A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Showing posts with label revolutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revolutions. Show all posts

Friday, January 24, 2014

On a Bloody Morning: January 25, 1952 (Police Day), 2011 (the Revolution) and Now

The latest car bombing in Cairo, at Police Headquarters in Cairo's Bab al-Khalq neighborhood,  which augurs no good, reminds us that Saturday is January 25. It is Egyptian Police Day, the 62nd anniversary of a landmark day in Egypt's struggle against the British, and also the third anniversary of the beginnings of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 (inspired by the Tunisian Revolution, Egyptian protesters deliberately chose Police Day to launch their protests).

The original Police Day celebrated the Police confrontation, not with Egyptian protesters, but with the British. As I noted in last year's post:
The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 had provided for British withdrawal of its troops from Egypt, except for bases in the Suez Canal Zone for the protection of the Canal, but with the outbreak of the Second World War, Britain had invoked a clause allowing it to reoccupy Egypt. After the war British troops did withdraw to the Canal Zone, but kept force levels well above the 10,000 troops allowed in the treaty. After the Wafd Party, Britain's traditional nationalist rivals, won the 1950 elections, the Egyptian government in October 1951 unilaterally abrogated the treaty and demanded that Britain negotiate for its withdrawal.

The Cold War was in full swing and Britain (and behind it the US) were already engaged in a struggle with Iranian Prime Minister Mossadeq over Iranian oil, and now faced a challenge to the Suez Canal. The Wafd, and its other traditional rival the King, were both losing influence in Egypt to growing social and economic dissatisfaction and the growth of movements with their own disciplined and sometimes armed militias, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Communists, and others.

The Egyptian government decided to sanction the creation of "Liberation" squads, recruited from vlunteers (many from the Brotherhood), who began a guerrilla war against the British in the Canal Zone. The British responded with proactive moves against the "terrorists," and on January 21 entered Egyptian quarters of Ismailia seeking to uproot the Liberation squads. After coming into conflict with Egyptian police, on the 25 the Lancashire Fusiliers surrounded the Ismailia police headquarters.

The Egyptian Interior Minister, Fuad Seraggedin Pasha (who would survive to head the New Wafd in the 1970s and 1980s), ordered the police in Ismailia to resist the British Army, a dubious decision which, after a six hour siege, left some 50 policemen dead. This video, apparently a British newsreel (there's no sound at least in this version), shows aspects of the British operation, including rounding up prisoners:
Let me also rerun that video:
The next day, the 26th, was Black Saturday. More on that later today or perhaps Monday.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Years Since Mohamed Bouazizi Set Himself on Fire

Mohamed Bouazizi
Three years ago yesterday, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor with a college degree, set himself on fire in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. The fire spread to all of Tunisia and then to much of the Arab world (yes, "Arab  Spring" began in December.)

Three years later, Tunisia is still struggling to make democracy work. Egypt is still; trying to write a constitution. Libya is in disarray and Syria destroyed. The monarchies, except Bahrain, remain largely unscathed.

The Arab World has surely changed, but the course is far more muddled than it once seemed.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three Years Today Since the Death of Khaled Said

Khaled Said (Khalid Sa‘id, Khaled Saeed) was an ordinary 28 year-old resident of Alexandria, Egypt until his death, three years ago today, on June 6, 2010. Within days, he was transformed into a symbol, an everyman beaten to death by police. A few months later he became the face of a revolution. The Facebook Page "We are all Khaled Said." and its much more widely read Arabic equivalent, كلنا خالد سعيد were among the major organizational tools of the January 25 revolution.

As best I can determine, my first discussion of the incident was on June 14. Because this previously anonymous young man became an icon for millions who had never met him, and his mother has been a heroine for many of the revolutionaries, it's a useful balance to also recall Amro Ali's piece for Jadaliyya, "Saeeds of Revolution: De-Mythologizing Khaled Saeed."

