“Selmiyyah, Selmiyyah” (peaceful, peaceful) is the innovative motto coined by the Egyptian people and added to the glossary of Arab revolutions, after the eternal chant: The people want to topple the regime.
The Egyptians sustained this chant for 18 days in the face of a police state that practiced every possible means of oppression against them. Their insistence on a “peaceful” revolution became the object of admiration of the world’s leaders and citizens. With bare chests, Egyptians faced live ammunition. Over a thousand protesters were killed and many moreThe source of concern is the emergence of a new acceptance of violence as a legitimate means of redeeming one’s rights -the acceptance has reached the point of sometimes directly inciting violence. were injured. But some people wonder if it was truly a peaceful revolution. Their reason for skepticism is the burning of numerous police stations and ruling party offices throughout the country. The media had broadcast pictures of young men and women wrapped in Egyptian flags cleaning and painting the streets of Tahrir Square as the image of our peaceful and “beautiful” revolution. But these pictures neglect an important part of the revolution without which it would not have happened, I think. These pictures do not show the many battles in “traditional” neighborhoods between young men and local police forces that have oppressed them for so long. Also missing from these pictures are the ashes of burnt Central Security trucks after clashes with rocks, knives, and Molotov cocktails between the police and the “beautiful youth of the revolution.” The media prefers to preserve the sacredness of a peaceful revolution than to broadcast these images.
Many media professionals do not realize that these events do not undermine the peaceful and civilized quality of the revolution. A glance at the history of popular revolutions is enough to understand this. During the French revolution, for example, more than 10,000 people were executed by the guillotine alone, these deaths were in addition to those from the consecutive wars fought by France, resulting in a death toll of more than one million Frenchmen. In modern times, the Bolshevik revolution of Russia is a staunch reminder of the hefty price some populations pay to change their ruling regimes. During the year that followed the Russian revolution, the nation slipped into a civil war that claimed the lives of at least five million people.
The point here is not the number of lives lost; a single human soul is more valuable than all of the world’s treasures. The point is that usually, when citizens lead massive revolutions to change ruling regimes (and not just heads of state or other leaders), human casualties occur in vast numbers. This is why the Egyptian experience is remarkable and exceptional. We overthrew a president, and we’re on our way to overthrow a regime/system, all with limited damage and loss as compared to the experiences of other nations.
But the source of concern given the current events is the emergence of a new acceptance of violence as a legitimate means of redeeming one’s rights -the acceptance has reached the point of sometimes directly inciting violence. The first time this [acceptance of violence] surfaced was on Tuesday, June 28, in Tahrir Square after the situation at the Balloon Theatre. The clashes between the police forces and the protesters on the 28th of January were the first to become violent since the former president [Mubarak] stepped down. The intense use of teargas by the police provoked a strong backlash among all Egyptians and the social networks were blanketed with rampant vows of revenge - reminding the police force of their defeat on the famous January 28, 2011. This was also the beginning of when the term “thug” started being used with pride by the revolutionaries after the hilarious and ridiculous use of the term by the authorities and the official media.
The attacks on the gas pipeline to Israel were among the events that triggered the mostWe overthrew a president, and we’re on our way to overthrow a regime/system, all with limited damage and loss as compared to the experiences of other nations. cynical, pro-revolution comments on the social networks. There were terms added to popular vocabulary as a result, and they included masked man and bombing, but by far the most ridiculous Facebook page was The People’s Peaceful Initiative to Attack Police Stations. There is nothing that indicates that such an initiative is real, but still, such exaggerated jokes reveal serious inclinations and provide indications of the general public’s mood. Even if these newly-coined words, phrases, and expressions do not represent an immediate transformation [in society’s acceptance of violence], endorsing violent language in our daily speech is a dangerous and alarming situation. If this [acceptance of violence] is occurring among social network users (assumed to be middle-class), then we can only imagine what it will be like for less fortunate Egyptians who have suffered the most injustice and police aggression.
The final development that warns of a shift in the violence from online language to physical reality is the recent release of police officers accused of killing the protesters in Alexandria and Suez. This time the language was more aggressive. There was not much joking, but rather quick action by the families of the martyred and others who joined in solidarity. The calls for retribution spread like wildfire from Alexandria to Suez and people vowed to achieve justice with their own hands. Any observer could only sympathize with martyrs’ families when they appeared on television to tell their stories hoping that someone in power will listen.
The question now is this: Are we on the verge of a more violent phase than everything that passed? Is it possible that the peaceful record of this great revolution will be replaced with domestic violence that, one way or another, resembles a civil war? I claim that Egyptians are wise enough and protective enough of their revolution to foil any such plan. But at the same time, I also see a lot of signs that the people’s patience might soon run out. The main causes for that impatience are: the slow pace of the trials of former politicians, the release of suspected police officers and allowing them to return to work, and the slow reform process of the ruling military council.
If none of this changes, then no one will be able to control the masses. And finally: “Beware the wrath of the serene.”
Khadiga Omar is an independent researcher and author. She earned her B.A. with High Honors, specializing in Political Science and History, from the American University in Cairo (AUC). She is currently pursuing a diploma in Islamic Studies and is a Linguist Project Manager at Google