The Arab Spring with Ahdaf Soueif
Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif discusses the Middle East Revolutions with
Guardian journalist, Bidisha
Wednesday 30th May 2012
Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre
Cut to scene:
A man in an Internet cafe kneels in a corner, still, waiting solemnly,
absorbed in thought. Suddenly he rises, a voice emanates from him, a call
of "ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam" (roughly translates: we the
people want to bring down the regime), he is raised upon the shoulders
of a group of around twenty people as they begin to march through town,
the effect is exponential and echoes globally.
This eyewitness account of the events leading to up to what would later
be called the ‘Arab Spring’ by Western Media, from acclaimed
author Ahdaf Soueif, left the audience with bated breath. The levels of
corruption by Mubarak were endemic, in every public place, like shops
and bars, there was a picture of the 'Happy Dictator' and a sour joke
they used to have described a tourist who would come to town and say 'hey
who's that guy in the pictures I see everywhere', to which the reply would
be 'oh he's like our silent business partner, he takes the money and does
no work'. The population felt helpless and open dissidence could cost
them their lives at least.
The system placed many restrictions on quality of life and upon life
itself, with other formidable levels of treachery. There were embargoes
on goods, curfews on mass populace, severe discrimination and inequality.
As a daily occurrence, crimes of both amoral and illegal standards were
the norm, innocent lives taken by force, the life of Khaled Said and the
Dictatorship's direct involvement in his murder, cover-up attempts, lies
and careless attitude to the suffering felt, Adhaf summed this all up
with "we were all Khaled Said". An image of Khaled became a
signal for change, adding to the groundswell and cause for revolution.
Ahdaf explained in detail many other aspects of her life and about having
a dual perspective stemming from being a part-time resident of London
to having an "outsiders view" of Cairo. One sign of corruption
was the 'plastic Palm Trees lining roads to the airport while at least
fifty-thousand street-children suffer'.
A Q&A session led by Bidisha from the Guardian
followed, in which the audience eagerly participated. She reflected upon
her city and home, and how love and being a woman connects to all this.
One poignant question which rounded off the evening was "do you,
Ahdaf, think this revolution will result in a healthier future for your
home" to which she replied, “Watch this space”.