elite that he represented, and create a new constitution and a new government that will represent the essential interests of all of Egypt’s people and bring justice to them after what seems an eternal dearth.

In a country where nearly half the population sustains itself on two dollars a day, Mubarak used his power to arrogate a reported $70 billion in assets to himself, and lavished billions more on his family and cronies. Although the total of his peculations has only now become known, Egyptians were hardly surprised at such evidence of callous contempt from their ruling elite.

“It’s very simple,” StumbleUpon user Omar El-Shal emailed me from Cairo early on the morning of Thursday, 10 February 2011. “All Egyptians woke up and we decided to stop thieves to steal our beloved country. We also decided to get back our dignity and pride.

“But the government still don’t believe that we are humans and security forces killed about 500 Egyptians. :(

“Please pray for us.”

That the government and associated elite don’t regard the people of Egypt as human is, as El-Shal and myriads of his countrymen still in Tahrir Square well know, the crux of the matter. Such individuals do not perceive humanity as the rest of us do: They divide it into two classes, and believe the “superior” class to which they belong enjoys full human rights, while the “inferior” class comprising everyone without money and power is less than human and has no rights; this is a question to which I shall return in upcoming essays, for this class is ubiquitous and controls most nations of the world. They often profess a belief in equality, but their actions belie their rhetoric.

Therefore, again, the revolution is not complete. The first battle is won, but the war can all too easily still be lost. All that is required for this to happen is for the people to succumb to fatigue, to imagine that the army will meet their demands in good faith sans steady pressure, to go home and rest a day too soon. If the pathocratic elite is given any chance to do so, it will reconstitute itself in some new form, and the lot of Egypt will remain one of division, poverty and bitter injustice, while, one by one, the leaders of the revolt are traced to their homes and murdered.

Let us hope, then, that these musicians can continue to revive the waning energies of a revolution, and that the people on Liberation Square will remain there, undaunted and undeflected, until the will of a nation is made manifest and Egypt is truly free.

Until then, let the music play on.

Originally published as a review of a Al-Masry Al-Youm article on the Egyptian uprising and the musicians who helped give it life.

The preceding is historical, not current news; it represents the state of the Egyptian uprising immediately after the ouster and flight of Hosni Mubarak.

As of this revision, on 25 July 2011, Tahrir Square is quiet as Egyptians look to their military council to implement their will and set fair and free elections. Will the council honor its duty? Surely the eyes of a wondering world will remain upon it until it does.

Update: As of 22 April 2015, the regime of Mohammed Fatah Al-Sisi continues to hold power following the coup in which it ousted the democratically elected government led by Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Protests are continuous, but the junta is violently suppressing them and has begun to charge and jail (in some cases execute) leaders of the MB government, ironically enough, for using violence to suppress protests.

The world continues to watch.

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