Welcome Authors Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns, and Host, Siun.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Tweets From Tahrir – Egypt’s Revolution As It Unfolded, In the Words of the People Who Made It

Siun, Host:

The whole world has been watching the Middle East where the old order is being turned upside down. From Tunisia through Egypt and now Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq and even Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman we have seen people take to the streets to claim their rights – to democratic governance, a human economy and freedom.

Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns’ new book, Tweets from Tahrir: Egypt’s Revolution As It Unfolded, provides us all with an important first hand view of this movement as it blossomed in Egypt from January 25th through February 12. Using – with permission –running accounts from twitter, the authors are able to trace the movement in the streets in the words of key activists who were there, organizing, strategizing, being surprised by successes and beaten by Mubarak’s thugs.

It’s important to note that Idle and Nunns rightly criticize western media’s attempts to portray this ongoing movement as a “Twitter Revolution.”

There is a certain arrogance to the lazy Western description of a Twitter Revolution. It excuses commentators from seeking to understand the deep-seated causes of the uprising – the brutal reality of the majority of the population, the imposition of neoliberal policies reducing job security and suppressing wages, the lack of opportunities for educated young people , the sheer vindictiveness of a Western-backed dictator as expressed through his police gangs.

It ignores the role of the urban poor, many of whom literally placed their bodies between tyranny and freedom on the front line. For the unemployed and those living on two dollars a day, Twitter and Facebook were the last things on their minds.

It ignores the role of the organized working class which had been striking since 2006 and whose refusal to go to work in the days before Mubarak resigned finally removed the last plank from under his regime.

And it ignores the years of thankless work by the very activists who made such good use of Twitter during the uprising and whose words fill this book. They had been mobilizing, forming groups, and holding small protests in the face of police brutality since at least the year 2000, but the world had hardly noticed. And they are still doing so now, as the Revolution continues to unfold.

While not a “Twitter Revolution,” these collected twitter messages are important on so many levels. Idle and Nunns have selected well, incorporating  many of the voices who shaped and continue to shape this People’s Revolution. Providing a day by day account, they let us see events not only as they happened but as the people on the streets saw them.

From the insouciance of ManarMohsen’s:

A Facebook event for a revolution in Egypt: http://on.fb.me/hQioSL. Don’t forget to RSVP. (“Maybe if you’re still unsure of your schedule.)

to the sudden shock when protesters first faced the full force of the regime’s response:

Gsquare86
So many people have died, hospitals are in need of blood. Please tell everyone u know to donate blood at hospitals

Tweets from Tahrir captures the raw, warm humanity of the participants – witty, angry; horrified and ecstatic.

We also see how the immediacy of the twitter network both allowed organizing minute by minute but also supported activists who were suddenly in the middle of history:

ashrafkhalil
#Jan25 I watched TV for an hour this morning and got really scared Then I went outside and it was borderline jubilant out there

The messages also document the changing political understanding of the activists – and the amazing way the Revolution evolved on the fly – moving from reform to a call for a full overthrow of Mubarak and then the “new” government he tried to buy time by announcing.

This integration of strategy with emotion is also a fascinating study in how agile this new generation has become. In their hands, the 140 characters of twitter can be as elegant a manifesto as any – and then move them into action.

One of the authors, Nadia Idle, is an Egyptian who flew home to be in Tahrir and perhaps this explains why this book works so well. Since I was watching the events in Egypt very carefully, following twitter and writing about developments several times a day here at FDL, I was a bit uncertain about Tweets from Tahrir. After all, we just saw all this happen … but I found it very moving to read. Listening again to these voices – so individual and yet so unified … and being able to hear them all in context, in the flow of this historic time makes this little book so much more than simply a compilation.

The authors are quite clear that these words and these actions are just a beginning – from the activists’ final messages about what comes next in Egypt they also reach out to their sisters and brothers in Libya, Bahrain and beyond. As one of them puts it so well:

@MohammedY
I keep hoping this will spread to more and more countries. I’m sick of waiting for democracy from the West, its time we TAKE IT!

131 Responses to “FDL Book Salon: Tweets From Tahrir: Egypt’s Revolution As It Unfolded, In the Words of the People Who Made It”

BevW April 23rd, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Nadia, Alex, Welcome to the Lake.

Siun, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Thank you Bev for arranging this!

Welcome Alex and Nadia – it’s great to get to talk with you today. Tweets from Tahrir is wonderful and I’m sure we’ll have a great discussion.

