This is the third time I’ve tried to write something about these nightmarish days in Egypt. The words that come out have been too hollow and disconnected to share, but I’m trying again. I don’t have a laser-sharp analysis to provide, and I’m certainly not going to take a wild stab at predicting what will happen. My physical engagement with politics has been restricted to my own couch, or friends’, ever since June 30, when I half-heartedly went out to an anti-MB, anti-military rule march.

Egypt has given me a life-changing political education in the last two and a half years. When the revolution started I was personally burnt out, and so numbed by the necrosis that characterized political life in the last years of Mubarak that it was not until January 28th that I fully believed that people could change the country. My cynicism was deep and heavy to budge, but it evaporated over the course of those weeks and I’ve kept it sternly in check ever since; choosing, every time things got violent or dispirited or stagnant, to see the possibilities people were working for all around me.

It’s hard, now, not to feel like something has been stolen from me. As I write this, I am deeply aware of how many others have had the much more devastating  loss, the theft, of a loved one or a limb.

The past days have left me with a feeling of uselessness and alienation. I condemn both the Brotherhood and the security forces in their inter-locking cycle of violence and lies. There is no place for me in the street, or in a national conversation determined to start and end with chauvinistic nationalism. So I stay in and watch the city descend into silence, the streets emptying of life as military curfew approaches. On days like yesterday, I can hear gunshots, explosions, and the occasional surreal chants. Friends come and go, and we oscillate between collective media monitoring and outbursts of humor and distraction. So many have seen gruesome death, literally counting bodies and wading through blood in the course of their jobs. I wonder what this does to us, to what we know.

This is not the first time the state has pushed us to the edge, to where we can see the possibility and feel the fear of continuous violence and chaos. Churches are left to be attacked, buildings to burn, and brute force is being used in part, I believe, to provoke. It’s not the first time, but it might be the bloodiest and the scariest – and the one receiving the loudest applause.


(Inverted eagles, symbols of Egyptian nationalism, on a public wall in downtown Cairo). 

I do not know how we will move forward from here, or when we will stop flaunting our cruelty as a source of pride. How will the hundreds of families that bury their dead ever find peace in a country whose authorities bully them into accepting suicide as the official cause of death before releasing the body? Whose media refuses to call those they lost anything but terrorists? Elements of the Brotherhood are using terror, and its leadership is criminal; but it is not a monolith, and innocent people have surely been killed by the army’s own terrorism.

In the meantime, I will venture out into the quiet streets, in search of glimpses of the city I first fell in love with.

9 thoughts on “Dispatches

  1. I agree, it is a very moving piece. Understandable. All Egyptians feel the same way. However, on Wednesday, Egyptians mourned their dead, all their dead. On Thursday, Egyptians were terrorized by those they mourned for.
    The good and the bad are intertwined. Beltagi incited hatred and yet lost his daughter–a true juxtaposition of fair and unfair.
    See “Egypt: an embattled land” http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2013/08/egyptian-battered-and-embattled.html

  2. Great piece and passionate, but I must add that you missed a critical point regarding the inverted eagle(s), there is a reason why they are inverted.

      • Well I am not absolutely sure, but an inverted eagle displayed is the same as a flag upside down. It is a sign of distress and panic. Or, in some cases, its a desecration of the flag/eagle. That’s what it usually means. Although I must add, in a way, at some point, the eagle within the Egyptian flag was the most important part of it, resembling power and control, resembling the ‘system’. Therefore the desecration of the eagle could be specifically targeted at the main government agency that has the eagle displayed all over its buildings and uniforms, Ministry of Interior. So depending on your perspective, you would assume accordingly. Maybe it just means nothing, an artist was simply bored.
        Its strange you don’t have a Facebook page, I tried to reach you there instead of posting all this here.

  3. Thank you for sharing these words. It is so hard being an ocean away to know what is real and what is media craziness. Please know that many are thinking of you in solidarity here in New York and around the world and praying for a better tomorrow for Masr.

  4. Pingback: eatbees blog » Links 20 August 2013

  5. For those who don’t know the value of life should possibly visit a department of gynecology to see how new borns come into this world, how the first cries of these feeble, dependent little beings brings a smile on every one’s faces and more so on the mother’s. Or rather go to a nursery and see how little toddlers, in all their innocence embrace the other life forms. They would never as much cause a miniscule of harm to another being, including may be a little fern.

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