The women “over there”


Let me share a thought or two with you… This image as well as the images below, show women, Egyptian women, , standing forward to take a stand, one with stones, another with a sign, two with graffiti art, and the last one in a stand-off against the police forces in the streets of Cairo, to fight for their rights, against injustice, against aggression.

Now, contrast these images with the commonly propagated images of women from “over there”, from across the divide of the clash of civilisations, from places like the rouge state of Iran, from Arab countries where Muslims are the majority. These images portray more often than not women as weak, as quietly subjugated by men, silent, not able to resist, not able to fight – and more importantly in need of the forces of the civilised world to be saved. The “other” whether it is the women or their society as a whole is shown as monolithic, unchanging and more importantly incapable of the reforming from within.

Anyone who has seen images taken by men and women actually involved in the events, anyone who has challenged the view surrounding us will know that this image is not only sexist and Orientalist, it is also a view completely detached from reality.

So why go on like that? Why not show the strength and courage of these women? Well, to put it this way – this image of the women from “over there” as helpless defenceless creatures, a child needing protection is nothing new. It was used to get public opinion to support the colonisation of Egypt by the British nearly 150 years ago (of course in stark contrast to the depiction of the Egyptian man at the time – violent, ungodly, unkempt and as Winston Churchill expressed it 60 years later about the Palestinians “dogs in a manger”). So, why go on like that now, now that colonialism is over? Why go on like that when supposedly we stand for equality and peace? Why not show the world that the women “over there” are just as capable of taking care of themselves like the women back home?

Well, I leave you with these questions, and with these images of Egyptian woman not taking shit from anyone. I tell you, they can take care of themselves.





P.S. The images above are all from Elena Libia‘s fantastic collection of images of the women of the Arab revolutions – a good reference for all those who keep on asking “but where are the women in the Arab revolutions?” As you will see, they are right there in the forefront…

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The irony of it all…

The irony of it all… Mohamed Gaber, 17 years old, was shot at and killed on the first anniversary of the massacre that took place on the same street, the street that holds large beautiful murals, erased time after time by the authorities only to be repainted within hours with new works of art expressing life, courage, strength and rebellion, constantly reminding us of the faces and names of those who have given up their lives for their basic rights of freedom from terror, random justice, and excruciating social injustice.

The irony of it all… the forces that shot and killed Mohammad Gaber are the same forces that defended Mubarak and his cronies, ironically called Security Forces. The security of thieves and murderes, their army waging war against its people who seek bread, freedom and social justice.

The irony of it all… in this same week, the military forces that shot at Mohammad Gaber last year in this street are the same forces that opened fire on the poor residents of an island in the Nile to forcefully expel them from their homes. The same military forces who pretend that Israel that evicts Palestinians from their homes and bombs them from the sky is their enemy, while their real enemy is the people of Egypt, the young who are fighting for a future and human dignity, the poor who refuse to starve and die in silence.

The irony of it all… in the same week 47 school children in Egypt lost their lives due to criminal horrific negligence and lack of basic emergency supplies in Egyptian state hospitals while the military buys weapons for billions. Ironically, these weapons can never, due to the Camp David agreement we have been told is a peace agreement, be a match to or be more advanced than that of our warring neighbouring country.

The irony of it all is that these issues, all this violence, injustice and heartache, are not our biggest problems. We are being distracted from the real issues by blood. And so are you.

But don’t get me wrong, irony does not break us, we have only just got started… And the irony of it all, in spite of numerous declarations of the death of the revolution, in spite of most of us believing that to be true, it has never been stronger and we have never been more fit for fight.

Rest in peace Mohammad Gaber, you will not be forgotten.

Mohammad Gaber, shot in the head during the first anniversary of the massacre that took place in the same street last year, Mohammed Mahmoud street. Mohammad died of his injuries today, 17 years old.

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Rising Stars

Rising Stars

Rummaging through some old pictures I found this picture from my trip to India back in 2009. It is from the school of an NGO in Tamil Nadu for children who have been inflicted with leprosy (that is they have either had the disease itself or someone in their families have had it which, for society, means the same). Of course smiling children will always make you happy, but this picture is especially dear to me.

We visited this school of hope after visiting a leprosy colony which was the stark opposite of this picture. The first time we went to the colony, I nearly blacked out from the sights and smells, from having to wade in water and sewage up to my knees to get there, from the damp feeling of the cold corridors of what looked like a haunted school house, and from the eyes of the men and women there. I literally couldn’t get out of there fast enough, I remember half-running through a long corridor leading to the image of our car, with goat droppings on the floor and the blurred sounds of people around us. Can you imagine what that makes you feel, not being physically capable of merely seeing the life of others?

Thankfully, we were able to go back the day, better prepared and better equipped to see the people in front of us, in spite of the conditions they lived in. And voilà a meeting for life. The women there, their resolve and most importantly their affection. They sure did like us there! We laughed, took pictures, agreed that pretty girls like us should get married, laughed some more, and promised to visit again. I had no idea what they were saying to me in Tamul but does that matter?