During the revolution, there were even jokes:
Not to mention tributes: unofficial (?) "Street of the Martyr Khaled Said" plaque on his old street in Alexandria:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Arab Spring and When to Use Colloquial Arabic

Duncan Wane has a useful overview at Muftah called "The Many Arabics of Politics", a sort of compendium of how, during the Arab uprisings, the leaders' use of Arabic evolved with attempts to sound more informal as the crisis deepened. In our ongoing discussion of diglossia and classical vs. colloquial Arabic, we've touched on this before (such as when Ben Ali said he was going to speak in colloquial and then didn't). Wane's scorecard: Ben Ali and Mubarak stayed formal mostly to the end; Qadhafi more colloquial (but not his son Saif); Asad the most formal of all; Salih in Yemen and Bashir in Sudan more informal.


Friday, April 5, 2013

MEI to Launch Arab Transitons Project

The Middle East Institute has announced the launch of its Arab Transitions Project, focusing on transitions in the wake of the Arab uprisings. The launch will be marked by a half-day conference on Egypt at the National Press Club on April 18, featuring Arab Transitions Project Senior Scholar Khalil al-Anani. You can read the full press release and registration information here,

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The "Harlem Shake" as a Protest Form in Tunisia and Egypt

There's a quote attributed to the anarchist and revolutionary Emma Goldman: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." She apparently never exactly said that, but it's a revealing remark.

On the other hand, the latest trend in Arab revolutionary activism seems something else again. The "Harlem Shake," a dance craze that started earlier this month on YouTube, and has joined "Gangnam Style" as something for various groups in various countries to emulate with their own local interpretation, has now created controversy, and some clashes and arrests,  in both Tunisia and Egypt.  The latest move came this afternoon when demonstrators in Cairo announced they would do the Harlem Shake in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, with one explaining:
Abdallah Salman, dressed in a Mickey Mouse mask and an Egyptian galabeya, said he came mainly to “have fun”. He said that after exhausting all the means, he is now resorting to a new way of protesting. “We have tried revolution, marches, strikes, and now we’re trying something new,” Salman added.
Already at least four Egyptian pharmacy students have been arrested, apparently for dancing in their underwear,  while in Tunisia, in Tunis and in Sidi Bouzid, protestors trying to film the dance have clashed with Salafis who consider it immoral.

What to make of all this? Youthful exuberance meeting Islamist puritanism and creating conflict? A new revolutionary tactic or just silliness? I have to admit it doesn't seem to rank up there with storming the Bastille in terms of effectiveness, and especially in a conservative society like Egypt's it may alienate many people.

This is the film that started the controversies in Tunisia:



And here's an Egyptian one filmed at the pyramids:

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1, 1979: Khomeini's Return to Iran

Khomeini Returns, 1979
Though the Shah's departure from Iran two weeks earlier was essential to the success of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the enduring symbol of the Revolution and the action which clearly determined its future course took place 34 years ago today: the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to Tehran from his French exile. Though February 10 is celebrated as Revolution Day, the return of Khomeini remains a key image. (So much so that in some versions some of those on the stairs who later fell out with him have disappeared, Trotsky style.)

Last year's commemoration was a bit strange: it involved a giant cut-out figure:
Giant Cut-Out Figure Returns, 2012




Friday, January 25, 2013

Why Jan. 25 was an Egyptian Holiday Even Before 2011: Ismailia, 1952

January 25 (today) marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution, and celebrated as a holiday by the current regime and its opponents as well. Many Westerners may not be aware o the fact that prior to 2011, January 25 was already a national holiday in Egypt: Police Day. The protesters certainly thought that a holiday would make more demonstrators available, but also sought to capitalize on the irony that a day originally intended to honor Egypt's police as patriots in the fight to end British occupation, at a time when Egypt's police had come to be seen as oppressors instead of liberators. Egyptian Police Day commemorates a battle between the Egyptian police and the British Army at Ismailia in the Canal Zone on January 25, 1952. There's a video down below you shouldn't miss.

The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 had provided for British withdrawal of its troops from Egypt, except for bases in the Suez Canal Zone for the protection of the Canal, but with the outbreak of the Second World War, Britain had invoked a clause allowing it to reoccupy Egypt. After the war British troops did withdraw to the Canal Zone, but kept force levels well above the 10,000 troops allowed in the treaty. After the Wafd Party, Britain's traditional nationalist rivals, won the 1950 elections, the Egyptian government in October 1951 unilaterally abrogated the treaty and demanded that Britain negotiate for its withdrawal.

