April Eighth Twenty-Eleven

This is an entry I posted to my lomography blog about the violent crackdown on and subsequent dispersion of a sit-in in Tahrir, which came to be known as April 8 Sit-In, and which had been marked by a number of dissident and unarmed army soldiers and officers joining the protestors. It did it feel out of place in a blog that, albeit dotted with personal accounts and anecdotes, is more or less strictly dedicated to my experimentation with the Holga; back then I lacked any publishing platform other than the gardening blog. I am posting it here now (and probably deleting it from its original location) backdated to the original publishing date to maintain the chronological integrity of my posts – January 2011.

In my last post I had written how “I definitely do not see me starting to post political views or discussing current affairs that go beyond my selfish observations and musings here”. I stand by this statement, and despite its context, I don’t feel this entry is an exception to it.

Last Friday, I had participated like so many others in the demonstration taking place in Tahrir Square; and like all those who hadn’t sat in or who live in close vicinity to the square, I woke up later on Saturday morning to horrendous news of a brutal crackdown by army forces on the peaceful protestors sitting in in the square.

There are two versions of the events that took place on the dawn of Saturday, April 9, and a lot of confusion about the events that had led up to the crackdown: on one hand, we have a recorded and edited (!) press conference by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF); on the other, there are numerous corroborated and consistent eyewitness accounts that completely contradict the statements by the SCAF, and a report by a group of respectable and credible Egyptian rights organizations denouncing the brutal crackdown and the denial by the SCAF of the alleged violations.

Again, there has been a lot of confusion and too many question marks surrounding a number of aspects and events on and before that Friday; it had been preceded by powerful rumors that the demonstrators and protestors would be joined by numbers of dissident soldiers rising up against their command and the institution it represents – rumors and notions fed by a couple of YouTube videos and most prominently dismissed and opposed by activist blogger Nawara Negm and journalist writer Belal Fadl, who, much to the dismay of the majority of revolutionaries and other activists faulting the SCAF for prior violations, also wrote staunchly defending the SCAF and the army institution.

The soldiers did show up – young, uniformed, resolute, and brave.

I have spent all Saturday trying to process what happened. Sunday provided moments of restored normalcy and some distractions – the highlight of which was the address by Mubarak and the resulting torrent of jokes and cynical comments on twitter. But I was unable to stop following up on all reports and accounts and videos that kept surfacing about these soldiers, the sit in, and subsequent dispersion.

Conspiracy theories galore, and a lot of confusion and controversy – everybody is trying to put some sense into it. Yet I was unable to find in me much patience for friends and acquaintances, who, in their own eagerness to try and figure things out, would question me about minute details of what I had witnessed of these events. Given, Egypt’s strategic importance combined with permutations and combinations of the variables shaping last Friday’s demonstration, and the number of key players on the local, regional, and international arenas and their different political and economic interests vested in Egypt and currently at stake, seems to lend credence to a gazillion of conspiracy theories and scenarios, and nothing seems too far fetched. But, does it matter which scenario we choose to believe? To me, in this case, not so much. Was it wise of the officers to join a civilian demonstration in their uniforms and openly and defiantly announce their dissidence amid unarmed protestors? Probably not. Do I have any doubts as to the purity of their personal motives or their courage and that of the protestors who chose to sit in and protect them? Absolutely none.

Watching the videos posted of them interacting with the suspicious crowds and answering their questions, and remembering how, while on stage earlier, and in contrast to their apparent resolve and bravery, the eyes of the soldiers standing behind the main speaker would apprehensively and imploringly scan the crowd for acceptance, I sincerely and deeply mourned them yesterday, and all of those who have fallen in their attempts against all odds to rise and raise us up against injustice and corruption. I humbly salute you. Rest in peace.

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