All that being well, I will never forget the conditions – the psychological conditions – the women lived in. Shunned by a society that cursed them and condemned to a life of isolation and filth, it is beyond inhumane. Social exclusion must be the worst punishment imaginable. And the most unjust, and the most unforgivable. There you have another manifestation of the shit that is men of religion that, no matter faith or colour, teach that the fate of the world rests upon maintaining a structure that treats the weak so terribly. So much suffering for nothing. Did you know that leprosy is not what eats up your limbs and face, and then your organs one by one, but it is simply the fact that leprosy kills your nervous system so that you do not feel cuts and it is purely the infections that eat up your flesh? So, just by cleaning your wounds you save your limbs and you save your life, but to clean wounds with clean water you can not live in abject poverty. Poverty is the ugliest thing on earth, and structures no matter ideology, philosophy or religion that allow for abject poverty are the ugliest in the world. And I will never budge from that opinion.

And what’s more: leprosy can be cured, easily, and for free in India, in 6 months. That’s all. But people, and even in the higher classes and castes, hide their symptoms because of the most terrible consequence of all: that they and their offspring and their offspring’s offspring will all become social pariah. Some of the women we talked to had just sneaked out of their homes leaving their family before anyone could discover the curse, others got kicked out by their own children. One man’s two sons came once a month, sometimes beat him up, and took his meagre allowance from the state. All for having caught the very curable leprosy bacteria. All for nothing.

But, and this is the important but, then you have pictures like this and stories like these. This school far away was truly an oasis of hope and happiness. They call the children their Rising Stars. An American woman had found out that her deceased daughter had supported a similar cause, and in a wish to honour her memory had started this school, and now hundreds of children who otherwise could have ended up like the women we met the day before got an excellent education, love and affection, and lives without the curse of leprosy. We were shown some of the before and after pictures, one of the children on this picture had arrived at the school mute not being able to relate to the other children, and now she was running around screaming on a sugar high “Auntie! Auntie! Take a picture of me! Take a picture of meeeeee!”.

And then comes the best part, this school is so successful in its work that even the local villagers now want to send their children there – to a school full of what they otherwise would have seen as cursed dirty lepers. So the school accepts some of them to bridge the gap, and lo and behold, social change commences. Now, isn’t that the most wonderful story you have ever heard?

How can that not make you believe in good? How can that not make you believe in that in humanity lies the will to love, to share and to take care of each other? You see, kindness breeds kindness. You become a better person by being a kind person. This is the kind of stuff I understand, not negotiations, power, chauvinism, fascism… those things just confuse me. Kindness, creativity, solidarity, courage, and well, just simply, love.

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” You can only guess who said that…


For reading more about Rising Star Outreach go to their website:, visit their facebook site: (they sure are worth a like), and think of what you yourself can do to love those who need to be loved the most.

For example, it is possible to sponsor a child and help pay for their education and stay at the school. If interested, go their website and click on “Sponsor a child” and you will find a picture and a few words about each of the children that need sponsoring. The Rising Star Outreach needs all the help they can get. 

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Successes of the revolution are all around us

Just came back from a meeting with my friends and comrades here in Paris where we were planning the upcoming demonstrations to commemorate the start of our glorious revolution, to honour those who have given their lives, eyes and limbs for our freedom, those who are unjustly imprisoned in the military’s prisons for daring to oppose Mubarak’s generals, and vowing to continue until victory. I feel inspired and I feel alive (does anyone remember what it was like before 2011?).

I am reminded of something my wise brother told me yesterday: the successes of the revolution are all around us. Yes, I believe they are. The fact that all these different people and organisations, brought together by January 25th 2011, are now sitting together, working together and laughing together is a success. The creativity, drive and friendship I felt today is another success. Come what may, at least we are experiencing this – at least we are experience life as we believe it should be lived. And that in itself is a success.

We demand the end of the military regime, we demand the power to choose our own leaders, and to write our own constitution and laws. We vow to continue until the demands of the revolution are met: Bread, Freedom and Social Justice for all citizens of Egypt, for all citizens of the world.

Until victory, hasta la victoria siempre, thawra thawra 7atta alnasr

With these heartfelt words I bid you all a good night

Graffiti "The revolution continues", Qasr el 3einy street, Cairo, photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy (

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Free Tarek Shams

Free Tarek Shams

Another Egyptian activist, Tarek Shams, has now been arrested (actually in this case went in voluntarily for questioning and never came back out again) for some bogus alleged offence. Again another randomly chosen activist is to serve as the military dictatorship’s scapegoat for its atrocities against its own people. From #FreeAlaa to #FreeMaikel to #FreeAmr to #FreeTarek, what’s next?  #FreeAll80MillionEgyptians?

Here is Tarek’s story:

(copied from Free Tarek Shams support page, please join and support Tarek’s fight for freedom, and please spread the word)

Tarek Shams is detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. He is accused (and has been taken into custody) in the police investigation of the case of the Cabinet Sit-in events in Cairo (Magles al-Wuzara).