To start off, I’d like to ask about your backgrounds – and how you came to do this book?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Hello!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Hi there!

dakine01 April 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Nadia and Alex and welcome to FDL this afternoon. Good afternoon Siun!

Nadia and/or Alex, first, how were you able to get this book out so quickly?

And as for the “…lazy Western descriptor…” unfortunately, the Traditional Western Media prefers to deal in shorthand rather than actually investigate, learn, and provide information to readers and viewers.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm

So it started like this….

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:02 pm

So I decided I couldnt stand watching revolution on Twitter and Al Jazeera any more….despite the threat of violence etc, I just HAD to be there….

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:03 pm

so I bought a plane ticket and arrived in Cairo on the morning of the 8th of Feb….and was there until the 14th…so was really lucky to be there for the fall of Mubarak….2 days after I got back – Alex rang me up….

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:03 pm
In response to Siun @ 2

Unlike my co-editor Nadia I’m not Egyptian. I’m just an Englishman. But the Egyptian Revolution inspired me in a profound way. And that was in part due to social media. It was because I could hear directly from the activists in Tahrir Square about every detail as it happened. In that way their revolution became personal to me, and to millions of others around the world.

dakine01 April 23rd, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 6

As a technical note, there’s a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number being replied to and makes it easier for others to follow the “conversation.”

Note: some browsers do not like to let the Reply function correctly if it is pressed before a page completes loading after it has been refreshed.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 8

It must have been astonishing to be there …

PeasantParty April 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The people here at FDL supported you all the time. Siun made daily posts to keep us updated.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 5

We were able to get the book out so quickly through sheer hard work! Seriously, it was round the clock. We felt it needed to be donw quickly, while it was topical, and it felt right to get the book out fast when it was dealing with real-time social media.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Were you both involved in activist work prior to this?

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to Siun @ 2

so I bought a plane ticket and arrived in Cairo on the morning of the 8th of Feb….and was there until the 14th…so was really lucky to be there for the fall of Mubarak….2 days after I got back – Alex rang me up and said that he had this idea for a book which told the story of the revolution in tweets and since I was there in Tahrir, would i be interested in coming onboard….needless to say…I thought it was a great idea!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:07 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 5

And fortunately, OR Books, the publisher, specialises in very fast, timely books that are political interventions.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:07 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 10

yup got that now, apologies…..

dakine01 April 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 16

I have not had a chance to read it but it is astounding to me that you were able to move this fast (though it does make sense in this instant wired world of today)

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Siun @ 14

yes, but in the UK….my political education developed after I moved to the UK in 2002….I currently work at War on Want, a global justice campaigning charity, and I met Alex working for Red Pepper a magazine for the independent Left…..

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Siun @ 14

Yes, I campaign against the privatisation of the public healthcare system in the UK, and I write for Red Pepper, a UK political magazine.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 9

That direct voice aspect of twitter is such a significant change to how we communicate I think … while blogging opens up “citizen journalism” there’s something about the short bursts that moves closers to face to face chatting and makes it more personal … or so it seems to me. How intensive was Egyptian twitter use prior to Tahrir?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 18

Thanks! It was intense. But worth it.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Alex – we have great sympathy for your work given FDL’s work here on healthcare!

And War on Want is a great charity!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Siun @ 11

It was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. And I am really not one to romanticise Egypt! I left because I felt a country had lost its will to live and was taking social, economic and sexual frustration out on each other in the public domain…..all of that evaporated and was reversed in tahrir…the camaraderie and mutual respect people had for each other regardless of class, age, gender, background etc was crazy…and all of that with no leader or prescribed manifesto….

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Siun @ 21

Twitter was much more prevalent in Egypt than, say Tunisia. There is a group of dedicated Twitter users there. But it undoubtedly got a big boost during the revolution. Many of the tweeters in the book now have thousands of followers from all over the world.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 12

Thank you! The global solidarity was amazing….people were just so inspired!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I’m curious how you selected the tweeps to follow for the book?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Siun @ 23

Thanks – it was very interesting to see the US go through the healthcare debate! While the debate in the States was about trying to fix the inequalities of US healthcare, in the UK we are moving in the opposite direction. It’s crazy. Anyway, enough of health!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Siun @ 23

yay! Someone in the States has heard of War on Want that’s great news!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 24

Nodding … I have some good friends here who – while they love their Egyptian heritage – had very little good to say about the country in the past. And it seemed a particularly hard place for young women.

