Season of the Living Dead

(Published in Alshorouk, 3/1/2014, the article won Samir Kassir Award for fredom of press by European union)

Ramsis clashes

(1)

Deliver us from evil

Save us from our ordeal

The battle — this time — is not easy

The battle is cloudy

Sieves upon sieves

And the general is on our side

The battle is horrifying

(2)

The theme that always scares me the most in horror movies is the living dead, the zombies. Especially when the zombie is a friend of yours. The protagonist is surrounded by the zombies; back to back, he fights them alongside his friend. The friend disappears for a brief period of time, and then reappears looking at something in some other direction. Our protagonist rushes out to him happily and tries to grab his hand. But there is something wrong. His friend’s hand is colder than it should be. The friend turns to him, and when our protagonist sees the new deformed face, he screams. His friend became a zombie!

He runs, his friend stumbling behind him. There are a few options now: either he kills his friend or his friend kills him or turns him into a zombie, which happens most of the time anyway.

Horror movies are not exactly fictional.

(3)

Save us from this ordeal

When the ghouls screamed

When their fangs pierced each other’s flesh

We realized the smell of blood in our voices

And the fangs in our mouths

We realized that the ghouls were us

(4)

The encounter at Al-Ittihadiya was the perfect zombie movie.

I learned that the Muslim Brotherhood broke up the opponents’ sit-in, beat them up and brought down their tents amidst the “Allahu Akbar!” and “Nesto, you filth!” shouts. I also learned that an opposing march would assemble at the Saray Al-Qobba metro station.

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, but I knew that I just wanted to go. The march started moving, shouting and cursing. When we passed by a tree, they pounced upon it so everyone could tear up a branch to use as a weapon against the Brotherhood. The whole tree was destroyed.

Near Roxi Square we see two busses that belong to the Brotherhood (the license plates showed that they came from Delta governorates), and immediately both of them are showered with stones. A terrified driver jumps out of one bus and runs, but suddenly two tear gas bombs fall among us and we hear the sounds of a heavy shooting. Everybody runs, and the remaining driver flees with his bus. Everybody gathers together again, now angrier and more thirsty for bloodshed than before. The blood of our enemies is not human blood; it is the blood of some “sheep,” who are not just sheep, but sheep who started attacking us as well.

We arrive at the area where the clashes are taking place, and I freeze in my place, not participating in the fight, not even shouting.

Rains of stones are pouring down over the heads of both parties. There are Molotov cocktails, mortar bombs, cartouche bullets and tear gas bombs I have no idea from whence they came.

I watch as some guys from our side carry one of their friends back from the front line in a hurry, his top half is naked, his chest is full of cartouche bullets and blood. Certainly, there is someone just like him on the other side right now.

One weak earlier I had seen Martyr Al-Husseiny Abu Deif for the last time. He said that the current feud with the Muslim Brotherhood should not make us forget our original feud with the Ministry of the Interior, for both of them are enemies of the Revolution. Al-Husseiny preferred to die than turn into a zombie.

What happened at Al-Ittihadiya also means to me the horror of the story of a relative of mine, who was tortured at the hands of the Brotherhood. They had captured him in a street near their headquarters when he was at the forepart of an opposing march. They beat him up and electrocuted him so he would spill out how much Hamdin Sabahy paid to him!

The guy’s family resorted to another relative, one of the Brotherhood leaders, who went to rescue the guy, but the fiery capturers refused to give him up at first. “This is a hired goon who confessed his crime, so why would you want to save him?” The leader took the guy to his car, so they took objection to that by beating him again with their hands.

That story terrified me to the core, because everything was going out of control, even with the leaders. You filled up their heads with the idea that all opponents are hired thugs from the old regime. You gave them no alternative, so what do you expect?

What terrified me also was that some of the capturers were people I knew — honest, friendly, quiet people.

A long time ago, years before the Revolution, I wrote about the Brotherhood in the hope that they would rule, “Could the tortured become the torturer? Could the jailed become the jailer?” I could not imagine that the answer would be yes, that the Brotherhood would torture people at Al-Qaed Ibrahim and Al-Mokattam and elsewhere. I could not imagine that the opponents on the other side would also allow spilling the blood of “the sheep!”

In a horror scene, Islamist and Liberal patriots turn into zombies who like nothing more than the blood of the others.

