This week’s article by Lacroix, “No Spring in Ridayh: Saudi Arabia’s Seemingly Impossible Revolution”, talks about the inability of different groups of people to create a large enough impact to change the broken governmental system that desperately needs change. The common goal towards bringing change to Saudia Arabia is described in the reading by having different activist groups come together but as Lacroix states, there were always disagreements that would eventually separate the activist groups.
I think its very important the anti-government demonstrations continue to fight the repression that the people face in their everyday lives. The article mentions the protests of the 90’s, but I think its important to emphasize the role that social media has played in the Arab Spring that has contributed to a larger and more widespread response from the Arab region. These repressive actions by Saudi Arabia, for example, have sparked organization and social media activist groups such as #Women2Drive that have specifically targeted the issue of women not being able to drive. I think actions like these are the ones that will eventually change the views that the repressive government holds as well as the public’s. In order to bring major change into region, the different activist groups need to come to a resolution that will bring about a common goal.
I enjoyed these readings because I was not aware of Harassmaps and their mission on educating the public on sexual harassment towards women and how this is a major issue in Egypt. By providing a digital platform, this enables the project to becomes much more widespread for women to use. I am not sure if even in the United States, there is a digital project like Harassmaps available but the reading explained that this has spread to many countries because of its success in spreading awareness. As the reading states, “HarassMap helps to overcome these challenges by providing a platform where women can easily document instances of sexual harassment.”What I found most surprising in the reading is that 55% of sexual harassment was actually done by children and women, not just men.
What’s also important is that this project is not just solely digital because there are many volunteers on the ground that are also acting as support groups in intervening or providing information against sexual harassment to Egyptian bystanders or the general population. I found this to be essential because everyone does not have access to SMS or not everyone has a phone, so having volunteers on the streets is vital to educating the public. With this service, “the crowdsourcing model also allows victims to bypass institutional constraints within formal law enforcement channels that may prevent them from reporting incidents of sexual harassment”, which is also important because the police force might not have the proper training to help the victim or handle the situation.
Harassmaps is ultimately a great digital tool that can hopefully continue to educate the Egyptian public and spread to multiple countries.
I found the first article to be very interesting in how bloggers reject the journalist label because they see themselves as activists rather than just reporting the news. I completely agree because as an activist, one is sparking conversation or a movement while a journalist does his job and informs the people, not investigate. In an era where bloggers are constantly being detained and thrown in jail, the article comments on how these bloggers are defendants of free speech and how they share this feeling. It doesn’t matter if they are following the same “codes” as journalists when they blog and share information, what matters is that they are fighting for a good cause despite a weak online infrastructure as discussed in class on Monday. Despite these issues, the bloggers of the Middle East need to continue to be political activists even at a time where people are being sent to jail for expressing their ideas.
The Guardian article was also very informative because I previously did not know anything about Bassel and his contribution of the Creative Commons, which allows for free software use and open source programming to Syria. Unfortunately, he was detained because Syria censors the internet a lot and his whereabouts are still unknown. It’s possible that he might have been killed by the Syrian regime. His contributions with the Creative Commons allows for a open internet in the Arab world, in which Syria sees as a threat that probably caused him being detained in the first place. This should be a reason for the Syrian people to become more politically active, which they are, because Bassel fought for an open source online space to share ideas and software.
This week’s readings gave me a insightful perspective on the garbage crisis that is happening in Lebanon. The first reading delved into an analytical discussion on the underlying political models that are sparking the corruption in Lebanon’s government. The privatization of spaces is a serious issue because it disallows spaces for garbage landfills that are ultimately affecting the health of the Lebanese people. It’s such a shame in the 21st century, people are still being denied basic human rights such as water and electricity that should not be problem anymore and the Lebanese people have a right to protest as they did in August of 2015.
The Atlantic article further discusses the #YouStink movement and how they helped get thousands of people to join together to protest for regime change. Unfortunately, the peaceful demonstrations turned violent and the Beirut Army was called in, further escalating the situation. The #YouStink has aimed for a peaceful protest but the arrival of the Lebanese army has only complicated things. The pictures in the Atlantic article are powerful with the young protestors being sprayed by water or being attacked by the army for basic human rights that they are fighting for. This is the result of the government letting the garbage companies pile the trash in the streets that keep accumulating and literally stinking up Lebanon.