Did you have friends or family to stay with … I guess I’m fascinated by the logistics of arriving at such a momentous time! (and certainly dreamed of doing the same!)

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Siun @ 23

That’s War on Want and RedPepper

primativo April 23rd, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Hi Alex, Nadia. Have ordered the book and am very much looking forward to reading it. I was just wondering what impact you thought the preceding events in Tunisia had on the Egyptian public. Was Ben Ali’s flight to Saudi Arabia the ‘FInland Station’ moment signifying how popular protest could work or are other smaller domestic details the key?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Siun @ 27

There were a number of ways we could have selected the tweets for the book. The easy way would have been to follow the hashtags – #Jan25 and #egypt. But this was unsatisfactory because there were loads of tweets using those hashtags from outside Egypt. Also it could have ended up as a mess of tweets. So we took a deliberate decision to follow certain tweeters throughout the revolution. There are 60 tweeters in the book, and within that a core group that appear a lot. The intention was for people to get to know them. Obviously it’s in no way a comprehensive selection, but we chose based on whose tweets we felt were telling the story best, whose had emotion, humour, passion. Also some tweeters went on a journey into political action during the revolution so we reflected that too.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Siun @ 30

well yes, I normally go back to Egypt and stay in my Grandmother’s house where I was brought up with Mum and Aunts etc…but I did the radical move this time, of choosing not to stay with family in the suburbs, but to from airport directly to stay with friends whose parents had a flat just behind the mosque which over looked Tahrir….yup, pretty amazing view!

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Aloha, Alex, Nadia and Siun…! What an awesome event…! I’m worried tho about what shape their new-found democracy will take, especially with the Army still calling most of the shots…!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to primativo @ 32

Tunisia had a massive impact, as the first 5 tweets in the book show:

Gsquare86 Gigi Ibrahim جييييج
The Tunisian revolution is being twitterized…history is being written by the people! #sidibouzid #Tunisia
17:28:11 Jan 14

Gsquare86 Gigi Ibrahim جييييج
BEN ALI LEFT just confirmed through Aljazeera
19:25:19 Jan 14

tarekshalaby Tarek Shalaby
VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!! RT @SultanAlQassemi: MY GOD! MY GOD! This is AMAZING.
19:27:12 Jan 14

tarekshalaby Tarek Shalaby
WE WILL FOLLOW! RT @SultanAlQassemi: Tunisians are the heroes of the Arab world.
19:29:27 Jan 14

Gsquare86 Gigi Ibrahim جييييج
goooose bumps alll over ..i can’t believe i lived through an arab revolution !! thank you #Tunisia
19:43:40 Jan 14

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to primativo @ 32

But it wasn’t a Finland Station moment. Contrary to what people are taught in history lessons, when Lenin arrived at the Finland Station not many people noticed. Everyone noticed the Tunisian Revolution.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 33

One of the reasons I really enjoyed the book was that it gives individual Egyptian voices a hearing … so often we only see Arab nations from outside voices.

You seemed to get a good range – and captured the really literary potential of tweets as well. Genuine storytelling in 140 characters is quite a skill.

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for being here, Nadia and Alex.

In following the Madison, Wisconsin demonstrations that occurred here even as the events in Tahrir Square were unfolding, I noticed that some of the rightwing groups were spamming the Twitter feeds with their own messaging. Did anything like that happen in Egypt or was the Mubarak regime caught flatfooted by the use of this technology?

I know that the internet was shut down, at great cost to businesses related to the regime. But was there any attempt to counter-message?

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 35

I know, so am I and everyone I know…..the crucial thing for me, and what makes me very hopeful, is that we now have a generation of Egyptians who have experienced, grassroots collective action which has worked. Even if it was just the first step, we cant forget that the public, through steadfastness and sheer force of will, toppled a 30 year dictatorship in 18 days. And this is not a society with a recent history of such mass social struggle on this scale as is in Greece. Now that is not to say that there hasnt been a growing workers movement, but no one anticipated people to take over and hold on to a square with such strength and unity and will and especially with no structured leadership!

That in itself has such massive emancipatory value for a people and country…i dont think they are going to let the establishment get away with trying to hold on to power…despite the structural difficulties….mobilisation and collective action is in Egyptians’ bones now….