The Cold War was in full swing and Britain (and behind it the US) were already engaged in a struggle with Iranian Prime Minister Mossadeq over Iranian oil, and now faced a challenge to the Suez Canal. The Wafd, and its other traditional rival the King, were both losing influence in Egypt to growing social and economic dissatisfaction and the growth of movements with their own disciplined and sometimes armed militias, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Communists, and others.

The Egyptian government decided to sanction the creation of "Liberation" squads, recruited from vlunteers (many from the Brotherhood), who began a guerrilla war against the British in the Canal Zone. The British responded with proactive moves against the "terrorists," and on January 21 entered Egyptian quarters of Ismailia seeking to uproot the Liberation squads. After coming into conflict with Egyptian police, on the 25 the Lancashire Fusiliers surrounded the Ismailia police headquarters.

The Egyptian Interior Minister, Fuad Seraggedin Pasha (who would survive to head the New Wafd in the 1970s and 1980s), ordered the police in Ismailia to resist the British Army, a dubious decision which, after a six hour siege, left some 50 policemen dead. This video, apparently a British newsreel (there's no sound at least in this version), shows aspects of the British operation, including rounding up prisoners:

Oh, did I mention that January 25, 1952 was a Friday? The next day, January 26, Cairo went up in flames in what is still known as Black Saturday, which I wrote about three years ago. But the day the police fought the British Army in Ismailia became Police Day, until it also became the new Revolution Day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Couple of Crucial Days Ahead in Egypt?

Tomorrow is January 25, the second anniversary of trhe Egyptian Revolution, the beginning of the 18 days of demonstrations that brought down Husni Mubarak. That could create tension, but a more dangerous scenario is building for Saturday,the date set for the trial in the deaths of soccer rioters in Port Said nearly a year ago. Egypt's Ultras, the hardcore soccer support groups who have become a wild card in street demonstrations, are incensed by rumors that the case will be postponed; the Ultras Ahlawy, supporters of the Ahly team, have already been demonstrating, at the stock exchange, blocking Metro stations, etc,, and are threatening something more on Saturday.

While the Ultras are hard to categorize ideologically,except perhaps anarchist-style rebels against all authority, they are  certainly a destabilizing factor and one that is a wild card of sorts in the current constellation of forces. The anniversary tomorrow combined with the Ahlawy Ultras' threats for Saturday could lead to a new outburst of violence over the next couple of days. I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wilson Center's Assessment of Two Years of Arab Spring

As I previously noted, yesterday marked two years since Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation that began what we call "Arab spring" (though it may be feeling a bit wintry these days). The Wilson Center has published a collection of commentary from a variety of scholars, asking, "Has the Arab Spring Lived Up to Expectations?"  (That link is the home page; full text in PDF is here.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Two Years Ago Today, Mohamed Bouazizi Couldn't Take it Anymore

Two years ago today a young Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, who despite a college degree was employed as a street vendor, responded to police harassment by setting fire to himself in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid. He died a few weeks later, but the fires he lit are still burning.

Given the agony of Libya, the carnage in Syria, and the ongoing uncertainties in Egypt, we don't hear the phrase "Arab Spring" quite so frequently. But the sheer extent of change in the Arab world in only two years means that Mohamed Bouazizi deserves to be remembered, as do many others in many countries who decided they couldn't take it anymore,

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Toussaint Rouge, Algeria, 1954

Fifty-eight years ago today the Algerian War of Independence (or the Algerian Revolution as Algerian nationalists know it), began with a series of attacks by the National Liberation Front (FLN) that became known as Toussaint Rouge, or "Bloody All Saints' Day," after the Catholic feast on November 1. Some 30 separate attacks left seven people dead; the date is traditionally marked as the beginning of the long war that ultimately divided France, brought on the Fifth Republic, and culminated in Algerian independence in 1962, Today it is celebrated as the Anniversary of the Revolution.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

60 Years Ago Today: Two Kings Sail Into Exile

Queen Narriman, King Ahmad Fuad II, ex-King Farouq in Capri
July 23 marked the 60th anniversary of Egypt's revolution of 1952, but July 26 is also memorable (Cairo has a major thoroughfare and a bridge that bear the name): it is the day just-abdicated King Farouq, and the six-month-old King Ahmad Fuad II in whose favor he had abdicated, sailed out of Alexandria for the last time. The infant King would reign nearly a year but with a regency council at home and the infant in exile, before Egypt was declared a republic in June 1953. Ahmad Fuad, now 60, today returns to Egypt occasionally for family funerals and such, as he poses no threat to the republic.