The upside to this is that the government is at least from what it seems, trying to figure out the garbage crisis. The people of Lebanon should continue to protest until the government takes action because they are denying their people basic human rights and leaving them with unsanitary living conditions that risk the spread of diseases.
I attended the Bodies and Spaces: Moral Panics, Revolution, and Counterrevolution panel from 3:15-4:45pm as well as listening to the last speaker, Ranwa Yeha, in the Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat: Strategies and Movements panel.
Radical Democrats and Legacies of Combat: Strategies and Movements
Ranwa Yeha discussed the introduction of youth camps in 2013 as a way to have a 10 day retreat to share knowledge amongst the Egyptian youth. As she explained, it was about trying to find a language that they felt was lost and confronting the silence together. Many of themes discussed amongst the youth was fiction, reality, and representation while each participant brought their own ideas, provoking each other on various levels over different topics. I remember hearing Ranwa say that one of the participants didn’t want to go back to the city because she had been in a space where she could openly share her thoughts and emotions. The response to that was that they need to spread the information that was learned at these youth camps and spread it as much as they could because Arab is more about the language that they use, it is their culture. I thought this was an amazing speaker and I learned so much about the camps that are being developed to help the youth gain a political voice.
3:15-4:45PM- Bodies and Spaces: Moral Panics, Revolution, and Counterrevolution
Ahmad Awadallah’s discussion about being Queer in Tahrir was very interesting as I have not gained information about the revolution from a queer point of view. He spoke about the interactions between feminist and queer groups that led to the exchange of ideas of exclusion, representation, and identity. Additionally, the role of Western media was also discussed on how they portray their own picture that ultimately excludes many voices.
My favorite speaker of the panel was Yahia Saleh and his debate between queer and black. He was a powerful speaker and the most memorable sentence I remember was that “being black in itself is a political act”. This is not only applicable to the crisis in Egypt but everywhere else in the world. Yahia felt oppressed twice because he was colonized by the British and brought down by Egypt’s totalitarian regime at the same time. What did it mean to be black and queer? Identity would shape his life rather than the other way around because he was defined by culture and did not have the agency of having personal choices. He was on the “border” of being queer and black in the examples that he explained which included Egypt and Sweden.
The final speaker of the panel was Magda Boutrous, who spoke about women’ prison economic systems. She researched what kind of food and hygiene was provided but the security agencies were hesitant to give data and warned to not publicly say that they got their information from them. The research would take a year and it was heard to tell what would change politically. She seemed nervous about the project throughout the time she was involved in it and she ultimately walked away from it.
There were a variety of short films presented at the film festival which expressed many emotions of the January 25 revolution. The most provocative of the films for me was the 9 minute documentary that followed the events in Tahrir Square. It was difficult to watch and one of the most disheartening moments was when the army trucks were running over Egyptian citizens after they were perceived as helping them. Right after that, a man was helplessly shouting with his brother’s brains in his hands. This particular short film gave me the most insight on what the event looked like in Egypt since I am still learning about the events that unfolded.
The other short films gave me a different perspective that I still find some difficulty in analyzing, but it was also very interesting. Along with the 9 minute short film, the voicemails that were sent to “Speak to Tweet” (correct me if I’m wrong) were also very powerful in the way the people expressed their emotions about the revolution and their lost loved ones. It was such a different experience than simply tweeting something online because one could actually hear the distress, anger, and sadness of the Egyptian people. Some of the short films that were also interesting were Sakr’s remixes that included a variety of clips of activists speaking about the revolution. While I was watching, I was trying to connect the video clips and the music that tied it together in order to see what the effect would ultimately be. Perhaps in class, we can discuss more of Sakr’s video so we can get more insight and also for the rest of the short films.
Youth and Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt
Herrera’s article describes the wired generation that is growing in Egypt and all over the world, leading to the expansion of new technologies that allow for instant communication. As a result, the wired generation is learning new political and cultural information away from authority figures that have ultimately resulted in a young demographic straying away from past generational thinking. In Egypt, the internet and social media have allowed the Egyptian youth to connect with others as seen in Herrera’s study, which consisted of young people learning to communicate with others that led to a growing idea against Mubarak’s and the SCAF’s power. Access to technology and social media have encouraged the youth to read the news in Egypt, allowing them to realize the problems that are affecting them which have been primarily the authoritarian government viewing them as a non-important part of the population.
