just to remember, some weeks ago

February 14, 2011

Dear friends,

I wrote you this letter, yesterday, but couldn’t send it because they cut down internet and phone networks repeatedly yesterday.
I send it now, but things have changed so much since last night. Begum, did you manage to leave safely? We tried to call you many times to no avail.
So many of my friends were arrested last night , or better to say kidnapped. Fast moving cars just snatched people in and disappeared.
Just a few minutes ago they announced it is state alarm in Midan Tahrir, Bassiouny Street and Talaat Harb Sqaure. Anybody walking in groups of two or more shall be arrested without explanation. Tanks are in the streets. My house turned into a hiding place for many of the protesting friends and their friends. People come and sit and call their friends, since it is the closest place they know to Bassiouny Street and to Tahrir. I don’t know what this leads to, all of this. We are all sitting at home now waiting for the next signal to go out on the streets again.
I copy here what I wrote yesterday to send. It was a very emotional and mental and physical day.
Pray for us, or wish us clear directions,

Dear friends,

Since you know Cairo a little bit, and you know me a little bit, this letter is relevant, I believe. Today was “Day of Wrath” in Cairo, where Egyptians went out on the streets demonstrating against depression. Whatever political slogan a group carried was not really what mattered. It was (and still continues as I hear from my window) about getting together and screaming. I was never part of any demonstrations or revolutions, since I never trust what this could bring, but today I went out on this day. I found myself running and screaming and crying. We were beaten up, thrown with Tear-gas bombs, hosed down with gushing water, until a state security car hit three young Egyptian males. Then people carried one of the three bodies, and walked in streets, lifting him up like to an altar, and screaming even more. We started then hitting the police men, the state security cars, and eventually began throwing the Tear-gas bombs back at the state security when we receive them.

I have not learned about dance or theatre before the way I did today. I must have had a few dance and theatre revelations in my life, of course, but today was something that I learned a lot from. An afternoon of very accelerated learning. People come together, people run in fear, people come together again in pain and in anger, people stop believing suddenly and they stop moving, people get motivated again and they move violently, people are beaten up violently, people throw their bodies at cars, people sleep together on streets until tomorrow morning. No internet, telephone networks keep failing and restarting, and the threat of cutting down power off Midan Tahrir and Talaat Harb Squares is very plaus ible. Twitter, Facebook, and the independent newspaper websites were shut down in Cairo repeatedly, but restarted again I don’t know how.

I went out on streets trying to understand what kind of slogan would I believe in and scream out loud, as a hybrid citizen who never felt a particular sense of nationalist belonging to one flag or another nation. I still don’t believe in parading after one political party or another here, they are all almost the same. I still don’t believe in a flag that unites the Cross with the Crescent, or else where do people like me go. I believe in moving together though, in being excited together, in being so angry together, in being in so much pain together. I also believe more in sacrifice, in self-sacrifice, in mad tyranny, in violent suicides.

I could not stop crying when I was on the street, I could not sing my national anthem “Beladi, Beladi” (our Lands, our lands). I could not sing my national anthem. It is not that I disbelieve in what “our lands” have become now, as much as I don’t see myself easily part of one “our lands”. I perhaps might belong to a few, or am composed of a few, but I can’t stand and sing the anthem of any of those. I genetically merit singing “La Marseillaise”, “Beladi, Beladi”, and at least two other anthems. But, I don’t see my nationhood seated comfortably in my genetic make-up anymore.

I needed to sing, I didn’t know what to sing when everybody else sang Beladi, Beladi. I needed to sing. I started sort of vibrating. Some very low-tone vibration, voiced out, that grew into a tearful moan, that repeated itself. I understood how a moan is generated from somewhere very deep in my body and mind.

Then they ran, they ran so far. We ran, we ran so far. I ran also. Because of anger, because of a few women who suddenly started screaming “Horreyya, Horreya” (Liberty, Liberty), and I ran to that sound of such a word, and I ran to the movement of a running crowd. We ran from Talaat Harb square to Midan Tahrir, running into a barricade of State Security officers, hundreds of soldiers, and a few huge cars hosing us down with water again. We ran into something violent, but it seemed ok. I learned about where running starts in my body. I starts close to my spine, in my throat sometimes.

This feeling is like the feeling of flying for the first time. Running so fast, into something scary, exhilarating, promising and very unsure of its results. It also feels like stepping from the wings and onto the stage, where my skin pores are as present as my eyes are.

In the microphone, some men screamed “Spread out, spread out everywhere, don’t let them capture us all in one place”. We dispersed. With a lot of tension between us, we dispersed all around Midan Tahrir, from the Br idge, by the Museum, and up to the “Mogamma” Building. Space was small. This square was small. We held it. I learned what it is to hold space, to make space. I learned the power of moving together. In me, I felt where togetherness could start sometimes, where the place of “connecting” to another person could be. Sometimes it was in the eyes, sometimes in the whispers or screams. But, most of the time it was desire. It was in attraction. And, perhaps in the space between self-survival instinct and making peace with the fear of pain and of being terminated.

Our dispersed population was then penetrated by the State security squads, and we ran into them again, and they retreated. The minute I pass a place where a state security officer stood, I would feel that I just ate a living human being. A violent exhilarating absorption of surrounding conditions into my body. I suddenly remembered how angry I was to have been stopped on the street many times by the “security officer s”. I was stopped because of the most absurd actions and behaviors. Today I remembered. I remembered I have been angry for a long time.

We stopped moving. We stood, and waited.
In the waiting it all came back to me. It is as if we, humans, know very few things! We know of living, of dying (somehow), of sacrifice, of passion. The scene looked very archaic; it was almost a prehistoric etching. A body carried around by a few people, lifted up high, in passion (whether it is anger, love to a country, hate, fear of pain, sadness…) this body was lifted, and tens thousands followed and moved. Screaming and moving were things we did. We sang, and we moved together.

Movement was sculpted by passion, and also by the duration of tear-gas bombs. When one was ejected, time was held by them. Once the gas subsided, time spread itself so fast sideways by the fast moving thousands of passionate bodies. Or maybe time was spread sideways by the movement. Time felt flat many t imes. Time was spread out sideways and became flat many times.

Climax, another one thing, of the few things we know, and of the few things we had today. Climaxes can sculpt emotions, can sculpt thoughts. Climaxes can make one believe something did just happen, when nothing happened, and everything is still suspended and on-going. Climaxes chop time into plausible segments of worry and endings. I learned about freeing time and passion from climaxes. I learned about making climaxes a tool to sculpt time and passion, and of sculpting comprehension of being placed in a certain activity/space. I learned about climax being a vortex, a transporter, a Deux Ex Machina that can reenact death in the most comforting ways, or the most seductive and libidinal arrested/suspended experience. I learned more about the word “During”.

I write this, and save it, and wait until I could send it, when the internet is working again.



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