You’re not sure. The symptoms are creeping up on you, taking you off guard. You’re not sure but you might very well be, gasp, in the process of becoming a revolutionary.
Needless to say, it kind of shook you.
The first time you saw it happen, you watched it from afar, like someone watching a train wreckage, fascinated yet unable to do anything about it. It was when the Rev was virulently criticizing the muslim brotherhood, stating they were not socio-democrats, making a parallel with Kerensky: Kerensky! That traitor! They are not like Kerensky ! We shall boycott the referendum in Egypt! Let us not legitimize something that can never be legitimized! And instead of pinching him and reminding him he was NOT Egyptian and therefore had little to say in the matter, let alone actually vote on it, you surprised yourself by thinking: ah Kerensky, that Menshevik. How did you know he was a Menshevik? At the time you didn’t really pay attention to it, thinking that you went to university after all and might actually remember a thing of two. When you shared your concerns with the Rev about your sense of impeding doom, he called knowing your Mensheviks from your Bolsheviks ‘the basics’ and seemed utterly unimpressed.
But the dread stayed with you.
You soon came to realized you knew the lyrics of l’Internationale. Not that you actually liked it, but still, you knew it nonetheless. Then the symptoms started piling up at an alarming rate, without you always noticing. You started having nervous fits causing you to insult the TV and throw things at it, frothing at the mouth, every time you saw Marine Le Pen on the news, while the Rev was explaining how much of a myth it was that workers voted for the far right in France and that there was a need to deconstruct this myth and make it appear that it was indeed that evil class, the petit-bourgeois, these reactionary heretics, that were to blame.
You started humming to Bella Ciao at unexpected times.
You went to a Revolutionaries meeting, and actually participated instead of rolling your eyes so far back into your head they did a 360. You did realize it was in a God Forsaken basement with a dreadful lamp giving the room a depressing light making your skin look gray and under normal circumstances, the bourgeois spoilt brat that you are would have laughed and belted it to some cozy café (Note: NOT Starbucks. Never Starbucks. You’re not that bad), but this time you stayed and actually gave some input.
At the end, the Rev, the Chair if the meeting (what else?) warmly congratulated you. The happy look on his face was the seal that translated your lingering anxiety into something articulable: you. were.on.a.slippery slope. You tried poking fun at him but your heart wasn’t in it, you had other things to worry about. What if it were irreversible and you were stuck in a state of permanent revolution, starting boring people into a stupor each time you would meet them, arguing until the Rapture about the difficult position of the left vis à vis the Syrian crisis?
As usually happens, Beirut saved you. Following four hours of flight and incessant infant screaming, you were in a right mind to 1) force feed Xanax to the next child you saw and 2) give a lecture to inapt parents about telling your child off when said four year old child was screaming for the sake of it, just to test his voice or something. The Rev, always the humanist, was playing with the kids, spotted an elderly couple and helped them with their luggage. Sneering, you spat: what now Abouna Rev, shall we wait to help more people with their children/luggage/life?
You had made fun of him AND you had called him Abouna, which is not as bad as being called a Stalinist but is still a religious title nonetheless, and we all know what the Rev thinks about organized religion.
You were back.
A day in the life of a Revolutionary
07:30: Alarm rings. The Revolution never sleeps, why should the Rev? And by extension, why should you?
07:31: Opens eyes. Asks you if you’re a socialist revolutionary. You’re a 28 year old highly tired woman who hasn’t had her coffee yet. Your eyes still closed, you say no. You distinctly remember mumbling something along the lines of ‘fuck off, you and the revolution’
07:35: Anguish. He’s married to a bourgeois reactionary. How did that happen?
07:36: No point in dwelling on this, after all, isn’t he supposed to attract people as much as he can to the cause? He shall overcome. Gets out of bed.
07:37: Turns on YouTube. Puts on his playlist ‘Revolutionary Songs for the Revolutionary’.
07:38: L’Internationale blaring from the computer for the whole world to hear. Enters showers. Starts singing.
