Wrapping Up and Remembering Rabaa



It’s almost funny how many times I have tried posting this last blog post, only to be thwarted by the ever-increasing power cuts. Regardless, I can’t believe my time in Egypt is coming to an end. Although I had hoped to have gotten a decent start to the quantitative aspect of this research, I greatly underestimated how difficult that would be. I did do some experimenting with my data using the R programming language, but when I talked to Professor Settle about one of my ideas, I realized it might be easier said than done. The idea was to gather news articles from 2012 to the present and mine the text for keywords such as ‘coup’ and ‘revolution’. I would use that information to see how many times certain words and phrases were used in the time before, during, and after the coup to analyze the changes in rhetoric over time and across different news outlets. So while amassing all the news articles may be extremely difficult, I think there’s hope. Anyway, the ethnographic part of my research went pretty much according to plan…

A little over a year ago, Egypt became home to the worst mass killing of civilians in recent history. It’s hard to believe I protested in Rabaa al-Adawiyah days before the massacre. And even harder to believe I would have been at the massacre were it not for the death of my grandmother earlier that day.

Throughout this summer, driving by Rabaa al-Adawiyah has been, for lack of a better word, weird. The memories I have of the square are in stark contrast to the newly erected minaret of the once burned mosque, surrounded by the bustle of Cairo life. My cousin, who witnessed the murder of five of his friends in the Rabaa massacre, still can’t bring himself to drive by the square. Some wounds never heal.

But just as the June 30 and July 3 anniversary protests were minimal and muted, so too was the anniversary of the Rabaa and Nahda massacres of August 14. The brave people who did take to the streets were attacked by national security and at least six people were killed.

There are few things as disheartening as seeing the hope of the poor fade. People are fed up – I can see that. But they’re also tired.  The last three years have taught them that taking to the streets will not achieve their goals, but land them in jail. They know now that thinking differently than the military is dangerous and speaking out against the military is suicidal. The last three years have been hell.

One day before the anniversary of the massacres, Human Rights Watch executives were barred entry into Egypt. It was an unprecedented move, something that hadn’t even happened in the Mubarak era. The video and report they released described the actions of the military and police as crimes against humanity, revealing that the massacres were a planned, systematic attack that intended to kill as many people as possible.

All in all, I’ve learned so much this summer. Despite the fact that I’ve visited Egypt nearly every summer since my birth, the past two have been – at the risk of sounding dramatic – life changing.  The glaring contrast between last summer and this summer is mind-boggling. Last year, I feared going out in the streets during the day and by the end of that summer, there was a curfew. And although Egypt’s streets have seen their fair share of foreigners, nothing is more foreign to them than quiet. Egypt was grim, gloomy, and different. But there was still an inkling of hope left. People openly decried the military, people talked politics, and Egypt had 41,000 less prisoners of conscience.  There was hope that, even after the massacres – no, because of the massacres, more people would speak out and say no to the coup.

But this summer felt like a different Egypt. Going out at night meant fearing catcalls and pesky harassers, not Molotov cocktails and sniper bullets. I want to say that hope is dead in Egypt – because that’s largely what I’ve seen. Even though prices are up between 41-78 percent, even though power cuts are not only longer but also more frequent, and even though the military hasn’t followed through on any of its promises, all I hear is deafening silence. Of course, this isn’t to say that the Egyptian people aren’t complaining. It’s what they do best. But they complain in the same way they complained during the darkest days of Mubarak. They express their discontent in sighs and muttered complaints, focusing on the problem, instead of the root of it. They don’t openly blame Sisi or his military as they did Morsi and his Brotherhood. They wouldn’t dare.

But while a large part of me wants to say  hope is dead in Egypt, I think I would be lying. I’ve met revolutionaries who will do anything to get out of this country, but I’ve also met revolutionaries who would never leave. I know too many people who know too many people who’ve been killed or imprisoned. I know too many people who have lost their jobs over differences in political ideologies. I know too many people who are scared. As one revolutionary urged me to stay for the “shit that’s coming,” the one next to him silently shook his head no, urging me to leave. But still, I couldn’t help but notice the latter’s Amnesty International pin on the strap of his bag. Because even though his words were telling me that Egypt was not worth my time, that black and yellow candle holds a flicker of hope that I don’t think anyone can put out. Not even Sisi.

الثورة مستمرة 

Viva la revolución