At exactly six p.m. on July 26, 1952, the Royal Yacht Mahroussa,with Farouq, Queen Narriman, and the infant King Ahmad Fuad aboard, sailed from Alexandria to Italy.

The Mahroussa,  by the way, had seen other dramatic moments. Built in 1865 for Khedive Ismail, the Royal Yacht had been the first ship through the newly opened Suez Canal in 1869. Renamed the Horriya after the Revolution, she is still on the Egyptian naval list as a training vessel. She visited the US for the bicentennial celebrations in 1976, and is today in Alexandria.

The first video is of the departure; the second consists of clips of Farouq's reign with the departure and the exile period at the end.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Simon Henderson on Bandar

Simon Henderson at The Washington Institute is someone I frequently find myself disagreeeing with, but he does know the Gulf monarchies very well,  and his new piece on the elevation of Prince Bandar to Chief of General Intelligence, "The Prince and the Revolution," is worthy of a read. He sees Bandar's appointment as an attempt to strengthen General Intelligence after the lackluster directorates of Princes Nawaf and Muqrin, in the era of Arab Spring and, particularly, the Syrian crisis.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Further Notes on the 60th Anniversary of July 23,1952

A couple of addenda to my earlier comments on the 60th anniversary of Egypt's 1952:
  
Ahram Online has a lengthy excerpt from the memoir of the last surviving Free Officer, Khaled Mohieddin. (Though the caption on their photo of the Free Officers actually identifies his recently deceased cousin, Zakaria Mohieddin.) On his and Nasser's secret dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood:
I continued to read the books brought to me by Usman Fawzi and I constantly demanded that there be a clear programme for the Brotherhood, defining its national objectives and its position and demands of the various social categories. In my arguments, I began to lean to the left and I became the odd man out in a group supposedly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a final effort, Hasan El-Banna sought to link us with the Brotherhood via a strong bond. He decided that Nasser and I should join the Brotherhood's Secret Division. Perhaps it was because we were the most active and effective in our group and, consequently, winning us over completely would mean ultimately winning over the whole group.
Or perhaps it was because we talked much about the nation and nationalism and therefore he believed that by having us join the Secret Division, which was concerned with weaponry and armed action, he would be satisfying our patriotic enthusiasm and ensuring closer ties with the Brotherhood.
Anyway, we were contacted by Salah Khalifa, who took the two of us to a house in Darb Al-Ahmar toward Sayyida Zaynab. There we met Abd El-Rahman El-Sanadi, head of the Brotherhood's Secret Division at the time.
We were taken into a totally darkened room where we heard a voice (I think it was that of Saleh Ashmawi) and, placing our hands on the Quran and a gun and repeating after the voice, we took an oath of obedience and total allegiance, for better or worse, to the Grandmaster, swearing by the Book of God and the Sunna (traditions) of the Prophet. Although these rites were meant to stir the emotions, they had very little impact on Nasser and myself.
In any case, we began to work in the Secret Division and we were taken for training at a place near Helwan. Since we were officers, it was only natural that we were more knowledgeable about weapons than our training instructors. Nasser was not too happy with the situation and we felt alienated from the Brotherhood.
Also, Al-Ahram's front page the next day; "The Army Carries Out a Peaceful Military Movement":

It was 60 Years Ago Today ... What is the Legacy of July 23, 1952?