07:39 – 08:20: Showers, get dressed, while you’re being treated to Bella Ciao, L’Internationale, Na7na El Thawra Wou El Ghadab, complete with his own voice and a little dance routine. Murderous thoughts threaten to choke you.
08:25: Practices mock speeches in front of mirror to other make believe revolutionaries. You tell him he looks like a rambling dictator. Abruptly stops, looking wounded. He has woken you at an ungodly hour to the sound of L’internationale. You consider yourself entitled to hurt him. You have no shame. You live to vex him.
08:30: Asks you again if you’re a socialist revolutionary. Tells you you have the thinking already, and that the step from feminist to socialist revolutionary is really quite minimal.
08:32: Applies band aid to where your shoe hit him.
08:35: Makes you coffee.
08:36: Sits in front of computer for the daily ‘Revue de Presse’.
08:37: You break a glass, cut yourself, noisily look for a pretty band aid, burn yourself with your hair straighteners, call your mother who yells in the phone as if you were in Zimbabwe (while she actually lives 30 minutes away from you). Rev doesn’t budge.
11:00: Finishes reading up daily press round up. Newspapers in English, French and Arabic have been read, shared on Facebook, insipid authors have been duly insulted, inept so-called political leaders (real oppressors, sucking the blood of the people, more like) have been exposed. All geared up for next attack.
11:00-12:30: Updates blogs. Keeps finding new photos, writes new articles. ‘This is the real face of the revolution, not the crap mainstream media is showing! Let Us show the truth’
12:30: Doesn’t eat. Having lunch is for bourgeois capitalist who have the luxury of time. The Revolution can’t wait.
12:35: Calls you. Asks if you’re a socialist revolutionary. You tell him his persistence reminds you of the black days of Stalinism, and would Comrade Trotsky approve of this oppression he’s exerting.
12:36: Whimpers. Did you just call him a STALINIST????
12:36-18:36: Reads.Writes.Researches. Reads. Writes.Researches. Occasionally speaks to self and computer. Reads. Writes.Researches. Reads.Writes.Researches.Sends emails to political groups admonishing them for lack of activism. ‘I want the flyer ready for this Saturday, I insist, we need to spend the afternoon traipsing after people, pressing it on them until they’re too scared to refuse’. ‘Did you do the flyer? Did you?’ ‘Ce n’est pas sérieux!’
19:00: Has dinner with you. Artfully leaves books on the hope that you’ll read them. You toss the anthology of the Bund aside and very purposefully open a stupid novel in front of him.
19:05: Starts actually telling you about the Bund.
19:06: Gently removes your head from the oven, promises he’ll stop, then takes off for Revolutionary meeting.
23:30: Comes back. Wakes you up ‘we’ve had a fantastic idea! We’re gonna do a flash mob, a round table and a demo on Saturday afternoon! yes! At the same time! Yes!’
23:35: Skulk as you told him no one will come to the three at the same time and why does he like waking you up all the time? Why?
23:40: Starts first Skype call of the night with Comrades abroad. Half asleep, you hear some ‘jokes’: ‘And THEN! I Told him he was an entrist! HAHAHAHAHAHA’. You believe you were facepalming in your dream.
02:40: Finally turns off light. Gives you a kiss.
02:41: In the dark. All his blissfully silent.
02:42: Asks you if you’re a socialist revolutionary.
Yesterday I read a letter from Mashrou3 Leila:
“Today I found myself walking down Hamra Street, humming Abdul-Halim Hafez’s ‘Ana Leik Ala Tool’ to myself, and I could swear I heard you singing the harmony into my ear. It made me giggle a little burn into my chest. I worry you might get caught in a protest, imprisoned, kidnapped, missing, gone. But I know you need to do what you need to do; I wouldn’t ask you not to, but please be safe. Someday, I promise, worry will be a sentiment completely alien to us.”
