On thursday night as matters continued to escalate, the lines of central security forces multiplied (a sight i had not seen since last year), the tension in Mansour mounting, eventually the dull bang of tear-gas shots, the vespas, the ambulances, the sirens the young men carried unconscious, it was time for that difficult point in every Mohammed Mahmoud. Convincing my grandmother she had to leave.
Living in falaki has meant her ability to be at the heart of the revolution, constantly reporting the movement of baltageyya from Abdin; nudging her neighbour Esmat, and armed with their vegetable shopping sacks (allibys for when they are caught by the army/CSF -depending on phase of the revolution-and escorted home) as they investigate the scenes of the crime.
By night-fall it was clear she would not be easy to convince, and by midnight, the challenge became not to convince her, but actually make it to her apartment past mohammed mahmoud.
We spent the night with her, and perhaps more difficult than managing the adrenaline and the tear-gas on the back ends of the battle-field, and more frustrating and heart aching than follow events from afar, was actually hearing everything unfold, without actually being part of it.
The shooting was almost endless from the moment we made it up to her apartment a while past midnight, till around 11 am, when we found the right moment to evacuate her.
The sounds of the constant tear-gas shots, and the emptier clang of rubber bullets, with the occasional sirens was not unfamiliar. Nor was the metal clanging and echoing chants that trickled through the thickest clouds of teargas and grew louder and louder until they rocked your very being. This time last year the battle was clear, this time this year, listening to it in a house where you could only wait, breathing minimally, for the teargas to settle, listening intently, willing the chants to pick up again, it was terrifying...
It wasn't only the sounds of the insistent firing that shook me, but the realization in the intensity of the chanting, the resilience despite loosing count of tear-gas shot per minute, that this was not ending anytime soon.
On the 28th of January, and after we defeated the CSF forces in almost every governorate in the country, the ministry of interior (and thus the entire police state) evacuated. They imagined they would punish us. Instead, it made of that uncertain moment of upheaval, a revolution.
The popular committees sprung up to protect popular institutions, manage local communities, organize traffic, and continued to develop socially and politically governing us through our revolutionary statelessness.
As the police trickled back, and the power balance was negotiated - they returned as police, but not a state - they were monitored in several communities where they returned. In hadaye' el qubba, Police men who were drug dealers were filmed and shamed, reported to human rights organizations and the ministry of interior incessantly till they were changed. In Boulaq, thousands staged a sit-in minutes after a woman was harassed by a police-man in the local souq. Within an hour of the event, the officer in charge of the station had to make a public apology.
But our days of upheaval were numbered, as 'order' made its way back, straightening out all those wrinkles where we experimented with new forms of governance, accountability, and keeping the state, in all its forms in check.
By May police men were threatening families of martyrs; in a 'popular conference' in Imbaba families came up to speak of the various threats made to them. Some were threatened with their lives, others with those of their remaining children, the luckier ones, who had stronger cases against members of the ministry of interior were offered money, apartments, cars, for their silence.
One farcical court session after another, it was clear that the people who had made the greatest sacrifices to liberate themselves from police-oppression; their flesh and blood; would still be the ones to pay the biggest price. They lived the lives most difficult negotiating space and livelihoods under a police-state, gave their lives to have their families live free of it, and continued to live in terror and oppression, under both the military and police state.
THat night at my grandmothers', and in those moments (literaly moments) when the firing stopped, a lone voice would start chanting against the cordons of security before him. He would start with the government; 'Ya hukuma ya weskha...ya m3arassa..' ; You dirty, pimp of a government...
Then he would move on to the soldiers, giving each of them, a clear and detailed state of his mind, and how he saw them.
My initial reaction to the taunting was that he was clearly provoking them. That this would never end. I whimper for him to stop, lest they start shooting again.
But by the next round of taunts i saw it differently. He wasn't taunting them. He was finally face to face with the bastards who killed his brother, his father, his neighbor or his cousin. Or those who, before the revolution, framed or implicated him in a drug deal he had nothing to do with and kept him in prison for months. Or those who tortured him for years on end in a prison cell for a crime he did not commit. Or those who raped his father for daring to stand up to them, when an officer slapped an old man in the middle of his neighbourhood.
ALl the instances i had myself heard or been exposed to of people arrested, framed, jailed, incarcerated, tortured, for no reason - not that any can ever justify- flashed before me. And for a very brief moment, i would want to burst out into the balcony, not to shout at him to stop and step back, but to scream in his same direction; Aywa 7okuma weskha! Aywa 7okuma weskha!!
On what basis do we expect this to stop?And what the fuck are we negotiating??
That parliament 'CONVINCE' the police and central security forces, to please stop slaying us publicly and return to their standard practice in every neighborhood in the country?And knowing fully well that from time to time, when the neighborhoods are too tight, and the prisons are full to the brim, that they can move on to larger massacres in stadiums???
The ministry of interior has never been as criminal and audacious - the killing is now public an the victims of cold blooded murder - QATL 3AMD are down to 13 years of age!!!
And we, as activists and politicians, expect a PEOPLE that have risen in REVOLUTION against a BLOODY police state, to sit back and watch things unravel, waiting for us to 'EMBARRASS parliament' into taking some sort of action?
The one thing that happened simultaneously in all of Egypt on the 28th of January (naturally earlier in Suez, where the state has lost its primacy ages ago) was that the police stations burned. We haven't been able to ascertain whether this happened from 'inside' or 'outside' the stations, but the one thing no one doubts is taht we all put a happy penny in it.
Delirious, and half panicked, i asked a man in Alexandria, why the fuck we were setting all the police stations on fire? "Isn't this a revolution for dignity? One against humiliation? And would you deem it wiser to leave the capital of ultimate humiliation spared... wala burn it, and put an end to this forever..."
We all have issues to settle with the dakhleyya. On events such as these the anger will be wide-spread, and it is clear to everyone that the issue is not with the police-stations, but the ministry of evil itself. And that is where we will all head. Not only demanding justice for those who died at this moment, but for every moment over the last 50 years experienced under its rule. People will come down to shout, to roar, to taunt, and to let it know, that this revolution is only big enough for either of us.
To think we can demand a cease-fire and that this would end the bloodshed, is pushing the problem even deeper. Because the police will return to their practice unseen, until it is time for the next big massacre, or until people decide they can take the blood, and incarceration no longer.
And then the issue will be much larger than the throwing of stones, and taunting of officers.
We grew up a generation under an emergency law, and we rose against the police-state. What's happening in Mansour, is a revolution cotninued. We either heed it, and demand this end now, or we throw ourselves in a perpetual cycle of violence, of a police-state raging to stay in power, and a people who will take it no longer. What stability, peace do we anticipate without justice?
LIke everything that we need to do now, the solution has to be revolutionary. A detailed plan (that we already have) for the restructuring of the ministry of interior. And a shadow ministry composed of those who carried this revolution through, to make sure this happens.
Under what political will you ask? Under ours. Why the fuck are we still asking those we rose against to change their ways?
أجيال عاشت حياتها في ظل قانون الطوارئ. كفاية.