Nasser, Naguib and Salah Salem
Anwar Sadat went to the movies, not knowing that his co-conspirators had moved up the schedule, and almost missed the revolution. But once he caught up, as the senior Signals Corps officer among the plotters, he read communique number one:
To the People of Egypt:

Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War. As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it.
For 59 years, anyone speaking of "the Egyptian Revolution" meant the coup of July 23, 1952. It was the thawra, though there were always a few who said that it was merely a coup (inqilab). If the events of January 25-February 11, 2011 had not occurred, today's 60th anniversary of 1952 would no doubt be a huge celebration. But another, more popular revolution has occurred. (Whether it has been reversed or cancelled out by SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, a subject for debate.)

This is the fourth July 23 since I started this blog and the second since the fall of Husni Mubarak, but because it is the 60th anniversary it has itself become something of a political football.

This year, the Ahmad Maher Faction of the 6 April Youth Movement (whatever you think of the current bunch of revolutionaries, they know how to name their factions like real revolutionaries) has called on Egyptians to boycott celebrating July 23.  This has already provoked counterstrikes from supporters of the 1952 revolution: SCAF on its Facebook page called such comments "delusional," defended the military's role in 1952 and today, and "asserted the 1952 revolution wasn’t only for Egypt but for the whole African, Arab and Asian world."  Meanwhile, a group of "Nasserists" in Qena governorate also defended 1952 and "asserted that military rule didn’t begin with Gamal Abdel Nasser but had always been a feature of Egyptian political life since the time of Ramses II."

Ramses II? But then, remember: the two pillars of Pharaoh's power were his Army and the high priesthood. Is that so different from SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood? Well, yes, probably.

But no one can argue that the 1952 revolution has had a major impact across the Arab world, though that was not evident immediately. When the Free Officers first took over they forced the King to abdicate but didn't even proclaim a republic until the following year, so that infant King Ahmad Fuad II, though in exile with his father, was nominally reigning through a regency council. The coup was not the first military coup in the modern Arab world (Bakr Sidqi in Iraq and Husni Zaim in Syria had gotten there previously), and at first it named a civilian Prime Minister. It as later, after Nasser supplanted Naguib and began social and economic reforms and nationalizations, that it began to look a bit more like a revolution. Nasser had enormous flaws, but no other Arab leader has enjoyed the prestige he did across the rest of the Arab world. We've talked a lot about Nasser and Naguib in this blog, and I refer you to the archives rather than repeat myself.

For two generations July 23 has been Egypt's national day.Already January 25 is a contender for the title. Like so much else in this turbulent era, it will take some time for this generation of revolutionaries (Islamist as well as secular) to come to terms with that earlier "revolution" six decades ago today.

Two videos (both in Arabic), one with clips of the first revolutionary era, and the second Muhammad Naguib's own initial broadcast:



Friday, June 15, 2012

Hamalawy and Others on Revolution and Counter-Revolution

You know things are bad when some of the most sensible analysis is coming from self-declared Marxists, but Egyptian leftist activist Hossam Hamalawy has a piece at Jadaliyya, "The Troubled Revolutionary Path in Egypt: A Return to the Basics," which makes the valid point, among others, that the military coup didn't take place yesterday but in February of 2011. Hamalawy has long urged more attention and organization to the labor movement and strike movements that actually proceeded and continued throughout the revolution. It's one of the better of a large array of what-went-wrong pieces we're starting to see.

There are a lot of think pieces out there right now focusing on how the revolutionaries' lack of unity allowed the revolution to be railroaded, but I suspect the lack of a clear focus and agenda that could rally the vast Egyptian countryside was part of the problem. When the workers and peasants are struggling to find bread, the revolution got sidetracked into other issues: and the Islamists in particular, who had a real grass-roots base that could have been used to rally a real revolution, got focused on debates on Shari‘a, "booze and bikinis," and covering up mermaid statues while the economy spiraled downward. Nobody really sought to fix the country's real problems: they were too intractable, so they went after soft targets: arresting key figures of the old regime, or in the Islamists' case going after issues such as women's rights and public behavior, which deepened the split between the secular revolutionaries and the Islamists. Everybody was posturing, but no one was baking more bread for the hungry, who are going to be the source of the real Egyptian revolution if things keep spiraling downward. A relevant tweet:

Oddly, it was the old establishment, the old NDP elite, along with the Muslim Brotherhood on the other side, who seem to have done a better job of using the old patronage networks to rally the countryside, than did the revolutionaries who no doubt saw themselves as the vanguard of the workers and peasants, Shafiq used the old patronage networks to carry the Delta in round one (no doubt there was some rigging, but he also had real support); the old Sadat/Mubarak home base of Menufiyya went for him overwhelmingly. In Upper Egypt he, like the Brotherhood, understood how to manipulate the tribal alliances. Shafiq may be the military's man, but he used the old NDP power base to get this far.