(5)

Save us from this ordeal

And from hallucinating

From the great chant

From marching and saluting

The masses are singing

In unified screams that kills the sound of fear

If one refuses to shout

They say he sowed discord among us

He’s a traitor to the unity

He’s not one of us

(6)

The conference at the Cairo Stadium was also full of horrors, just like those who organized it wanted. Of course Syria has nothing to do with Sheikh Abdul Maqsoud’s prayer, when he said, “I beseech God that He maketh June 30th a day of pride for Islam and Muslims, that He would subordinate the infidels and hypocrites. God, Revealer of the Quran, Mover of clouds, Defeater of the bands, I beseech Thee to defeat them and grant us victory.”

In a solemn voice they chant, “At your service we are, Islam of heroes, to sacrifice ourselves for our sanctuary… At your service we are, so make your stairs of glory from our skulls.

Their skulls or ours?

I recall the childish image I used to have while singing that in my Islamic school. I would wonder, are skull stairs similar to building stairs or the ladders electricians use?

“The soldiers of God are marching again from my mosque.” They are the soldiers of God, so who do we think we are to stand in their way?

I know very well the feeling of intoxication one gets when those words are chanted by the masses. Throughout history, there was not one Fascist movement that relied upon charging the feelings of the people that did not have its sublime chants. It is no wonder that the Islam of Heroes chant is but another version of a song with Nasserite origins, At Your Service We Are, Flag of Arabism. Islamist and Nationalist fanatics agree that there is some high value out there that is worth stepping over human skulls for.

A former inmate at the time of Mubarak had told a story about the soldiers of the Central Security Police, who would sing every morning, “We’ll show them, we’ll destroy them… We’ll teach them how to love their country… Where are you, you cowards? The monsters of security are everywhere!

The masses sing, “Meet them in battle we will… together defeat them we shall,” and I find myself thinking that the we here does not only mean the Muslim Brotherhood, for Eng. Khairat Al-Shater’s project to found a main Islamic trend added to these masses the members of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya, in addition to the members of Jihadist Salafists and Kinetic Salafists, all of whom are easier to spiral out of control than the Brotherhood. The them here means each and everyone else who does not support them, including me and my friends. Meet us in battle they will!

The Masr 25 TV channel shows someone who says enthusiastically that the people we are watching now are the bearers of Islam in Egypt, just like the Sahaba were in the earlier years of Islam. God will repel the cunning of the enemies of Islam.

I remember the fear in my voice when I called a friend and said, “Watch Masr 25 and see what’s happening. I’m really scared of them!”

My friend Mohamed Naeem told me that he watched the conference at a café, where one of the customers said, “How come are they singing a song no one knows?” He was afraid of the unknown.

Later on, someone in a leadership position in the press said to me, “If nothing happens on June 30th, we’re all screwed.” He was afraid of the known.

The Muslim Brotherhood never comprehended that the scene they thought would terrify people into staying at home was in fact so terrifying it forced them out!

(7)

We stood like dead bodies

Watching the massacre

Blood all over our chests

Are we winning, or…

Just standing in line, waiting to be butchered?

Is it a question of disgrace?

Or is silence more disgraceful?

Should we go collect the spoils

Or count the dead?

(8)

The clashes in Ramses were the worst horror movie I witnessed in my whole life.

I had some friends inside the besieged mosque, who opposed the Brotherhood and never participated in the Rab’a sit-in, but participated in the Friday protests to expostulate the massacre in Rab’a. I also learned that the sister of a friend of mine was inside, too.

I saw the huge masses of the area’s residents, including women and children, who meant to enter the mosque to stamp out everyone inside. Hate energy you cannot believe, masses fully ready and willing to tear them apart.

The security forces failed twice to rescue the yielding surrounded, because the angry masses were attacking with massive violence!

Some of the people inside were taken into a disposal vehicle, but a group of the angry masses surrounded it and started shouting in zeal and happiness, “Who are the Muslim Brotherhood? You are (…)” while pounding on the iron walls of the car like lunatics.

The idea that those were not thugs or henchmen of the old regime was killing me. They are people!

These are the people I always shouted in their name that they “want.” And when the people want something, destiny must obey.

At that moment I did not see people who wanted to live; I saw people who wanted death. Death for the Muslim Brotherhood, for the rebellious brats, for the faithless human rights activists, for anyone who does not go with their flow.

After getting all the besieged out, one officer greeted the people by firing a shot in the air, and they shouted, “Allahu Akbar! Bless your hand!”

In the blink of an eye the wave spread among the people: officers on top of armored vehicles firing shots in the air, cheering over the great victory; people shouting and dancing.

Afterwards on the metro, I hear a young boy, who could not be more than 15, telling his friend about the injury in his head. He said a soldier had hit him after he managed to hit one of the Brotherhood “whores” in the stomach as she came out of the mosque. He retreated and started cussing at her and giving her the finger. His friend laughed. I was scared.

