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Where We Stand

In his CairoScene debut, Omar El Sabh looks into the yesterday's events after which several activists were brutally arrested. Is this the return of the heavy-handed police state?

The fact of the matter is yesterday’s protests in front of the Shoura Council were a rejection of the same damn security ethos that the state constantly employs towards opposition. Other facts include the absence of a 'Rab3a' psyche during the protests; rather, those who were brutally detained by the MOI last night were the revolutionary youth that stood up against despotism in all its forms, even before Morsi's acquisition of power.  They were the same mindsets that stood up against military trials for civilians and the same people that warned us all of the dangers of the SCAF/MB alliance, which ultimately brought the MB to power.

Now these same people are protesting the violent return of the police state, which views all forms of assembly and protest as a threat to its grip over the reins of power. What's going on in the country is fairly simple and can be broadly summed up as a certain tyranny of liberty against a certain threat of religious fascism.

The State is reconstructing itself with a vengeance, the old forms of repression are coming back to haunt us yet again under the glossy allure of "freedom from religious fascism." This is not another Marxist perspective on post revolutionary societies; this is a statement of our own revolutionary idiosyncrasy. Take the law against tagging and graffiti which despotically criminalises anyone who tags or paints on any street or wall. Granted the plethora of "CC is a killer" tags are seriously aesthetically unappealing and demonstrate the herd-like mentality of MB supporters (if you notice, all the tags are written in the same handwriting) but that's no reason to criminalise all forms of street art and expression. The point of mentioning this is not to nit-pick and burden Gen.Sisi and his posse with idealistic and romantic concepts of citizenship, but to simply show that the most crucial form of liberty - liberty of assembly and expression in public spaces - is being taken away from us by hook and crook. 

Furthermore, a violation of the protest law, which yesterday's scuffles and detentions were largely about, can land you seven full years in prison and a 300K fine. The violation broadly includes anyone who 'disturbs public order' (Who the fuck 'public order' is and what does he disagree with, nobody knows) and loosely defines and conflates acts of terrorism with normal criminal offences.

On other fronts the situation is equally eerie. The phrase “history is written by the victors” is an overstated cliché for a reason because, in any given public psyche, those who hold the levers of power are always in a position to rewrite and whitewash history in favour of advancing ideologies, policies and narratives; historians, scholars and concerned citizens tend to escape this entrapment. When the MOI talks of saluting the martyrs of Mohamed Mahmoud, I say sorry, but fuck no. It's staring at us in plain sight, as if the official narrative of the state is saying: "forget everything that happened before the 30th of June, stay in your cryptic fear of Islamism and shut up or you'll end up just like them."

I'll end with a famous quote that always seems to fall on deaf ears in periods of popular irrational fear and angst: "People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."

I fear that we're heading towards a period of mass historical amnesia and social paralysis. I fear that liberty has taken a state sponsored Jacobinist turn to the worst and that soon we will bear the brunt of a new form of liberty; a liberty that can't distinguish between opposition and terrorism.