The only evidence against him is a youtube video showing him shouting at other civilians “and so why should they put it out” when the officials of the Roads and Bridges Agency had themselves left their building to burn, and then he moved away.

Tarek did not commit any criminal act according to the law. Tarek did not hold or throw any rocks. Tarek did not attack anyone or burn anything. Tarek did not prevent anyone from putting off the fire.

The Interior Ministry of Egypt has leveled five accusations against Tarek. Among them are: Attacking Police and Army forces, destruction of public property, and setting fire to the Scientific Institute. All the accusations are based on a a few seconds of a video clip, in which Tarek is saying “and so why should they put it out” … “after an hour and a half”.

Tarek Shams is falsely accused of five fabricated offenses. The proof being used against him is in reality a proof of his innocence: the video in which he appears for a few seconds, and speaks the words in an outburst. Tarek handed himself in to authorities, because he is certain of his innocence.

Tarek’s alleged offense is a word he has spoken!

Tarek Shams is a father of two children, Jana and Hassan. He worked as Sales Manager in a real estate company (Damac), and before that was a General Manager of the Four Seasons hotel.

Again the military tries to intimidate those who dare to stand against it by arrests, beatings and torture, again it will not work. Tarek Shams will walk free, as will Maikel and Amr and all the remaining 12 000 prisoners of the  military dictatorship. And the military dictatorship will fall, the demands for freedom and social justice will not just simply fade away.

#FreeTarekShams and يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر

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Freedom for Egypt’s prisoners of conscience

Prologue: I have just signed a petition demanding the release of Maikel Nabil Sanad, Alaa Abd El Fattah and all other prisoners of conscience in Egypt imprisoned for their opinions and for daring to criticise the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the de-facto rulers of post-revolutionary Egypt. You can do the same here (English text below Swedish text).

In a message from El-Marg general prison in Egypt, the imprisoned blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad wrote:

“Militarists told me that my case differs from the case of Alaa Abd El Fattah, because Alaa isn’t tried as being a political activist… I look in their eyes and ask them, …“Is it a confession that I am being tried as being a political activist?”.”

Maikel is just one of many prisoners of conscience in post-revolutionary Egypt. Alaa Abd El Fattah is another. In just 10 months, over 12 000 civilians have been tried and many sentenced in military tribunals. without the right to choose their own lawyer, nor the right of appeal other than to another military tribunal. The defendants often have only a few days to prepare their case, and it is not uncommon that several cases are tried at the same time. Once arrested, the civilians are often subjected to beatings and torture, in some cases leading to death, in the brutal Egyptian prisons.

Maikel was sentenced to 3 years prison by a military tribunal in Egypt for “insulting the Egyptian army”. Why? For daring to question the intentions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which now are the de-facto rulers of Egypt. He wrote that “the military and the people have never been one hand” meaning that in fact the military was never with the revolution but against it.

Now, 10 months later, his words ring truer than ever. The military regime’s grave violations of human rights, continuous use of excessive violence against demonstrators and their infringements on the freedom of speech and the press, the right of assembly and strikes imply that Maikel was right.

Maikel, like Alaa Abdel Fattah, refuses to be tried by a military tribunal and has said he is “ready to die” for it. If he isn’t released soon he surely will. He has been on hunger strike for over 100 days and has lost over 20% of his body weight. Maikel has vowed to continue until released.

I personally do not accept another death at the hands of the military. No more martyrs, no more blood, set Maikel free.

Freedom for Maikel Nabil Sanad
Free Alaa Abd El Fattah
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A call for solidarity, a call for help

Police violence in Tahrir (image from The Guardian, click on image for link)

To all my non-Egyptian friends: if there ever was a time to stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people now would be the time. Demand from your leaders to immediately end all support, economic and military, of the military dictatorship in Egypt. Demand from your leaders to protest loudly against the violence against protesters in Tahrir and other squares in Egypt, demand the end of military tribunals for civilians, the clampdown on media and freedom of press, and the end of all torture in military prisons.

We have the right to a civilian government, we have the right to choose our own leaders, and to assemble and say and do whatever we please. We have the right to freedom, just like you do. Today has been a horrendously violent day in Tahrir, who knows how many killed, and over a thousand injured – why? Because we do not accept the military dictatorship that has been tread upon our heads with the full support of the international community. We do not accept to pay the price of the stability of the “strategic interests in the region” of the rich part of the world, the same interests that bombed Gaza and destroyed Iraq. We say: no! Now, you, it’s your turn: you tell your leaders: no! Tell them that you don’t want the military dictatorship to be your ally, no matter how much oil it costs. Tell you leaders to defend the values your democracies are based on: humanism, equality and the sanctity of human life. Indignez-vous goddamnit. Stand with us. Help us. We need it. You need it. The whole world needs it.

Scenes the brutality of the police and armed forces in Tahrir today

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