These words spoke to me, they spoke to the little demon worrier that seems to have taken residence up in my head. The letter spoke of fears of loss, it spoke of courage and of strength. It spoke of accepting the evidence of the need to fight, despite the dangers and the intimidation, despite the worry and the dread. You know this is what I struggle with the most, you know I couldn’t bear to lose you to the claws of an absurd regime. You know me, inside and out.
Leila’s story is fictional but for us it is all too real, or maybe she’s just a projection of a million fears experienced by a million hearts, making her more real than we could ever be.
You and I my friend are the children of the demise and disappointment of all our comrades before us, and the parents of an angry movement of hope : we tried and are still trying to revive the spark of contestation and revolution , and we’ve managed to a certain extent, or so I would like to believe. We’re marching for our present, yes, for our future, certainly, but we are also marching for our fallen friends, the ones who got killed and crushed and harassed and silenced. The ones who are still alive, They’re older now, they’re bitter, too, they don’t seem like they still can find the strength in them to carry on, yet you can find them next to us, their eyes barely daring to believe again, carrying in their hearts the memory of all they have lost, just like we carry in ours the smiles of those of whom we’re separated from by the inexorability of death or by the atrocity of prison walls and tortures.
My love, it seems like we have lost the innocence of youth and with it the ability to enjoy things in their superficiality. We can not be fooled anymore, and perhaps some days this realization is too painful for us to bear. My love, we are too dangerous for them to avoid us, they will hunt us down, we shall be prepared.
I keep hearing people comfortably sitting on plush chairs pompously labeling what we do: the Iranian “Green Movement” or the “Twitter Revolution”, as if Evin had never existed, as if the Iranians had never risen before the invention of social media. “The Arab Spring” now being replaced by the “Arab Autumn” or even “Winter”, as if revolutions could ever be expressed in terms of fucking seasons, as if we were sleeping and awoke like some sort of natural process, what are we, fruits or something? Pardon my language my sweet friend, but condescension irks me and I’ve never been one to shut up.
It has been a long time since we’ve started my beloved, and we are tired, yet the road up ahead seems even more tortuous and long, paved with too many traps for us to comprehend. Some of us decide to retreat, others become suicidal, we lose a few along the way, the sufferings are too much for anyone to bear.
Yet there we still are, despite the tears and the frustration and the tension and the deaths and the threats. Yet we continue, doing what we can, each at its own level, because we owe it to ourselves, to those who died, to those who fight, to those who lost, to those who are too deprived of privilege to attract wide attention to their cases.
This isn’t a Winter, this isn’t a season, this isn’t a moment that shall pass. This is a Revolution, a process, and it shall take its own sweet time.
We’re ready for it.
Day 2 of my AWID Forum Chronicles
As human beings, in this day and age of technology, we are constantly bombarded by information, data, facts and figures. This is why it is important to sometimes stop, and take the time to reflect on a certain topic. In and within itself, the AWID Forum is a place for learning, a place where knowledge, all kinds of it, is shared, be it through sessions, capacity building workshops, or simply talking to your neighbour, so you can for example learn that violence against women rates are sky rocketing in Fidji or that militarization is an extreme form of institutionalized patriarchy.
The in-depth sessions the forum is piloting in its 2012 edition allow for a strong focus on a certain topic, running for three hours and a half every day of the forum, a bit like an intensive lecture/participatory session. Being the Middle Eastern obsessed person that I am, I’m currently following the in-depth session on women’s rights and transition democracy in the MENA region.
After a plenary in which Rabea Naciri from Morocco and Asma Khader from Jordan spoke about the constitutional processes and changes in the region, participants broke into groups to discuss constitutional reforms, the role of media and social media in making women’s claims visible and processes on transitional justice. I was lucky to be part of the group on constitutional reforms: it felt incredibly empowering sitting at the heart of a women’s cluster, reflecting and suggesting strategies on the core laws and processes of the countries of the region. Women’s invisibility and the lack of gender perspective in the current constitutional assemblies (notably in Tunisia and Egypt) lead us to emphasize the need first of all of popular education on the importance of constitutional reforms and second of all, on the absolute necessity to have assemblies of women drafting their own version of the Constitution.
