When I was released from prison, I was congratulated over and over again by friends and family for making it out in good health. Perhaps their relief was due to an assumption that prison necessarily destroys your health. Or maybe they were just attempting to grasp at any upside to the situation. Either way, I don’t mind treating coming out of prison with minimal physical damage as an accomplishment worthy of congratulation. It wasn’t easy and required an obsessive degree of attention, cost, effort, and anxiety.
Sitting at a family gathering one day, I asked, half-jokingly, which country people thought would be the most suitable place for me to go and rebuild my life, once the authorities have fully released me. I was immediately told to avoid islands, their survival being no longer guaranteed. I wasn’t sure whether this pessimism was about the distance still remaining between me and my freedom, or the imminence of multiple environmental catastrophes.
Practically, my ability to keep up with the news has been disrupted by my probation: my half-days are spent breathlessly trying to rebuild my social, familial and professional life.
Psychologically, the idea of being an inactive observer of the revolutions in Algeria and Sudan, surrounded by the paralyzed Egyptian opposition, is not easy.
No one can say Uber doesn’t provide an excellent service. We’re not just talking about vehicle models, or the cheery manner of their drivers, or conveniences like air conditioning; Uber’s strengths lie in the fact they’ve addressed serious issues such as passenger safety and sexual harassment prevention. But the hegemony Uber has achieved is not solely a function of quality. It relies, in reality, on structural factors in the market in which Uber operates.
Theorists of the fourth industrial revolution are fond of making dubious comparisons with the first industrial revolution. They also like to claim that new technologies (such as the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, deep learning, 3D printing and so on) operate primarily in the informational sphere, rather than the material. Characterizing this technological revolution as geographically neutral minimizes any implications of violence — in stark contrast to the industrial revolution, which provoked fierce competition over raw materials, energy sources and global trade routes.
Britain, dawn of the industrial revolution: angry crowds of weavers and skilled craftspeople storm the new mills and set about smashing the steam-powered machinery and mechanised looms that threaten their livelihood and stability. For a brief moment, society keenly follows the progress of the Luddite movement (as it is known, supposedly in reference to one of its leaders), until it is decisively defeated and reduced to the stuff of proverb.
My generation came of age at the time of the second intifada. Our first real steps in the world coincided with bombs falling on Baghdad. All around us, fellow Arabs were shouting, “Not at the expense of our dignity!” and allies in the north were chanting, “Not in our name!” while comrades in the south were singing, “Another world is possible.” We understood that the world as we had inherited it was coming to an end, and we also understood that we were not alone.
Five years ago on what would turn out to be the last normal day of my life I sat down at my desk in a small IT firm in Pretoria and pretended to be working while I was actually writing a short article for the Guardian. It was about why the Egyptian revolution should be taken seriously. Or at least that’s how I remember it. I can’t get back to that article now; it’s been more than a year since I had access to the internet. In Egypt, prisoners aren’t even allowed a phone call. But I shouldn’t complain: at least I get to see my family two or three times a month.
This conversation was part of issue 1 of Status Hour, an emerging collaborative monthly audio journal from the Arab World and beyond.
It was with joy that I received the news of my nomination for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the same joy any act of solidarity inspires.
At 4 pm today, I celebrated with my colleagues my last meal in prison.
I have decided — when I saw my father fighting against death locked in a body that was no longer subject to his will — I decided to start an open hunger strike until I achieve my freedom. The well-being of my body is of no value while it remains subject to an unjust power in an open-ended imprisonment not controlled by the law or any concept of justice.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Joseph Stalin’s policies resulted in in a terrible famine in large areas of the Soviet Union, and particularly Ukraine. Millions of people died, most of them, strangely enough, farmers responsible for growing wheat.
The state insists that its prisons are free of political detainees. But everyone knows that the prisons are full of dissidents held “temporarily” against a background of investigations all related to political conflict.
In prison I try to make up for my inactivity, my helplessness, by reading. Maybe I can get information or wisdom that would be of use to those who visit me, or could help me the day I’m released.
I know that despair is treason
but the revolutionary in my country
— even if he’s a sinless prophet —
when he sees the tyrant empowered
by the oppressed’s command
amid the rejoicing of the poor
will lose his faith.
They say that despair is treason. I was never comfortable with the slogan. I understand its motivation, but I’m worried that the word “treason” is used lightly. The denial of a natural feeling scares me.
To Mona & Sanaa:
للنسخة العربي اضغط هنا
A Charge I don’t Deny and an Honour I Don’t Claim
For the second time the Office of the Public Prosecutor sends out an arrest warrant through the media – instead of my address – well-known known to them because of their history of fabricating charges against me in the eras of Mubarak, Tantawi and Morsi.
I never expected to repeat the experience of five years ago: after a revolution that deposed the tyrant, I go back to his jails?
The memories come back to me, all the details of imprisonment; the skills of sleeping on the floor, nine men in a six-by-12-foot (two-by-four-metre) cell, the songs of prison, the conversations. But I absolutely can't remember how I used to keep my glasses safe while I slept.
Two days spent at the morgue. Two days amid the corpses of those struggling to preserve their martyr status, fighting against former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in its entirety — not just against Mubarak’s military, which ran them over; not just against Mubarak’s media machine, which denied them the honor of martyrdom and turned them into mere killers; and not just against Mubarak’s judicial system, which denied them their rights.