It is common to hear people sitting in ahwas (street coffee houses) speaking of their latest plans to demand better conditions at work through strikes and walkouts. This culture of protest now appears to be more prevalent than ever.
From widely circulated images of Khaled Said’s brutalised body (in 2010) to the recent public lynching of two thieves in Gharbiya, the aestheticisation of physical suffering and increasingly public use of violence has had a polarising effect on Egyptian society.
The Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), many of those considered ‘felool’ (of the old order) and Egyptians of all classes, who are trying to go on with their everyday lives, are demanding greater stability and the strengthening of the rule of law. This is juxtaposed with a growing lawlessness, unrest and anger on the streets that no state official, police or military officer has been brought to justice for the deaths of over eight hundred in 2011, seventy-two during the Port Said massacre in 2012 (except two minimal sentences for police officers), and over fifty during the two-year commemorations of the revolution this year, making a mockery of the judicial system and state institutions.
The interpretation of tragedy and loss has reinforced affiliations and communities, both real and imagined. During the first eighteen days of the revolution in 2011 and the months that followed, images of dead heroes were used as a call to arms; a way of defining loyalties and strengthening opposition to the Mubarak regime and police. Since then, as narratives of victimhood and heroism have been performed and re-interpreted by various actors to numerous audiences, contentious claims have been made in the names of these political martyrs by state and religious institutions, as well as the public. ‘Ownership’ of the memory of Egypt’s revolutionary martyrs is being utilised to defend and attack the use of violence by the state and security forces.