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to Siun @ 38

Thank you. I think Twitter is really exciting for recording historical events. It’s the kind of source that simply didn’t exist before. If you study the history of any past event, even letters are written in retrospect – when the author has got home and is describing events to someone. The thing about Twitter is it is instant reaction, published there and then. I was amazed by the literary content of the tweets. That’s why I felt the book had to be done!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 40

Nadia – you raise several really important points there!

One of the things that captured me was the lack of centralized leadership … clearly there were long term activists whether the young generation of MB or labor or others, but the ad hoc nature of how things evolved felt like a really important model … do you think some of that can continue? or I guess I wonder if there’s a way to keep that flow of self-organizing going?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 39

The Mubarak regime did make some attempts to counter message and discredit, but it was just overwhelmed by the number of protesting tweeters. Their knowledge and use of the internet was far more sophisticated than the regime’s. Even when Twitter and Facebook were blocked, people used proxies to get online. And when the entire internet was shut down, a few still managed to get on using various methods.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 39

Hi there!

Well we didnt really hear there was an organised onslaught, although there have been reports that after Mubarak fell, the establishement has been trying to infiltrate, but I still think they are overwhelmed…..but while I was there….I did receive two text messages on my phone from “ArmedForces” telling me that the army is working for the country/people’s benefit and THAT was weird/disconcerting….. I mean if I got a text message from the army in the UK I’d be pretty freaked out! But when you’re in the middle of a revolution, you get used to these dynamics pretty fast…its crazy!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 43

The ability to route around was impressive!

As I’ve been closely following Bahrain, you see a horrific level of vile counter-messaging going on. It seems to represent the elite youth who are very loyal to Khalifa and who have the same technical experience as the opposition. When AngryArabiya was on hunger strike, they were tweeting her messages about their meals … and of course sending death threats and calls for activists to be executed.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Nadia, one question that has interested me is whether the urban poor of Cairo were represented in the actions?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Siun @ 45

Yes I heard / saw that horrible treatment of @AngryArabiya. It’s really disturbing. I saw she had ended her hunger strike and is now recovering, but I think her family is still detained. Everyone should follow her on Twitter and support.

But it’s no surprise that they have started doing this. In Egypt the regime was so terrified of these tools that they shut down the net and lost millions of dollars to the economy. After Egypt they are bound to get more sophisticated.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to Siun @ 42

I think the models are still being formed and experimented with…its all so fresh and new to so many…and others who have been working towards grassroots organisation for years are overwhelmed!

I think that there is a lot of self-organisation going on from what I hear, but way more decentralised in terms of issues and locality….i think that is where the challenges lie; outside the common aim of toppling Mubarak, what issue will mobilise the highest number of people at the most important moment to come…..

papau April 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 34

Just wanted to thank you for writing the book and being at FDL – and thank Siun and Bev for putting this on. I was in Egypt a bit in the 70′s and 80′s but for near 30 years I am not been any closer than in conversations at some Palestinian, Lebanese, and Turkish restaurants I go to (locally there are no Egyptian restaurants (sort of like in Edfou where my Greek friend and family had the only restaurant for 50 years, or so I was told! :-)).

But at those conversations the love of the people of Egypt was/is as clear as it was when I was in country. Indeed there was in country, and is in the US in those conversations, a feeling of responsibility for those about them who are less fortunate that I wish was more prevalent in the US. I hated the treatment, under the “law”, of rural women – but that was changing already back then.

I will read your book – but I have already decided that the voices speaking are from some of the bravest people in the world.

PeasantParty April 23rd, 2011 at 2:49 pm

In writing this book and being a part of the revolution, what advice can you give to the Syrians and Libia protestors? Our eyes and hearts are with them as well and I for one am sick that Obama has agreed to drones/bombs.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to Siun @ 46

Represented in the uprising or book?

In the uprising, absolutely. It was the urban poor in their thousands who defended the square with their bodies and lives…

In the book no, we chose to concentrate on tweeps tweeting in English, who are the upper middle class and/or activists which represent how we experienced the revolution on Twitter…..plus the vast majority of urban poor will not have access to computers, smartphones etc….they were in it…not tweeting about it..

