After seeing the award winning documentary Cairo Drive by director Sherief Elkatsha, I gained a new perspective on the revolutions of Egypt. The director’s ability to document the early stages of the insurgencies was extraordinary. Speaking with the director prior to viewing of the film, helped me gain a better understanding of what he was trying to accomplish. By focusing on the people and not the problem was an interesting perspective of a time were the people of Egypt were being framed as erratic and non-conforming. Prior to viewing the documentary, I had no idea that there was an aspect to the Arab Spring that was from a working-class point of view and one that was not biased against the different sides of the revolution. I thought that all working-class people of Egypt had some kind of personal vendetta with the government, but now I feel that those who were involved had reason.
The documentary shows a whole new side of Egypt I had never seen before. Simply seeing the amount of traffic that floods the Egyptian streets, was very interesting. There was much more to the fight than the politically stricken points of views portrayed by the media. Also, I liked how the director created a continued stream of consciousness that explored the different personalities of downtown Cairo taxi drivers in response to the elections. The director’s ability to grab the audience with his simplistic form of cinematography, using minimal camera effects was inspiring. Without knowing that the revolution was to occur, the director created a realistic way of viewing such a powerful time in Egypt’s history, without disturbing the ideologies of the movement. I think that in my future, I would like to create a similar documentary form, by applying simplicity to filming to create my own image of openly portrayed personalities in the wake of chaos.
The article Saudi Islamists and the Arab Spring by Stéphane Lacroix, addresses the influence of revolutionary protest and deadly repression. The article does an impressive job applying contextual knowledge to research. Lacroix’s writings discussing the Saudi Arabian royal family’s response to the Arab Spring is narratively written and well balanced on the development of the Arab revolutions’ Saudi Arabian interests. I think Lacroix made some really insightful representations of both sides. With Saudi Islamists playing a pivotal role in the new political generation of Saudi youth, the importance of the subject was received in respect to the prevailing religious and cultural experiences. I found the information presented by Lacroix, establishes a curvilinear between oppositions within reach of resolve. However, even-tempered as the opinions may seem the unification of ideas is further from the truth.
The current debate within Saudi society, is introducing a whole new perspective on the significance of the Sunni Islamist Sahwa movement in the Saudi Arabian political environment. The Sahwa, meaning the Islamic Awakening, is infusing the pervading social movements of the Saudi youths with strong social and political protests against the royal family. However, these demonstrations have been severely met with heavy resistance from religious detractors. The revolutionary stance by Saudi Islamists on the social activism of Saudi youth and the disparaging political oppositions against constitutional reformists have been strongly influenced by the development and use of social media in Saudi Arabia.
Through communication and technology, both Saudi youths and reformists were able to grow convincingly influential by politically challenging the traditional authority of Saudi government. Intellectually funding the legitimacy of their social activism, young reformists developed an extension of their political positions, through demonstrative writing and academic pursuit. Three separate petitions for reform, represented by the different activist groups, were effectively influential on the overwhelming religious authority among the Saudi public. However, by taking both an economically supportive stance in favor of funding Saudi society and then subsequently incarcerating the youth movement’s most influential activists, the Saudi government furtively discredited the accomplishments of Islamists further dividing Saudi society by minimizing the issues.
This week’s Film and Media Studies readings, Case study: Harassmap–Changing Attitudes to Harassment and Assault in Egypt by Abir Ghattas @girleffect and HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt by Chelsea Young, were definitely inspirational and very informative. The fact that women in male dominated societies like Egypt, are treated as if their rights don’t matter, and that what happens to them is not as important as what happens to men is repulsive. It is also horrifying to know that both men and women would allow a woman to be sexually harassed and/or assaulted without helping or at least attempting to stop the violence against them. However, with campaigns like HarassMap, Egyptian society has a voice to communally stand against gender violence towards women allowing them to report women’s rights violations and begin to break the horrible cycle of attacks on a woman’s ability to live without fear. As an American citizen, I do not see how sexual violence in any form is “cool” or tolerable. Yet, it is acceptable by Egyptian men to be consider violations against women, as a form of being masculine or even worse being Egyptian. With the efforts of volunteers and community leadership, the enduring women of Egypt now have the ability to report attacks on their inherent human rights as women and still feel safe without being shamed and their names and information being released.
In a country that once gave birth to one of the most influential and well known women in power, Cleopatra, it is astonishing that Egypt now has a problem with the rights and well-being of its women. HarassMap aims to help women achieve an equality of rights and to hold those who harass and violate women, accountable for their actions. The campaign/movement is also very influential in its efforts to support those who help and volunteer with communities that are safeguarded by a company serious about its stance on violence and aggression towards women. The idea that building social accountability and social responsibility creates social consequences against perpetrators is extraordinary. I think having a reporting system that collects data on women’s rights violations is exceptionally important and will continue to be an important tool for the Egyptian society to both fight against and stop the unjust violent and non-violent attacks on women. HarassMap is not only an empowering and innovative technology, it also gives both men and women the support and anonymity they need to stand in response against gender violence and harassment in oppressive regime controlled societies.
