Hurriya is Arabic for Freedom: Just Listen to Egypt Roar

“Just listen to that roar,” urged a CNN correspondent in Egypt, as thousands of Egyptian protesters charged, fists pumped, against hundreds of armed Egyptian security forces. What a roar it was, indeed. The protests have shown the world that Arabs are capable of much more than merely being pitiable statistics of unemployment and illiteracy, or powerless subjects of ‘moderate’ but ‘strong’ leaders (an acronym for friendly dictators).

The times are changing, and British MP George Galloway’s comment about the Arab lion roaring again seems truer by the day. The Egyptians have revolted in style, and their revolution will go down in history books with such adjectives as “great”, “noble” and “historic”.

Truth be told, Arabs have had their fair share of conjured ‘revolutions’. Arab regimes have always been generous in how they ascribed the loaded term to their military coups or other stunts designed to impress or intimidate the masses. Any modern history of the Arab world will reveal an abundant use of the term ‘thawra’ – revolution. The label has been useful, for those who dared criticize a regime, or demanded basic rights (such as food) could then be dubbed enemies of whatever make-belief revolution the men in power championed. Innumerable Arab political prisoners were designated ‘a’da’ al-thawra’ – enemies of the revolution – and they paid a heavy price for their ‘crimes’. In Egypt alone, rough estimates put the current number of political prisoners (from different ideological backgrounds) at 20,000. The figure must be much larger now that the new enemies of the revolution – i.e. most of the Egyptian population – have dared demand freedoms, rights, democracy, and the biggest taboo of all– social justice.

If there is any revolution deserving of the name, it is this one. Thanks to Egypt, people the world over have been forced to re-think their previous idea of “Arabs”. Even many of us who insisted that the future of the Middle East could only be decided by the people themselves had eventually started to lose hope. We were told our words were redundant, sentimental, and, at best, an opportunity for poetic reflection, but not realpolitik. Now we know we have been right all along. Egypt is the clearest possible manifestation of the truth of people shaping their own history – not just in the Middle East, but anywhere.

The spontaneous popular revolution in Egypt was a most befitting uplift to the collective humiliation that Arabs have felt for so many years, but even more acutely since the US invasion and utter violation of Iraq.

“It became almost a burden being an Arab”, a caller told Al Jazeera. Looking “Middle Eastern” became sufficient grounds for suspicion in international airports. It was not considered entirely racist to ask such questions as “Are Arabs capable of achieving democracy?” In fact, heated media discussions emanated from the type of questions that pondered what Arabs were – or, rather, were not capable of achieving. Every war against the Arabs was done in the name of “bringing” something to people who seemed impeded by their own collective failures. In one of my first political science classes at the University of Washington years ago, the professor told us that we would be “examining the Middle East, which consists of strong governments and weak peoples.” With the exception of Israel, of course.

The media has long repeated the mantra that Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy. Combined with serious doubts regarding the Arabs’ readiness for democracy, the conclusion offered is: Israel carries similar values to the US, the West, the First World, the civilized hemisphere, and the Arabs epitomize all the ailments of the world. It matters little that Arab regimes were made ‘powerful’ by the backing of their western benefactors, or that oppression – in the name of fighting the enemies of peace and progress – was urged, financed and orchestrated with western interests in mind. The fact that the bullets and canister tear gas that killed and wounded numerous Egyptians had the following words inscribed on it in Arabic: ‘suni’a fi al-wilayat al-mutahida al-amrikyia’ – Made in the United States – was also deemed entirely irrelevant to any discussion on how and why Egyptians were being suppressed or why the Arab Lion must never find its roar.

“The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise,” wrote Uri Avnery. The CIA was too, although US lawmakers are trying to determine “whether the CIA and other spy agencies failed to give President Obama adequate warning of the unfolding crisis in Egypt” (as reported by Greg Miller in the Washington Post, February 4). Senator Dianne Feinstein who heads the Intelligence Committee, accused the intelligence community of ‘lacking” performance. The CIA should have monitored Facebook more closely, she suggested.