A typical young man with nothing distinguished about him. You could see him anywhere and not realize that he is a zombie.

That night I embraced my wife. “I’m afraid.” I said.

(9)

Save us now

Get us out of this ordeal

The battle is horrifying

(10)

In a taxi I hear on the radio the government announcement that declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. I feel the fear, my chest is hollow, everything is getting colder and colder.

The tone in Hossam Eissa’s voice has changed completely; his voice is now full of hatred and devastation.

Brotherhood supporters would say that the reason is that he is a Secularist, but I know it is not that simple!

That man spent his life as a true patriot. He had gone through a long struggle with Mubarak’s state with his companions at the March 9 Movement for Universities Independence. He cried out against Mubarak since 2005 with the Kefaya Movement. He almost chocked to death on Angry Friday because of the tear gas bombs the security forces threw at the people.

In 2007, when the Brotherhood students organized a parallel election for the “Free Union,” in response to the rigged student election, they were attacked by thugs. That was when Dr. Hossam Eissa opened his office to them and placed the election boxes under his own protection.

When did the new Hossam Eissa appear to defend the Ministry of the Interior’s outrages? When did all these companions turn into zombies?

Maybe it happened in a moment of fear. Maybe it happened in a moment of authority.

After Dr. Hossam Eissa finished the announcement, came the voice of an announcer (called Ramy probably) to congratulate the people on the happy news. Joyfully he said, “Now, if someone said to me that they have a friend from the Brotherhood who never hurt anybody, I say to them: don’t let appearances deceive you! If they are indeed good, let them wash their hands of those people. If not, they shouldn’t cry when legal actions are taking against them.”

Ramy’s cheerful voice, the voice of someone explaining the rules of a game, scared me even more then it would have had he been speaking seriously. His voice was even scarier than Hossam Eissa’s,

(11)

So…

Is the road unblocked now?

Or is it ruined?

Did the martyrs have their vengeance?

Or did they cry from pain?

Is the glory for the sniper?

Or for the one whose his head was split in half?

Should we build a wall of pride?

Or a fountain of blood?

Does tyranny ever lead to a happy place?

Does justice ever start with tyranny?

(12)

Thus spoke Ola Shohba, a victim of the Brotherhood torture at Al-Ittihadiya and a human being who survived the season of the walking dead, even though she had all the reasons to turn:

You too think the police are infallible so long as they encroach upon your enemies, the Brotherhood.

You too think that I should give up my rights for a selective justice because you support a different tyrant.

You too think that a complete justice would hurt you, so you resist it.

You too think you are safe, while there are free criminals bearing official ranks and weapons out there.

You too think that they are only targeting your enemies, so it doesn’t matter if a thousand of them are killed!

You too justify prosecuting civilians at military courts for the sake of the state’s dignity and holding back your enemies.

My friends and I defended the rights and freedom of our antagonists, and we resisted individuals on our side when they assaulted the bodies, rights and freedom of other people we disagree with or even incriminate.

My friends and I said that what happened at Al-Ittihadiya was a crime.

My friends and I said that what happened in Rab’a was a massacre.

And the excuses we heard about Al-Ittihadiya are the same we are hearing now about Rab’a!

(13)

Ordinary news: a student was arrested for using a ruler that had Rab’a’s slogan, a doctor and his wife were arrested for giving food to the students at the Al-Azhar University dormitory, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested when he went to the police station to report the burning of his pharmacy!

Someone who lost a father or a friend to prison or murder, someone whose house or source of livelihood was burned to the ground while his enemies are applauding cheerfully — they would never try learning to play the lute or paint the sidewalks with bright colors; they would prefer another sport: throwing Molotov cocktails.

On the other side, there is the law-abiding citizen, who spent many hours afraid of the black terrorism and the universal conspiracy against Egypt. He would not be happy when an opposing demonstration passes below his balcony, would he?

Fear does not drive people into hiding, it does not make them passive. Fear makes people crazily hysterical, out of everybody’s control, including their own. That includes the authority that seeks to rule a country of scared people. There is a famous story about a miner who chopped off his own leg with an ax when a snake crawled over it.

Fear turns people into zombies.

An authority that tries to use fear as a weapon in order to rule would be successful at first, but “fear has never built a country.”

(14)

Get us out of this ordeal unharmed

Shoulders and feet intact

Get us out of it clean

With no blood on our hands

Get us out of it by a thousand

Or a hundred

Or one

In the turmoil of a battle

Forget The question of war

And ask the question of weak, says:

It’s not defeat that scares me

It’s victory.