The issue of negotiations with conservative powers came up: as feminists, where should we draw the line? What are the non negotiables? Should we have a long term vision and keep our radical agenda and invest on education and awareness raising or should we cede on some points in the short to mid-term to insert ourselves in the debates and decisions? But if we do, would that keep the integrity of our thoughts and vision or who would be compromising the aims of our struggle? There are no clear cut, one size-fits-all answer to these questions, they take in-depth research, historical perspective, thinking and anticipation, input from different experiences and expertise to have a clearer picture of how to influence and shape the society we hope to see and want. We are still working on what the ideal gender sensitive constitution would be, but Rabea Naciri outlined some relevant, core points that Constitutions in post revolution countries should include, such as clarity of language and terminology so as to prevent any harmful-to-women interpretations and explicit prohibition of any type of discrimination based on gender on top of calling for substantive gender equality. Constitutions should also specifically speak to the rights of political opposition and mention and include civil society and its contribution to society as a whole.
Learning doesn’t specifically require in-depth sessions: it was incredible to also learn new concepts and methodologies during break out sessions. Today, I have learnt more about the topic of popular education and how it can have a strong impact on economic education for women’s economic empowerment. This session prompted a lot of reflections for me as it helped me put a very concrete strategy on the concept of collective power of women. Indeed, popular education being collective analysis and action for social transformation, it is nothing more than what we do when we sit down on the floor of the Halic Auditorium, creating our collective analysis to participate in the social transformations Middle Eastern countries are currently facing.
Talking about our collective power and our collective voice goes beyond mere words: by uttering these very ideas, we already start to shape the changes we want to see in our world.
Two New Posts on Café Thawra!
Egypt: Parliament and Revolution
Joseph Daher and John Rees report from Cairo as New Parliament is sworn in http://cafethawra.blogspot.com/2012/01/egypt-parliament-and-revolution.html
Lebanon Raising Fists and Voices: Lebanese Women’s Struggle to End Violence http://cafethawra.blogspot.com/2012/01/raising-fists-and-voices-lebanese.html
Hope you’ll enjoy!
Those who are free will never die.
Today I’ve tested blood, and anger, and despair, and hope and love, love, love, inconvenient, incredible, ridiculous, painful love. Love for a land that will not yield, love for a people that will not cave, love for a standing humanity that refuses to crawl.
They’ve chased me up today, up and down the streets of my sacred city, throwing tear gas at me, aiming at my head and my back, they tried to shoot me, they saw blood and death and injuries and cheered with delight. The fools! They think they’ll choke us up with smoke, they think they’ll strangle the revolution, they’ll think if they beat us hard enough they’ll silence us.
Tell them, go, run and take our message with you, tell them: we shall not know silence until we are free at last, we shall not know peace of mind until we’ve gotten rid of all of you, we shall not abandon our fate to the hands of the mediocre, we shall stand and run and scream until you are deaf with our will, until your cowardly ways are shown to the world and dealt with. Go, run, run and tell them: we are not afraid, our cause is eternal, our right to bread, natural, our thirst for justice beyond what your mind can grasp.
Do not whimper for your friends, for they have forsaken you and will not ask twice about your health, they will look for others to do their dirty work and we will fight them again, for we only know one word now, and that word is ENOUGH, for we only breathe one word now, and that word is ENOUGH, for we only live for one word now, and that word is ENOUGH.
Today I’ve tested blood, and anger, and despair, and hope and love, love, love, inconvenient, incredible, ridiculous, painful love. Today I’ve watched as blood trickled down the beautiful faces of the women of my land, melting in the chestnut and black of their hair, I’ve watched as they yelled, oblivious, at the evils of a regime.
Today I took my fist and raised it to the sun in an eternal gesture of resistance, and I’ll keep pounding the sky until my fist unfolds in a glorious V.
Horriye! Horriye! Kolena Masr! Kolena ma3aki ya habibetna!