Egypt after the revolution: curfew nights and blood-stained days

Ahdaf Soueif in The Guardian:

AhdafI was asked to write a personal piece, a personal account of what these days are like. But what is the personal now? The personal is that I'm away at a conference and my flat is broken into but nothing is taken. We put in extra locks and double-lock them every time we go out. I have iron put into the windows and tell myself they're prettier – quite Valencian, really – with the white wrought-iron and the white venetian blinds. The personal is the flash images of harm being done to me or mine; my reflexes have become so brilliant that I hardly see the image before I've swatted it away, flattened it. The personal is swallowing my principles and being grateful for a contact in the military rehabilitation centre who will fix the little and ring fingers of my cleaner's 15-year-old son, shot off when he and his mate were messing – at home – with a gun. The personal is living in a horror movie where people I've respected for decades speak bullyingly of “them” and “us”, of with us or against us, of how everyone has to fall in behind “our police” and “our army” and toe the line. The personal is the woman who owns the corner shop raising her voice into the phone as I pass, making sure I hear her as she calls curses down on our heads, the heads of “those who brought us to this; who toppled Mubarak and turned the Brotherhood loose on us”.


Everywhere the binary that the revolution so roundly rejects is being restated: the police state or the Islamists. We continue to reject it. I've always written that the police state is the enemy. Now I know that the Brotherhood, too, is the enemy. Their ideology, their world vision – as it stands – cancels out my existence. They will have it so; they will not make room for anyone else, they will exclude me in every way possible – even if it means killing me. They have already excluded me from the kingdom of heaven. You will probably think I'm exaggerating. That's what I used to think when I heard words like these. Till I tried to work with them. Meeting after meeting during 2011 to try to hammer out agreements about the basic shape of the Egyptian constitution – meetings that always mysteriously collapsed. I once asked Dr Mohamed el-Beltagy (interviewed in this paper on Wednesday) why people were so wary of the Muslim Brotherhood: “What is it you're planning to do to us when you come to power?” He shrugged, spread out his hands: “As you see, what can we possibly do?” Well, they started by surrounding parliament with militias to beat protesters with belts and sticks. Their year in power was a push to take over and develop Mubarak's hated economic and security policies. They abandoned the revolution and the people and courted their enemy: an unreformed and unrepentant interior ministry. And now they've fallen out with each other. They're killing each other, while the liberals, who have always hated the Muslim Brotherhood, are rehabilitating the police state, are egging it on and providing it with a justifying discourse.

The revolution – the revolution of 25 January 2011 that we all fell in love with – needs to not get caught in the war between its two enemies. The police state and the Brotherhood are both hierarchical, patriarchal, militarised, centralist, dogmatic, conformist, exclusionary organisations. Both are built on obedience. Both hate critical thinking and debate. Their wars are not ours. And yet the revolution is not, and cannot, be silent in the face of the killings. Our regard for life and dignity cannot be compartmentalised. The personal is also my unending respect for our activist lawyers, our medics, our journalists and writers who continue to act and speak with humanity and professionalism, in the spirit of the revolution, through these terrible times.

More here.