In response to the online article by Jessica Dheere, Arab Bloggers Meet to Discuss Free Speech, Reject ‘Journalist’ Label, her intuitive ideas on the state of blogging in the Middle East and North Africa, were inspiring and an exemplar of how influential the contributions of foreign based activists are to the empowerment of peripheral perspectives. In countries like Egypt, where bloggers are becoming the voice of a highly impulsive media revolution, social media activists are just beginning to temper the persecution of peaceful social movement and the suppression of internet technology. Dheere (2008), finds that within the open source environment of the internet, the influx of information exchange, has both realized political engagement and expanded the communicative capabilities of the Arab World. However, the imprisonment of bloggers is causing activists to consider journalistic expression as an outlet for their online identities (mediashift.org). While blogging is constructively a way for activists to inform revolutions and empower the work of their peers, their scholarly contributions to freedom of speech and human rights, are being criminalized by regimes that make internet activism illegal. Essentially by controlling the communicative capacity of Arab people, these commanding and authoritative regimes are functioning to subjugate the extent of influence blogging activist have over the resolve of their social revolutions and the meditation of their followers.
In the online article Bassel Khartabil: Fears for Man Who Brought Open Internet to the Arab World, by Zoe Corbyn the author expounds upon the Syrian Assad’s incarceration of Bassel Khartabil. As a human rights activist and social media developer, Khartabil’s open-source internet technology (Aiki Lab) has not only improved communication between regions of oppressive Middle Eastern cultures, but also advanced the capabilities of information exchange around the world. Corbyn (2015), sees the imprisonment of Khartabil in 2012, as an attempt by the Syrian government to strike the technologists, journalistic activists, and human rights specialists of the social media movements in Syria (theguardian.com). Her subjective position on Khartabil’s contributions as an innovative developer, who has been wrongfully accused and detained by a controlling regime of corrupt officials, is quite inquisitive and imploring for justice and the safe return of the activist. Khartabil’s development of new language to communicate openly with outside members of the free software community, has actively expanded the range of voices, in support of the Arab movements. While his modernism is quite obvious, it is Khartabil’s influence over the internet and communication technology that has caused him to be unjustly condemned by an unaccountable regime of injudicious oppressors.
The class reading, New Paradigms in Sovereignty in the Wake of the Arab Uprising by Paul Amar was exceptional. His writing truly exemplified the state of sovereignty issues in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. The social context of mobilization and the social movements that have been scholarly debated since the Egyptian insurgencies, are well addressed by Amar and fully established within the structure of his argument. His provocative views on the balance of aspires between the many groups of intellectuals and theorists, abound by their social and economic pursuits, provides vision for the future of citizenship and workable sovereignty at hand. While the shifting of authoritative power can encourage influential effects, appeasing the engendered, against those with deeper conceptual perspectives, could work to empower the oppositions towards intervention and socialization.
In relation to previous social and political successes, in the Arab world, the innovative and conceptual frameworks that oppose the extraneous injustices of autocratic control, can help to preserve the resolve of possible sovereignty for the Arab people. Conversely, the scholarly revolution that has arisen from the social insurgencies of Egypt and the protests against the failures of the Lebanese government, may also help to infuse the erudite perspectives of a more forgotten and understated educated youth, who have the knowledge and experience to better advocate against the potential reemergence of political and economic challenges. I think that it is important that the theoretical contributions of both the socially and educationally empowered elders and youths of the Arab countries, could work together to define what is possible for an intellectually driven modernization of Arab democracy, against the engrossed authoritarian regimes of the past. With the possibility of sustained social equality that is without violence and conflict between civilians and police, it is highly beneficial that solidarity and commonality be given emphasis in difference to the ambiguities of the contending perspectives on what is considered victory for the oppressed and persecuted peoples of the revolution.
Attending the Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival, on Sunday, Jan 24 at the Pollock Theater, was extraordinary and I was very impressed to be a part of such a professionally cultural and social experience. Intellectually pioneered from a creative perspective, the emotional events and experiences that liberated the Egyptian people could be felt throughout the film. Collectively, each of the film shorts respectfully depicted and honored both the Egyptian revolution and the Nation of Islam with gracious depictions of real life and lived experiences. The impressive quality and design of the film immediately caught my attention. I found myself responsively involved in the demonstrative events that followed the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the fall of Mubarak. The works of digital media activist and design artist, Vj Um Amel with her innovative and award winning cyborg style of contemporary video distortion, were both vividly expressive and socially powerful. While the short film, Women and Youth of the Arab Revolution (2011), by social media theorist Laila Shereen Sakr was respectfully representative of the youth movements in chaos, the sensitively provocative landscape of explicitly recorded live cinema noticeably gives voice to an oppressed Arab woman, un-marginalizing the female perspective and placing it at the forefront of the digital revolution.