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 50

I don’t know that we can give any advice to protesters in Libya and Syria. They’re on the ground, they know the situation best and they’re acting with incredible bravery. I saw someone on Democracy Now saying that the Libyans made a mistake by taking up arms instead of keeping it as peaceful as possible like in Egypt, but I think it’d be difficult to convince a Libyan of that when he/she is facing the full force of the Libyan army.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 47

Yes – her father, uncle, husband and brother in law are still held though they were asked to bring clothes and did get some calls so they are alive. Her father was supposed to be having a military trial on Friday but no lawyers or human rights observers were allowed to see him and it’s unclear if any trial took place. It sounds from their description of a phone call with Al Khawaja that he has been severely tortured.

The lesson taken by other dictators does seem to be more brutal – as well as more active on twitter.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 51

Lots of Egyptians earn $2 a day, so they don’t have computers. But they were on the streets.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Nadia – I’m also wondering what it was like to be around such a fast moving evolution of positions … were there lots of meetings or structured discussions in the square? (I’m guessing both you and Alex have your share of experience with the too many hours debating poltiical positions in western settings ;-> so I’m wondering if it was different in Tahrir?

April 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Have you heard anything of Maikel Nabil since he was sentenced? Would you agree that prosecuting him was a clever move? As his positions (refused the draft, is secularist, and pro-Israel) made his very easy to isolate.

markfromireland

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to papau @ 49

Thanks! I think you’ll find it a nifty little read…..

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 3:01 pm

One of the things that impressed me about the movement in Tahrir square was how thoroughly the logistics of maintaining a presence was organized, from the beginning provision of food and water to at very critical time the organization of self-defense. What are the lessons that we in the US can learn about what is required for this sort of direct action, based on what happened there?

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to Siun @ 53

Yes certainly the dictators learned to be more brutal. Although remember, over 800 Egyptians died between Jan 25 – Feb 11, most of them on January 28th. That’s pretty brutal!

Bahrain is awful and gets very little coverage now. The west clearly decided it would back the royals. I just saw on the news that the crown prince of Bahrain is going to be at the British royal wedding!

john in sacramento April 23rd, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I just have a couple quick questions: Are/were the tweets in English or Arabic?

And if in English, why?

Thanks

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Siun @ 55

But positions weren’t evolving really…everyone wanted Mubarak out. That is why they succeeded….it was the strategic thinking which was changing and splitting people in the square….i.e the what to do next question….most of the structured discussions, from what i heard took place just outside the square in a series of cafes…but there were several stages were people made announcements and statements and points throughout the day and night…..

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Yes it looks like they picked him to make an example, assuming people wouldn’t defend him because he has some pro-Israel views. But they have actually imprisoned him, as I understand it, for criticising the Egyptian army in a blog. It’s outrageous, no matter what his opinions are. I know activists like @monasosh have been campaigning for his release.

It’s a reminder that the revolution is not over.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 59

We’ve been trying to keep Bahrain visible – and I was reading today (and hope to blog later today or tomorrow) about the AFL CIO demanding the US pull out of the Free Trade Agreement which is quite a move.

Iraq is also too often invisible – at least here in the States where I think we really don’t want to acknowledge that the Iraqis also have demands!

I appreciate the reminder of the martyrs in Egypt – so very many dead … it is just stunning that people keep going in the face of that level of loss.

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 59

The Royals’ PR person was at pains to say that the invitations were from the Royal Family to other royals–and not from the government!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 58

i think 2 things….

One the Muslim Brotherhood has a lot of experience of organising for communities’ basic needs and filling the gaps of welfare state failure in Egypt….so they were able to sort out the infrastructure of supplies and security of the square…

but of course many of the volunteers in the ad-hoc clinics and food stations were not MB people at all and everyone who was in the square pitched in…everyone…..people were picking up rubbish and sharing food with people around them and that sense of collective identity, role and aim kept the spirit alive day in and day out and that was what I found most amazing and inspiring…no one was an observer…everyone in the square was a participant…part of a movement.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Alex – a bit off topic sorta question. One thing that was striking here in the States was that the coverage of Egypt – which became quite positive – provided a very different view of young Arabs to American audiences. While the persistent comments such as “my gosh they are so intelligent and speak so well” were clearly … irritating … I felt that there was a breakthrough of sorts.

In the UK was there a similar reaction?

April 23rd, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 62

What I’m seeing so far is a military coup, not a revolution. So far I’ve seen some some changes of personnel – I haven’t seen much in the way of institutional change, or reform of the Army’s grip on the economy, or reform of the army come to that.

markfromireland

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:10 pm

There were tweets in English and Arabic. There were a surprising number in English. As Nadia said, those with laptops and smart phones are the more affluent in society, among whom the use of English is quite common. These were the people who discussed the events online, although on the ground they were part of a much wider movement that included the urban poor.

