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The Future of Egyptian Liberals…مستقبل المصريين اللبراليين

An op-ed I wrote on the future of Egyptian liberal protestors and politicians was picked up by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Fikra Forum. To put it in brief, they are in danger of becoming marginalized as the transition process unfolds this spring. For those desire a more verbose version the op-ed is below:

Undeterred by their electoral failure and fearing their imminent marginalization in political institutions, liberal protestors marked the one-year anniversary of the revolution by demonstrating in Tahrir Square against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its manipulation of the transition process. Yet while the liberals’ continued popular protest signals their unwillingness to passively accede to the status quo, the combination of a fractured society, durable Muslim Brotherhood-military alliance and imminent economic collapse requires that liberals revaluate their tactics. Keep Reading


Link Dump

Burning the midnight oil last night while seeking to soothe my cravings for a return to Egypt by flipping through my GoogleReader, I stumbled over a great collection of links. I figured I post them here rather than on my Facebook wall as the latter is already covered with links and I am in danger of appearing to be a news addict.

Fearing political marginalization in a transition process dictated by the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, liberal protestors have elected to ‘celebrate’ the January 25th Revolution with a protests. Their video announcement is a creative piece of digital media:

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has continued is pragmatic deliberation and backed down from a confrontation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over the formation of a new government and cabinet prior to presidential elections in June. While I remain rather clueless as to the true ideology and political goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, Nathan Brown not only has researched the organization for years but also has sustained a dialogue with its leadership since the January 25 Revolution. His lengthy but has excellent piece that is really worth a read and states that the pragmatic and calculating Brotherhood continues seeks to continue its policy of “participation not domination” in the short-term mobilizing when core long-term interests (the constitution) are threatened.

In the arts, the passing of a year since the January 25 revolution has allowed digital art to begin to process this monumental event. Noise of Cairo is the first of many documentaries I expect to discover (and hope to see.) Its trailer is below:

Lastly, for those interested in the Cairo’s art/architecture scene, Cairo Observer is an excellent blog that I have added to the side bar.

The Revolution will be Painted…سوف يتم طلاء الثورة

Graffiti. Political art in its purest, most unadulterated form. The very act of illicitly placing paint on public and private property is in of itself a critique of the political system – an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo. But as spray-strokes of paint aggregate to form a picture, emotions are channeled into a single coherent message of dissent. When messages are conveyed systemically via print media and radio/television airwaves the targeted audience choses whether or not to receive them. (Reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching TV require initiative from the audience.) Graffiti, however, imposes its message on the audience like a large, colorful billboard – albeit a billboard that is not easily taken down. (Images must be painted over or defaced, both of which require a fair bit of effort.)

Prior to the revolution, although representing a means to counter state censorship over print and audio media, graffiti works were rare. As the suns rays faded beyond the western horizon and darkness descended, street artists would slip out in group of three – two to paint the message and one to watch for state security services.

Today mobilized by the January 25 Revolution, a growing community of liberal street artists is taking advantage of increased freedom of expression to draft pictorial and verbal reminders of the ongoing revolution and its demands. As a result, much of downtown Cairo is covered in works of graffiti. Near Tahrir Square, buildings are adorned with stencils advertising the latest protest and hastily sprayed messages demanding that abdication of the Supreme Council on the Armed Forces.

"Mubarak in a Field Marshall's Berit" Tahrir Square 07/25/11

"No SCAF" and "Announcement of July 27th Protest" Tahrir Square 07/25/11

Under Zamalek’s bridges, stencils proclaim blunt political messages and depict the faces of the revolution’s martyrs while murals provide painful depictions of the status quo.

"Respect Existence" 6th October Bridge Overpass 08/31/11

"Respect Existence" 6th October Bridge Overpass Zamalek 08/31/11

"Tank vs. Egyptian Bread Bearing Biker as Sad Panda Looks On" 6th October Bridge Overpass Zamalek 08/30/11

"Martyrs of the Revolution" 6th October Bridge Overpass Zamalek 08/31/11

Graffiti even found its way into mainstream modern art thanks to a two week long exhibition at Townhouse Art Gallery – much to the chagrin of some of the graffiti artists.

"Imagine" Townhouse Gallery 09/28/11

That being said, not all buildings are canvass awaiting a message of liberal political dissent. During the July sit-in, street artists plied their trade on the Mugamma` (the imposing building containing the bureaucratic pen pushers that symbolizes the inefficiency and corruption of the Mubarak era) decorating the structure with a myriad of provocative images.

"From the Blood of Martyrs Springs the Tree of Revolution" Mugamma` 07/25/11

"Tahrir Square: A Free Region" Mugamma' 07/25/2011

"If you say that the revolutionaries are thugs than I am proud to say, 'I AM A THUG'" Mugamma` 07/25/11

However, the above images and countless others have been painted over. With the Egyptian state renewing its crackdown on freedom of speech in print and satellite media, it has become painfully obvious that the basic freedoms Egyptians have fought for in their revolution have yet to be achieved. Until they are, street artists will continue cut-out their stencils, shaking their spray cans, and waiting for darkness to descend…

(I’ve taken a plethora of graffiti pictures. More Zamalek pictures can be found here; and more Mugamma’ pictures can be found here.)