One thing I did not like about the article was when Herrea stated, “citizens of Egypt’s wired generation have exhibited serious limitations when it comes to strategizing for the long terms in ways that allow them to achieve their vision of a good society. It felt like it was undermining the achievements that the youth reached with these new technologies because they could not solve every problem that has faced them in Egypt. It takes time and they resolved a short term problem but there is still work to do. There are big systematic corrupt political issues that lie underneath the problems that the youth are trying to attack and it will take many years to stabilize. Like the Civil Right Movement in the U.S., it did not solve the long term issues that plagued the African-American population and still can be seen today, but it was a big first step towards equal rights and equal treatment at the time.
Project Idea: I do not the exact details of the video I want to create or help create, but I have two ideas. Either it can be a serious take on the issues that plague the Egyptian Youth by finding them and trying to interview through Skype as well as seeing if they have any refugee family members that live in California so that we can interview them. This shows two different worlds, on that is based in present Egypt and the situation that the youth are facing and one that is leaving Egypt and their perspective from thousands of miles away. Another idea is a comedic take on the way Western Media portrays Egypt. I forget which article it was, but one of them mentioned the way Western media ignored the central problems that the Egyptians faced and rather focused other issues. We can create a news segment that reveals the Westernization of the problems of the Middle East.
Distorting Digital Censorship
In Ali and El-Sharnouby’s article dealing with Egypt’s youth and their actions against an authoritarian state through social media, they begin by stating that the youth make up most of the population. With the rise of social media activism such as the “We are all Khaled Said”(WAAKS) movement, the youth population has succeeded to cause political change with the fall of Mubarak while also failing to address the very issues that plague the young demographic, in which WAAKS unfortunately did not. The WAAKS Facebook page that sparked outrage to end the Emergency Law, which stated that the police practically held unchecked power, attacked the governmental policies that affected acts of police brutality and it ultimately succeeded.
Where the WAAKS failed was how it did not discuss the socioeconomic and political problems that affected the youth during their daily lives. This can be seen in the life of Khaled Said, the martyr and icon for the WAAKS movement. The social media movement had recreated and repackaged Khaled Said from a young man that was surrounded by a poor socio-economic environment, drug abuse, and loneliness to a middle class savvy intellectual that could resonate with the youth population online and across Egypt. All of the personal issues that Khaled faced in his own life became lost through his transformation into martyr for a political movement that succeeded in bringing attention to the Emergency Law while also not going far enough and only remaining focused on the outcome of Khaled’s life. Although I think the image change of Khaled Said was unintentional, the movement did ultimately achieve its goal of bringing widespread attention to police torture and towards more actions against ending the Emergency Rule. It is really unfortunate that Khaled Said’s personal life was washed away during WAAKS time and as time passes by, I believe more people will realize his personal sacrifice that evolved into a political statement.
Social Media Networks and the Egyptian Revolution
Faris begins by explaining the importance of Social Media Networks such as Facebook and Twitter and how they are an incredibly powerful communications tool that can reach out to thousands of people in a matter of seconds. Social Media Networks allow activists to gather groups for rallies and protests without the need for money or expensive communications tools as Facebook and Twitter can be reached very easily through different mediums that are widely available. Additionally, it is also a powerful tool against authoritarian regimes. For example, the article states that social media was used to trick the Egyptian regime of planned protests and then they quickly relocated the protests last minute in order to avoid any violent or major conflicts with the government.
Another example that is shown in the article is through the Kefaya, which like the We Are All Khaled Said movement, protested against the end of the Emergency Rule. The Kefaya movement helped connect old protestor figures and new digital activists against the authoritarian regime. Anyone can start a digital activist movement and Faris states that even though the WAAKS Facebook page was started by a Google Executive in Dubai, these new technologies helped spark widespread political actions that probably would not have been possible if they did not exist. To me, this article looked at the positive effects that social media has and how it has transformed digital and street protests. What I found most interesting was when Faris stated that the January 25 protests could have taken place without the use of digital technologies, but that would have greatly changed the outcome. Communication mediums such as Twitter and Facebook that allow rapid conversation have no question elevated social and political involvement and uprisings against authoritarian regimes.