In contrast to the short film festival, the After Tahrir Conference complemented the revolutionary film with a collection in-depth panel discussions. One of the panelists noted that revolution is an ongoing process, in responding to the question of how will Egypt sustain democracy in a chaotic post-revolt Egyptian society both politically and economically. He further stated that thoughts about the past affirm that things will return to the complexity of the present moment through lived experiences. Another panelist saw human agency as an important factor in the current revolution. She stated that outside players will factor more in the future. Finding that the many perspectives of what is considered victory for the revolution will have to be addressed to move beyond the current point. All in all, I was quite pleased with the completeness of the combined experiences and will continue to stay informed on the ground-breaking revolution of the Egyptian people.
This week’s class readings were especially interesting, and also inspirational. I found myself enthralled by the idea that Egyptians are learning citizenship, only recently, due to the influx of digital media. In the digital age, youth movements have allowed for the oppressed and brutalized people of Egypt to have a voice. Aside from their found ability to voice their opinions and bring oppressors to justice, Egyptian youth are also now finding that their online anonymity is important to them. Their digital capabilities to bring strength and solidarity to their people, without fear of retaliation, by those in power, has given the Egyptian youth a means of revolt. In the past, these youth movements were not possible. Egyptians have lived in fear of being brutalized or tortured by the police and those in power for centuries. However, Arab youths are now rising to the call for unity and citizenship and are becoming a force of awakened minds with endless potential.
While, the uprising of oppressed Arab youths, in Egypt, has become an important vehicle for Egyptian people to free themselves of the corrupt leaders, who highhandedly exploit their powers, it has also become a means for gender issues to be ultimately addressed. These issues, which are very repressive and subjective in manner, have burdened Arab women and forced them to endure deleterious treatment, separately from the oppression experienced by their people entirely. Tentatively, however, the regimes of corruption and violence still hold power in many of the Arab countries and may eventually recapture influence through politics and fear. Due to the lack of planning and/or strategy to contest a possible resurgence of power by Egyptian youth movements, the Arab youths could eventually be further oppressed and demonized by the regimes they collectively deposed. Yet, with social media and digital technology, Arabs will hopefully have continued access to online communities where their voices will remain to proliferate and increase the anonymity of Arabs against human injustices.
Proposal for final project:
For the final project, I would like build upon the importance of anonymity and free speech to the Arab people, and develop a better way to help Arabs voice their opinions, while staying completely anonymous within the digital community. The level of fear that Arab youths and women endure is deleterious to their abilities to continue to fight against the now and future regimes of power. If the opposition to those in power are not protected, the youth movements and digital citizenship will eventually lose the power they gained from revolting and return to an oppressed people. I think that with added securities and capabilities to improve user experience, without relying on true identity or identifying qualities, can be a tremendous tool to aid in the future of Arab human rights.
The class readings regarding social media revolutions and the distortion of digital citizenship, really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of Egyptian youth and the expansiveness of media technology. For instance, the way that the youths of Egypt used social medias like Facebook to both reach and inform people, who would never know of or truly understand the atrocities that young people face, in countries that lack human rights for its citizens, is amazing and would probably never occur without the expansive capabilities of the internet. However, I do feel that the youth movement that started “We Are All Khalid Said” (WAAKS) was wrong for their portrayal of Said, as a martyr, to support their politically driven agenda. From my understanding, Said was not an activist of any social movement to overturn Mubarak or to thwart the Emergency Law that plagued the youths of Egypt. He was just a youth, that’s it. A young man who lived in a country that treated its youths, as if they were a burden to society. In some way, WAAKS portrayal of Khaled Said, as a saint who could do no wrong, is similar to how the youths of Egypt are portrayed as a problem to society.
While the youth movements of Egypt gain attention for their means, the reality of what is truly epidemic, that is the marginalization of Egyptian society economically and the current disadvantaged state of both the middle- and lower-classes, are not being addressed. I think that in order for the youth movements to have a greater impact on not only the Egyptian society, but also on societies from around the world, it is important that these digitalized movements address the more rooted problems that have affected the country of Egyptian for centuries, not just recently. It seems as if those who are using digital media to gain attention and inform others, are simply using predominant problems that effect both themselves and a more specified grouping of society. However, my question is if the youth movements in Egypt were to expand their agendas to address the whole of society and the human rights brutalities they all face collectively, would those involved in such movements eventually lose their anonymity and become more susceptible to brutalities against their livelihood, both individually and socially? With this said, one could conclude that the reasoning behind the specificity of the digitalized youth movements, is to the extent to which they can begin to address the many problems that face their society, without feeling personally susceptible to the atrocities their people endure, due to the exploitation of power by the hierarchy.