As Islamists Prevail at Polls, Revolution's Social Change Dims

By Hiel, Betsy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 11, 2011 | Go to article overview
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As Islamists Prevail at Polls, Revolution's Social Change Dims


Hiel, Betsy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


CAIRO -- Khalid Abdalla believes "the story of Egypt's revolution has been falsified."

So the soft-spoken British-Egyptian actor -- known for his roles in the films "United 93," "The Kite Runner" and "The Green Zone" -- helped produce an Internet video about the blood spilled since January's uprising.

Short but powerful, "Martyrs of the Egyptian Revolution" is the work of Moisireen (Determination), a group of Egyptian journalists and filmmakers. It summarizes "the last nine months of violence and ... why people continue to fight," Abdalla said.

For Moisireen's members, as for many idealistic young Egyptians, the upheaval continues.

Once opposed to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, they now oppose the generals who replaced him and the Islamists who seem poised to take over next.

Some of the group's members were disheartened when Islamists won 65 percent of the vote in the first round of parliamentary elections.

The recent voting proved that the revolutionary zeal of Cairo's Tahrir Square protests "doesn't represent this country," said a popular political blogger who writes under the pen name Big Pharaoh.

"Tahrir is only a seed that might grow in the long run," he said, a "dream (that) brings out the best in us," which is why the military "wants to destroy us."

It also is the only force "that can stand against whatever dictator will come," he insisted.

Like Big Pharaoh, who cheekily added a fundamentalist beard to his Internet avatar after Islamists won last month's election, many street revolutionaries remain optimistic.

Moisireen's Abdalla believes "massive social change is possible in a very short period of time," but that time is limited.

Recalling that his father and grandfather once were political prisoners, he said Egyptians must quickly take control of their government or "it will not happen for 100 years."

'It won't be easy'

Nour Nour, 21, is an articulate, thoughtful musician. He also is the son of well-known political activists.

His mother, Gameela Ismail, long battled the Mubarak regime and narrowly lost in last month's voting. His father, Ayman Nour, led the reformist El Ghad party against Mubarak in a 2005 presidential race and was imprisoned for four years.

The younger Nour has fought in the streets, too; a shotgun pellet fired by police during a recent protest left a scar over his right eye.

Even so, he remains upbeat.

"When you live for four years waiting to hear that your father 'committed suicide' in prison, or of your mother being kidnapped by security agents, everything else seems easy," he said.

Mubarak's fall changed little, Nour said, so the Islamists' electoral success is not surprising. Yet the threat of continued political repression -- by Islamists or the military -- "will lead to a whole new revolt," he predicted.

He dismissed the elections, which continue on Dec. 14 and Jan. 3 as "shaky," and accused the ruling generals of "trying to protect themselves ... from being exposed" as Mubarak's "accomplices."

Today's revolutionaries "are still in the minority and still under threat of being arrested, tortured and killed," Nour said. "It won't be easy. It will be one battle after another."

But, he added, "we are doing this for our children."

In the lion's mouth

On a leafy street of British colonial-era buildings housing the military-appointed civilian cabinet, several hundred people are in their third week of protest.

Wooden coffins, draped in the red-black-white of Egypt's flag, symbolize slain demonstrators. Tents line the sidewalks under a defiant banner: "Down with Military Rule."

Soldiers and police watch from behind barbed wire. On the other side of the street, anti-military graffiti and murals cover a stone wall.

Ammar Abu Bakr, 30, an artist and teacher from the tourist city of Luxor, painted many of those murals.

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