When irony becomes a weapon for resistance
Dina Kabil - 13/12/2011
Irony is synonymous with resistance and a proof of accession to a better future.
“The people demand the former gas” – this ironic slogan is one of the dozens of popular claims that the Egyptians have been sharing on social networks since the 19th November events that have plunged various public squares in Egypt into bloodshed. The police have attacked the protestors, shooting them with real bullets resulting in the death of more than forty people and sprinkling them generously with tear gas, some of which are banned from use in the US during peacetime while other expired ones can cause blackouts and convulsions. The Egyptians have therefore imagined this paraphrased slogan “The people demand the fall of the regime” to demand the use of gas used during the revolution of the 25th January as it was less effective and less harmful.
The Ministry of the Interior’s snipers have blinded a number of young people among which, the twice-blinded activist Ahmed Harara who put a piece of metal on both eyes. One of them reads “28th January” and the other one “19th November”, the dates when they were sacrificed. The lieutenant who blinded dozens of youngsters has become one of the most famous personalities on Facebook: “Wanted dead of alive” with a bounty of 5000 pounds for any information that can help find him especially after a video incriminating him showed him in flagrante delicto. On the video, we see him with his comrades that compliment him for having hit his targets. Internet users share his photo and other information that can help find him in a sarcastic way on Facebook and twitter. One of them writes: “This is a sin! Why denounce him like this? Was it necessary to precise that his name is Mohamed Sabri Chenwi and that he lives at 17, Khalife Maamoun Street and that his mobile number is… No, but seriously, this is a sin.”
When on the 11th February, the former president was ousted and the military forces occupied public squares after announcing they would defend the nation, the people recalled the old image of the army, protector of the 1952 revolution, the one that achieved victory in October 1974. They did not know that they were exchanging civilian power for a tougher military regime. There was then another slogan “The people and the army, hand in hand”. The masks came off and when the Egyptians saw thousand of their own people wounded and lynched, they understood that there had been wrongs on both civil and military security. They then uttered their cry: “The army and the police, dirty hands”.
Facing the determination of the protestors demanding the instant transfer of power to the civilians and the return of the army to its barracks, Marshal Tantawi, president of the Supreme Council used the subterfuge offer of a referendum and announced that the Supreme Council and himself have accepted to resign if such was the people’s will. Scathing and vindictive comments on the Marshal increased on Facebook: “If this is a customary marriage, why divorce before a notary?”
The revolution is not complete yet and the more it lasts, the more the Egyptians will become patient and tenacious thanks to the old Egyptian humour rediscovered after long years of tyranny and repression.
A revolutionary can lose a limb in the battle, can become blind but quickly licks his wounds and goes back to irony. The Egyptians can transform the most critical moment in a joke, making fun of all the representatives of repression. This often includes a degree of self-mockery because humour is an act of resistance, of opposition. For the Egyptians, humour is one of the weapons that will help them continue the revolution not only because it’s pleasant and innate but also because it helps overcome the pain of the moment, the cruelty of reality. Irony is synonymous with resistance and a proof of accession to a better future.
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech
This article has been written in the framework of the «Babelmed Arab World» project financed by the Foundation for the Future, the René Seydoux Foundation and Solidarités Laïques.