But there can be no telling when a nation revolts. Most of the chanting multitudes have no Facebook accounts. They don’t tweet either. In Tahrir Square, a man with a moustache, dark skin and handsome features carried a cardboard sign on which he had written, rather hurriedly: “I want to eat. My monthly salary is 267 (Egyptian) pounds – approx $45 – and I have four children.”

Others want to breathe the air of freedom. Others still want justice. Dignity. Equality. Democracy. Hope. How can such values be measured, or safeguarded against?

There is a very popular word in Egypt – al-Sabr. It means patience. But no one could predict when the patience would run out. Arab and Egyptian intellectuals didn’t see it coming, and even the country’s opposition parties were caught by surprise. Everyone tried to catch up as millions -of long-oppressed Egyptians erupted in astounding unison: hurriya, hurriya, adalah igtimayyia – freedom, freedom, social justice.

Just when we were told that a religious strife was about to engulf Egypt, and that the people were subdued to the point that there was no hope, millions of brave Egyptians declared a revolution that brought Muslims and Christians together. The courage and the bravery they displayed is enough to restore our faith in the world – in the human race, and in ourselves. Those who are still wondering if Arabs are capable of this or that need not ponder anymore. Just listen to them roar, and you will find the answer.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). Read other articles by Ramzy, or visit Ramzy's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Ismail Zayid said on February 11th, 2011 at 12:36pm #

    The Egyptian people have now truly spoken, in this revolution for their Hurriya and democracy, ridding themselves of the autocracy that Mubarak sustained for three decades, supported by the US and its allies. The spirit of this great popular revolution is spreading across the Middle East, from Tunisia, to Egypt, and throughout the Middle East. This true democracy, stipulating equality for all citizens, will thrash the mantra that is called Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

    This Egyptian revolution will bring pride to the Egyptian people and re-kindle their great history and contribution to world civilisation, thousands of years ago.

  2. mary said on February 11th, 2011 at 2:20pm #

    Wonderful wonderful news. Between the time I left home this afternoon and arriving at a meeting at the local university’s Islamic Society which was to raise the awareness of the terrible situation in Palestine, the news had broken. Joy and euphoria were there in massive amounts. The students see great hope for change in their own countries. Good young intelligent people.

    I get home and see that Cameron has been spouting homilies from the steps of N0 10, saying what should happen now and that Ashton of the EU will be visiting Egypt to see how the EU can help. How dare they stick their noses in with their history of supporting the terror. They should keep their mouths firmly shut.

  3. mary said on February 11th, 2011 at 2:45pm #

    Good move Switzerland!

    The Swiss cabinet has decided to block any funds that may be held in Switzerland by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who stepped down on Friday.

    It has published a decree asking Swiss banks to search for any assets belonging to Mubarak and his family and to freeze them, a government spokesman said.

    A statement on the website of the foreign ministry said it was also forbidden to sell any property, such as real estate, belonging to these people.

    “The government wishes to take all possible measures to avoid any danger of the misappropriation of state assets,” it explains.


    I think back to the time when we protested (peacefully) outside the Egyptian Embassy in London when they had agreed to install the iron wall underground at Rafah to stop the tunnelling. They would not answer our phones calls or e-mails and would not even respond to the door bell being rung. The cowardly stooges for Israel just peeped out at us from behind the window blinds.

    Many friends, some medics, have been held at that border by the Egyptians, sometimes for weeks.

    I hear Obama has been drinking from the hypocrisy fountain too.

  4. mary said on February 13th, 2011 at 4:03am #

    From a friend – ——————————————————————————–

    ‘My Egyptian friend H*** just wrote: ”Dear tourists, sorry for the temporary shutdown. Egypt was under necessary maintenance. We are happy to welcome you back to a much better Egypt now. You will be impressed.” ‘

    “Obama called him a ‘peacemaker’, Blair called him a ‘force for good”, Egypt called him a taxi.”

    PS Bliar has just been on Marr’s TV programme. Marr is the one who carried Bliar’s propaganda and lies for the Iraq war to millions of BBC viewers. Bliar said this morning that the change to a new Egyptian government had to ‘be carefully managed’. By whom he omitted to say.

    He declined to comment on whether Mubarak’s assets in the UK should be frozen and whether he should be prosecuted. When I say ‘declined’ he did his usual shifty grin and his right eye glinted (which is a sign that he is lying) when he said he didn’t know anything about Mubarak’s fortune.