It made sense to tweet in English to get the word out to the international media.

There’s also the fact that tweeters were more likely to get away with things in Egypt. The government were more worried about the use of Arabic to mobilise people on the ground.

In the book we focused on English language tweets for logistical and stylistic reasons.

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Siun @ 63

Yesterday’s Syrian slaughter of 75 individuals was heart-wrenching indeed…! 8-(

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 65

smiling happily – I have a son who is very involved with the Burning Man community and he would immediately recognize that shared, no spectators way of being.

In some ways I felt that the most revolutionary thing I saw from here was the ability of people to self-organize, the moves by neighborhoods to police themselves, etc … that was an immense lesson!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 69

Sadly I believe the total is up to 120 …

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 65

The spirit of pitching in impressed some of my oh so conservative neighbors. The fact that the protesters came back after Mubarak resigned and cleaned up Tahrir Square blew their minds. My neighbors are not conceptually equipped to handle that kind of civic ownership.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Siun @ 63

Indeed. And yes on Iraq, there was a protest where lots of people were shot dead and it didn’t even get on the news! I write about it in those vague terms (“lots of people”) precisely because it had no coverage.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 64

The Queen is the head of state!

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Siun @ 71

Wow, I knew that the totals had kept climbing with every new headline, but, 120 now…? *gah*

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 73

May I recommend the site markfromireland helped found – http://gorillasguides.com. Written by Iraqis, you can get some very good reporting you can trust there. (and it’s made me quite good at using google translate!)

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Nadia and Alex,

Last May 29th, Siun and I set up live blog posts here at firedoglake, where we covered the last stages of the Gaza flotilla’s approach to the Strip, and the horrific Israeli attacks. Even as the Israelis attempted to jam all communication from the participants, tweets kept on getting out. As the Israelis appear to be keeping all the cameras, cell phones, laptops and other recording devices they seized, these tweets (along with the video/camera footage smuggled out inside of Iara Lee’s body) have become one of the main legacies of that tragic night. Along with the Iranian resistance last year, those two sets of events were probably the biggest happenings in the Middle East or thereabouts primarily documented – from the resistance point of view – by twitter, until this past winter.

With another Gaza flotilla, an even bigger one, starting to form up, do you have any advice for the participants about communication, based upon what you learned in Egypt early this year?

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Siun @ 66

I know this is directed at Alex, but Im gonna dive in too :)

War on Terror politics has done a lot to damage the image of people in most Arab nations, were media in the West, here in the UK too, has referenced people’s grievances only in relation to discourses of Islamism or as Muslim populations….similar to cold war politics….i think people were perhaps surprised that the demands coming out of the square were plainly about dignity and basic rights just like anywhere else…even many liberals were thinking of Egyptians within that framework…which is an unfortunate reality of how powerful the global establishment’s media has been in dehumanising people everywhere…in this era, its Arabs and Muslims…who knows whose turn it is next…depends which resources capital is after I suppose!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Certainly it’s not over. It didn’t start off as a military coup. It was a revolution. The question is whether the Army can/will turn it into a coup. One encouraging sign is that the army feels the need to constantly say it will hand power over, and whenever there is any sign that this might not happen the protesters go straight back to Tahrir. But you’re right to point out the Army’s institutional position and especially it’s economic assets, which it will protect.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to Siun @ 76

Thanks! I’ll use it!

April 23rd, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 73

We cover it – mostly in Arabic. But some English too. This is an eyewitness report from a team member Abdus-Samad:

Sulaimaniyah Protesters Shot By Kurdish Security Forces

It’s frustrating the protests in Irak started in Basrah last June but getting word out …..

markfromireland

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:25 pm

The army is certainly an important player in Egypt. But this uprising and the reason we are where we are is because of ordinary people and not the military and the uprising was certainly not instigated or orchestrated by the army and they did not support the movement from the outset particularly; they just didnt shoot. I agree that it is yet to be seen how the precarious situation will evolve and yes a military coup is not unthinkable in the near future, but I have faith based on how the movement was built that this will not be the case…it is clear that non of the stakeholders from the grassroots want military rule and the army has been challenged quite publicly since in opposition media and by civil society and forced to apologise for actions etc..

