When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

The roar of the pro-democracy movement
The roar of the pro-democracy movement
Lina Attalah

-Essay-

CAIRO - During the painful Ettehadiya battle earlier this month between Brotherhood supporters and youthful opposition, the violence was not just physical. The scene was also a battlefield of chants. We chanted, "horriya" (freedom). They responded, "Sharia." Then we uttered, "Jika."

Then they fell into a temporary silence, bedazzled and confused about what the word "Jika" could possibly mean.

Those fighting on the side of authority hadn’t realized that a week earlier, we had marched in the funeral of Jika, a 16-year old activist shot in the head during the street fighting with police that ensued at the commemoration of the 2011 Mohamed Mahmoud battle. The funeral march, as burdensome and somber as it was, lent us strength every time we screamed, "Jika, Jika, oh boy, your blood will liberate a nation."

At different points throughout the last two years, many of us experienced profound moments of defeat. Perhaps defeat is inevitable after the glorious moment of erupting en masse in streets and squares only to topple a dictator 18 days later. What comes after is at best confusing, and in its worst form, defeating for many who strived for an idealized form of government following an idealized revolution.

But beyond the euphoria of the 18 days, I argue that change, real change, has been unfolding afterwards, over the last two years.

For one, the notion of authority is incurring a profound change in our collective imaginary. Irrelevant to what shape it has come in — militarized or Islamized — authority establishing itself on a pre-revolutionary logic of claiming control through the soft discourse of paternity is proving to be less easy.

The last two years have served as a laboratory for two different attires of authority, albeit traditional and conservative in form. Initial results of the experiment have shown that neither military prowess, often synonymized with the stability of the state, nor the religious legitimacy of a group once in the ranks of dissidents, are enough to reproduce old regime practices today. In two years, the authority has been mocked, ridiculed and insulted in every possible way. This is an index of how the relationship between citizen and state is shifting, in a change mainly engineered by the masses, and which the authority does not appear to grasp.

And so the opposition’s nature is also changing in nuance. Its current configuration represents an interesting illustration of that change. The rejection of the Islamist regime is not necessarily born from an essentialist rejection of Islamists as a political class defined through the language of identity. The rejection is constructed around what this regime is doing and not what it is.

True, there is much that the pro-democracy movement is lacking in the way of tactics, discourse and more; but there is comfort in finding that, in most cases, its essence is one of challenging the notions of fanaticism and division, and restaging the battlefield on the grounds of rights and inclusion.

These observations escape the language we already master. They are indeed beyond the limited comprehension of democracy as imagined and constructed in the western world and translated into simple relics like the ballot box.

With the changing notion of authority and the evolving nature of the opposition — with the inception of the Egyptian revolution by and large — comes a new political language that we have yet to decode fully, but which we’re living everyday. Its traces lie in keywords like "Jika."

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Is Turning Into A "New Israel" — Where Everyone Is A Soldier

From businessmen to farmers, Ukrainian society has been militarizing for the past six months to defend its sovereignty. In the future it may find itself like Israel, permanently armed to protect its sovereignty.

Ukrainian civilians learn how to shoot and other military skills at a shooting range in Lviv on July 30, 2022.

Guillaume Ptak

KYIV — The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. Vladimir Putin's army has suffered its worst setback since the beginning of the invasion. The Russian army has experienced a counter-offensive that many experts consider masterful, so it must retreat and cede vast territories to its opponent.

The lightning victory that the head of the Kremlin had dreamed of never took place. The losses are considerable — Ukrainian troops on the battlefield now outnumber the Russians.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

On April 5, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted that at the end of the conflict, Ukraine would become a "big Israel". In an interview with Ukrainian media, he said then, "In all the institutions, supermarkets, cinemas, there will be people with weapons."

The problem of national security will be the country's most important one in the next decade. An "absolutely liberal, and European" society would therefore no longer be on the agenda, according to the Ukrainian president.

Having long since swapped his suit and tie for a jacket or a khaki T-shirt during his public appearances, Zelensky has undeniably become one of the symbols of this growing militarization of Ukrainian society. However, the president claimed that Ukraine would not become an "authoritarian" regime: "An authoritarian state would lose to Russia. Ukrainians know what they are fighting for."

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