  5. AaronG said on February 13th, 2011 at 8:54pm #

    I’m gonna spoil the party with some straighforward logical thinking………

    In November 2008 it seemed the western world had a collective wet dream with a certain Mr Obama, which was probably understandable after sharing the house with Bush for 8 years. People forgot that INDIVIDUALS don’t create hardship or good conditions – SYSTEMS of rulership do.

    Fast forward to Feb 2011 and my deja vu sensor is going off. Now, let me preface my next comments by this – I certainly have NOT been risking my life for the last 18 days/nights protesting against these criminals in power, both the stooge at the top and his paymasters. My last 18 dinners have been hot, hearty and plentiful and have been eaten slowly and at peace. These protestors deserve nothing but praise.

    However, using my comments above about individuals versus systems, what has actually transpired in Egypt?

    Has the individual dictator been removed? Yes

    Has the oppressive system been removed? No

    Who is now in charge? The army!!!!!!!!

    What are armies good at doing? You answer that one.

    Is that a concern? Yes. 3 weeks ago Mubarak was the dictator, who was in control of the army, who controlled the people. Today the head has been lopped off and the middle man is now in power. Where’s the change?

    Is there a promise of “change”? Yes, and this is my main point. In my eyes, the only victory gained for 18 days/nights of sacrifice by brave men, women and children is only the “promise of change”. Anyone remember the last time some stooge in power promised “change we can beLIEve in??”

    It’s my opinion that getting the people off the streets was priority number 1 – this was bad for business. The powerful have actually won this battle because most of the people are off the streets. Yes, one of their mates, an 82 year old dictator, has lost his job. So what? It’s a tough job running the Middle East and there’s gonna be some collateral damage along the way (just ask Saddam). They now have 7 months to “plan” the elections – undermining, killing and smearing “non-preferred” candidates and training/funding “preferred” candidates. The paymaster will have learnt from the Hamas debacle and will be thinking “Never Again!”

  6. AaronG said on February 13th, 2011 at 8:56pm #

    Mary, after your third use of the word “Bliar” I finally got it. Very funny.

  7. mary said on February 14th, 2011 at 1:11am #

    Will the Egyptians inspire the Palestinians to rise up against those in the PA who betray them and against the occupiers?

    It’s time for those who hold the keys to their homes to rise up
    by Dr Salman Abu Sitta – MEMO-Middle East Monitor – 13 February 2011

    The issue is not that documents giving details of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were leaked by Al Jazeera and the Guardian. We all had a general picture of the positions taken by Palestinian negotiators in front of Israel. Such positions were already subjected to strong criticism for being excessive, especially the concessions made over the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Rejection of these concessions has been emphasised in conferences, statements and demonstrations over a number of years.

    However, the leaks revealed the true picture of the submissiveness of the negotiators, how low they could get, and the shameless way in which they begged the Israelis for little more than a mini-state with citizens gathered in isolated cages and Palestinian refugees abandoned along the “road map to peace”. For this, the negotiators were rewarded with great jobs and villas in Abu Dis or Jericho; in the meantime, the question of Palestine, including Jerusalem and the right of return, could go to hell.


    The article that follows says……….

    Don’t Break Her Heart on Valentine’s Day ……Israel’s blood diamond trade is used to finance its illegal occupation of Palestine, war crimes and genocide.


  8. mary said on February 14th, 2011 at 2:36am #

    More following Errekat….. btw Abbas is not President as he is referred to here. His mandate has expired.

    Source tells Reuters ‘massive change’ expected in the composition of President Abbas’ government; negotiations to start with Palestinian factions ‘immediately.’

    By Reuters

    February 13, 2011 “Haaretz” — The Palestinian cabinet will tender resignations on Monday after which Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will select new ministers at the request of President Mahmoud Abbas, political sources said.

    The shake-up, disclosed to Reuters on Sunday, was long demanded by Fayyad and some in Abbas’s Fatah faction. It follows the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to a popular revolt that has set off reform calls throughout the Arab world.

    “There will be massive change in the composition of the government,” one political source said of the planned mass-resignations in Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which was formed under 1993 interim peace deals with Israel. Ctd….