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 78

I often worry more about those “liberals” in particular!

I also think we in the West often try to gloss over or ignore the centrality of Islam for so many in these movements. I certainly felt that in the online support for Iranian rising which so often seemed to equate the movement with an anti-islam position.

It was wonderful to see the mass prayers in Tahrir, on the bridge, etc and the seeming respect of those who did not participate. Also the joined effort with Coptic Egyptians – which sadly seems threatened once again.

DWBartoo April 23rd, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 48

Late to the salon, but truly appreciate your presence here, Nadia.

Do the Egyptian peoples, as they move toward a hopeful self-governance, much consider the importance of the rule of law to a civil society?

And to be clear, a truly civil society can only occur when government truly is, of, by, and for the people. A condition which does NOT obtain in America, in part owing to a failure of the people to actually value a functioning rule of law.

DW

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Going back to the book for a moment – how has it been received? I noticed you got attention in a lot of the major press though they seemed unnerved by the idea that you could produce it this quickly – and that it bypassed their “mediation” by using direct tweets!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 77

The hype (sometimes unjustified) about the role of Twitter in the revolutions will mean there may be more focus on tweets from the flotilla. I don’t know that I could give any advice other than that people should simply tweet what they see and feel honestly. If people start second guessing what kind of tweets will capture the imagination of the world, it won’t work. It’s the immediacy and honesty of the tweets that gives them power.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Siun @ 83

Islam was NOT central to this revolution. The demands were rights based, and this was reflected in the secular tone of the chants, posters and demands.It’s just that a lot of people there happen to define themselves as Muslim.

The Muslim Brotherhood joined the revolutionary movement later in the process and were efficient in the role they played as organisers.

The attacks on the Copts these days are from the Salafis, who have always been in bed with the security services and not the MB

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 86

I was thinking more in terms of combining twitter capabilities in new ways with communications media, and how to somehow get it out – off the boats – before the information in them gets seized. good advice, though. Thanks.

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I noticed that both Adm. Mullen and Secdef Gates were just pleading with Maliki to keep us there longer, the other day…!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 84

wow, this question needs a thesis to answer! :)

In short, re: your first point, the Judges Syndicate played a substantial role in the square in terms of members’ presence and solidarity, in their full gowns to make it clear that they supported the revolutionary movement.

This was important for people. To know that the institutions of law were also rejecting corruption and have been in fact, involved since the last election…

so yes law is very important to the movement. and even more important. the proper implementation of it!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to Siun @ 85

The book has been received extremely well so far. We’re yet to have a bad review, and at least 3 people have tweeted that it made them cry, one on the New York subway.

I think people’s reaction when they first hear about the book is “a book based on tweets – interesting but probably dijointed and a gimmick”. Then they read it and see that it’s so much more – it’s a moving story, a roller coaster that really puts the reader in the middle of Tahrir Square.

Robert Fisk’s reaction in the Indepenent Newspaper today is typical – http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-but-what-if-the-spirit-of-rebellion-spread-to-iran-2273779.html

April 23rd, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 89

I refer you to Maliki’s repeated saying of “no”. And to Mohammed Ibn Laith’s 3 word reply the last time Siun asked what will happen if the American invaders stay:

We will rise

markfromireland

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:40 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 90

It is notable that Mubarak and his sons are being prosecuted and are in fact jailed right now, and not in exile…! ;-)

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:40 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 91

Ah… I have not seen Fisk yet.

But my reaction was very much the same … and tears, yes!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 88

As in a technological question?

DWBartoo April 23rd, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 90

Thank you, Nadia, for your reply.

My admiration and great respect to the members of the Judges Syndicate for their trust in the law, their courage in upholding that law with their presence, and the example they provide the legal profession in all nations of the world.

DW

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 96

Here’s Fisk’s opening:

A new paperback thumped out of my mail package from London this week.

Tweets from Tahrir, it is called, and I sighed with distaste. As a hater of Twitters and tweeters and Facebooks – in fact, the whole bloody internet culture that is unlearning the world and teaching everyone to misspell the simplest words – it was a natural reaction. But I was wrong.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 98

Now that is wonderful!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to Siun @ 95

There are some extremely emotional moments in there. It’s the very best of humanity.

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 96

Along those lines.

