The Square: Two Years That Shook Egypt


PDF downlaodBegüm Zorlu*

 'We were all equal, we were reflections of each other.'

This is how a young revolutionary Ahmed described the revolution and being in the Tahrir Square. The Tahrir Square has been without a doubt the new discourse to unite Egyptians under the same motivation. The first wave of the revolution, after the Day of Rage, the 18 days that shook Egypt has been without a doubt one of the most extraordinary events of the 21st century.

This ground-level documentary The Square examines the revolution from various perspectives and enables us to grasp the dynamics and the sentiments of the Tahrir movement. It is seen clearly in the documentary that people had walked towards death for a better future. People were on the square to move against the Mubarak regime which was corrupt and had been becoming deeply unpopular. The wall of fear has been lifted.

The documentary starts with the resign of Mubarak in February 2011 with the interval on the square to hear 'good news' and the celebration with the resignation of President Mubarak. Yet over the next two years, the crowds return to the square again and again as the battle continues to establish democracy and justice.

ANALYSIS 2 EL MEIDANThe reality was that an authoritarian regime was still in control after the end of the movement and they soon began attacking and torturing demonstrators. The removal of Mubarak doesn't end the regime of oppression; the structural role of the army starts to show and play its role in Egyptian politics. The course of events clearly showed that the repression of the army after the fall of Mubarak was tremendous; the phrase 'stealing the revolution' was clearly portrayed by the director. The documentary was spectacular in reflecting the structures of Egyptian politics. The flow of authoritarian survival from Mubarak to the army then to the Muslim Brotherhood was one of the main themes that were investigated in the documentary. The counter movement against authoritarianism had been Tahrir. Tahrir had become the new national symbol in the Egyptian memory for justice and freedom.

Through the eyes of three different characters Ahmed; a young boy coming from a poor family and fed up with the system, Magdy; a long-established member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Khalid; a movie star we see how the revolution occurred with the participation of different sections of the society. Full of political debates, perceptions and historical realities the documentary reveals the perceptions and the expectations of the Egyptian people. Ahmed , Khalid and Magdy sometimes find themselves on opposing sides but unites in the square for more democracy and more social justice.

While watching the documentary the songs and discourses makes the audience feel like they are in the square. One of the most popular songs of the revolution; El Medan dedicated to the revolutionaries of the Egyptian Revolution plays along;

One hand day and night and nothing with you is impossible

The sound of freedom is gathering us and our lives finally have meaning.

The documentary shows how their lives have gained that meaning. One thing was clear in Egypt after 2011 is that nothing will be same again. The lyrics of the songs had dramatically changed in Egypt after 2011. As the documentary shows with the popular singer of the revolution Rammy Essam, the songs were targeting social justice, freedom, bread and rights.

As Khalid said they were on the squares because their weapons were to tell their stories. There are battles in the images and battles in the stories. It was spectacular how these images and videos were taken in the course of and the aftermath of the revolution. The gathering of these scenes with the narrative of the people has made the documentary sincere and realistic. When we watched it we felt like we were on the Tahrir square, singing the songs with the Egyptians. The documentary is an impressive intimate account of a continuing revolution, seen from within the heart of historic social upheaval. It was spectacular because it embraces the synergy of the people from all sections of the society from the Brotherhood, to the youth and the 'seculars' that participated in the uprising. In the course of the documentary, at the aftermath of the revolution during the elections it was portrayed that the revolutionaries didn't want the military or the Muslim Brotherhood and questioned their movement and their intervention to politics. There were millions marching to the streets but no political connotation. The Muslim Brotherhood had survived decades of government crackdowns by operating in secret and creating a tremendous spirit of loyalty among its members. It was disciplined and determined to seize power.

The documentary ends with the military coup. The suppression of the army in the aftermath of the coup hasn't been included. ''We dreamed that one day all of Egypt would be like Tahrir Square..." had said Ahmed but the progression at the aftermath of the revolution disabled his dream. The aftermath of the coup has been more repressive than the ancien-regime. The documentary is banned in Egypt at the moment. In the course of the documentary we constantly see that the army was the strongest institutional constraint that was against their march against democracy. The end of the documentary has made it clear again. The director may come up with another documentary parallel to the Square and reveal the biggest social movement and the counter-movement in Egyptian history once again.

*Research Assitant at POMEAS