And neither the young folks in Tahrir nor the Muslim Brotherhood noticed what was happening, nor did the outside analysts, because all were watching Tahrir, or Parliament, or arguing about what tourists could wear to the beach. Though the Brotherhood, at least, was handing out flour on the countryside.


Whether Shafiq wins or SCAF lets Morsi pull out a victory, we may be back to square one, or back to "January 24, 2011" as some of the revolutionaries are lamenting. But not entirely. The revolutionaries have seen both their power and, in the end, their lack of unity and organization. And they are no longer afraid to challenge the regime.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Next-to-Last Free Officer: Zakaria Mohieddin, 1918-2012

Zakaria Mohieddin, one of the original Free Officers of 1952 and onetime Vice President of Egypt, Prime Minister, and intelligence chief under Gamal Abdel Nasser, has died today at the age of 94. With his passing, only one of the original Free Officers from the original Revolution Command Council survives: his first cousin, Khaled Mohieddin. (In this 2010 post about Khaled I mistakenly declared him the last, under the mistaken impression — derived from the Internet — that Zakaria had died in 2009. I acknowledge the error, which is now no longer erroneous, since Khaled is now indeed the last.)

Mohieddin, left front; Nasser center at corner of table; Naguib in hat; Anwar Sadat left rear
Zakaria Mohieddin always was a presence, if a somewhat unassuming one, in the Nasser era, often used for diplomatic missions. As a young officer he served with Naguib and Nasser at Faluja in Palestine in 1958k, and became an early member of the Free Officers. While his cousin Khaled was the Revolution Command Council's most leftwing member, Zakaria was often seen as pro-Western. He was the first head of Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate when Nasser set it up in the early 1950s, but it did not become the feared instrument of Nasser's security state until under later directors. He served as Vice President from 1961-68, and Nasser was about to dispatch him to the United Nations to try to avert war when the 1967 war broke out with the Israeli pre-emptive strike. When Nasser offered to resign after the defeat he named Mohieddin his successor, but of course the crowds, and Mohieddin, refused to accept Nasser's resignation. He was also Prime Minister in 1965-66. He quit public life in 1968, and had remained in obscurity; his last public appearance seems to have been in 2002 on the 50th Anniversary of the 1952 Revolution.

SCAF paid tribute to an earlier ruling junta with Field Marshal Tantawi, Chief of Staff Gen. Enan, and other members of SCAF participating in his funeral today. 

With his passing, the only survivor of the original Revolution Command Council is Zakaria's first cousin Khaled, who is nearly 90. The last vestiges of the Nasser era are passing from scene.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Still More on the Cairo Graffiti Walls

I've posted a lot about the graffiti walls around AUC in Cairo; you may recall that AUC was organizing a panel on it earlier this month. Ebony Coletu, one of the organizers, has a well-illustrated piece at Jadaliya under the title "Visualizing Revolution: the Politics of Paint in Tahrir." The pharaonic themes are emphasized, among others.

Read it of course, but most importantly, look at the pictures.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Evanescence of a Social Media Revolution: A Year Later, 10% of Data, Images are Missing

 As someone whose discipline is history, I have naturally wondered about how the history of the past year will be written. At first glance the vast library of YouTube videos, live tweets as events transpired, cell-phone photos of events from hundred of sources, etc. would seem to mean the revolutions would have been well documented.

But endurance of these media may be an issue. Here's an important article I think: "Losing My Revolution: A year after the Egyptian Revolution, 10% of the social media documentation is gone." Using several aggregation sites, Storify, etc., a test study showed that up to 10% of the content, especially photos and videos, is no longer available. And that's after only a year.

This raises some interesting questions for digital archivists. I commended it to historians, techie geeks of various stripes, and anyone with an interest in social media.