As I’m sure Nadia recognized in Cairo, people improvise as they go along. The Cairo insurgents had several days to adjust, whether it was through social tools and instant messaging, or tried-and-true resistance discipline. I’m on the lookout for new ideas on getting around government equipments and MO’s that might help get more information out from this year’s flotilla(s) in real time than we saw last year.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 94

Yes! No one can quite believe it….many activists are skeptical about whether their imprisonment is a smoke screen for the establishment to keep hold on to things…..

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Siun @ 99

And the next bit from Fisk
“A selection of the thousands of tweets sent from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, it is deeply moving, a record of great courage, mostly by young people, facing Mubarak’s legion of goons and regime thugs.”

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I’m also quite interested in Red Pepper and have now bookmarked it … looks like a good resource for FDL folks as well!

What do you both plan to do next?

BevW April 23rd, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Nadia, Alex, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon (your evening in England) with us discussing your new book and the Egyptian Revolution.

Siun, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Nadia and Alex’s book

Siun’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great evening!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Hi Edward!

In the case of Egypt, different methods were used by different people at different times and all were necessary….

But in the Flotilla case, last year, Jamal El Shayal was broadcasting live for Al Jazeera as they were being boarded so it seemed pretty real time!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 101

It’s far more difficult on the flotilla, because you have a limited number of people in one very specific place. It’s obviously easier in a major capital city with millions of people.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:54 pm

nice chatting to you all – hope you find it a good read!

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to Nadia Idle @ 102

The test of the rule of law is (1) that they come to an trial in a transparent setting; (2) all of the evidence is presented regardless of further legal liability of other public officials, even members of the military council, (3) they have an advocate who can present a vigorous defense based on evidence, (4) the decision in the case is transparently based on the evidence regardless of popular sentiment, (5) punishment is on the basis of violation of the law not on who they are.

It will be hard to not err in the direction of convenient leniency or in the direction of harsh punishment because of who they are instead of what they have proven to have done. That is where politics and not law can sway it one way or the other.

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks everyone your interest in the book!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Next – who knows!

DWBartoo April 23rd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thank you, Nadia, Alex, and Siun.

A breath of true hope and the courage to see it through to participatory democracy and true justice for all … is being drawn around this world, and the people of Egypt may be justly proud of what they have shown and shared with the rest of us …

DW

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Goodness … it is already wind down time!

Alex and Nadia – this has been a very real pleasure – and your book is wonderful! I really hope folks will buy and read – and give copies to friends and family who wonder what this is all about. It’s a great accomplishment to capture that moment in time in such a remarkable way.

And please feel free to visit with us again! Thank you for spending the time with us and helping us to learn more!

TarheelDem April 23rd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Alex, Nadia, thanks for for your time and your book.

Thanks Bev and Siun for another great Book Salon.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 101

ET – I’m sure you and I will be back at it …

DWBartoo April 23rd, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to TarheelDem @ 109

Well said, TD.

DW

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks everyone for joining in – and for great questions!

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to Siun @ 113

It has been great! Thanks so much.

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thanks all, good night!

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Beverly – thank you once again for selecting a wondeful book and helping us all to have a good conversation!

TheLurkingMod April 23rd, 2011 at 4:01 pm

eCAHNomics is upstairs!
What I Know About Honeybees

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa for the awesome book and for being here at this salon, Alex and Nadia…! *g*

Please don’t be strangers…!

Mahalo, Siun, for another awesome job hosting…! *g*

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to Siun @ 115

*heh* And what am I…? Chopped Liver…? *g*

Alex Nunns April 23rd, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Need to say – thanks Siun and Beverly!

Nadia Idle April 23rd, 2011 at 4:05 pm

شكرا يا كتاب صالون

April 23rd, 2011 at 4:05 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 123

And what am I…? Chopped Liver…?

Minced ….

markfromireland

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 4:07 pm

*heh* You know it, Mi Amigo…! ;-)

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 4:14 pm
In response to Alex Nunns @ 107

Indeed. Thanks for your responses and your magnificent efforts, Alex!

EdwardTeller April 23rd, 2011 at 4:15 pm
In response to Siun @ 115

hopefully with far less tears and anger this year, my dear friend.

Siun April 23rd, 2011 at 4:24 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 129

Let’s hope so … and of course CT, you’re essential!

CTuttle April 23rd, 2011 at 5:26 pm
In response to Siun @ 130

Mahalo, Ma Cheri…! *g*

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post