- Blood, Bodies, and ViolenceGender and Women's Embodied Agency in the Egyptian Uprisings
December 2011. It is only my first week in Egypt when Omar and Amir take me for a tour to Tahrir Square.1 At that moment there are no massive protests or marches, but the whole square still breathes revolution: many street sellers with Egyptian flags, scarves, and T-shirts; tents; a stage with a protest singer and supporters; dolls that represent Mubarak and Tantawi;2 and maybe the most striking for Tahrir Square: no traffic. It feels like an amazing festival atmosphere with elated people, but signs of the violence that happened there are still very much present: some buildings in the square have been destroyed by fire, the Egyptian Museum is partly damaged, Amir points to the rooftops from which snipers were shooting at the protestors, and the bullet holes in the buildings and street signs are uncountable. The blocks and barbed wire that were raised in the streets to prevent protestors from entering give me the feeling of a war zone. But only when Omar shows me the spot where he was hiding during the shooting by the military, and when he tells about a friend who died in his arms, do I realize how violent the protests were in Tahrir Square for all the protestors involved, men and women.3
A couple of weeks later I have my first interview with Amir:
The first day I felt like I witnessed war. It was the 2nd of February, the black Tuesday, with the camels and horses. Yeah it was really … war. You see soldiers everywhere … And even women they were doing something. For example, after three or four hours of thugs attacking us from all around Tahrir Square, I just sat there. Because you just see every two minutes somebody that is being carried away, and a lot of blood. Somehow, I just sat there and I was watching. Maybe I was shocked. And then one woman distributing sandwiches came and said: "Why are you like that? Don't be desperate, we are powerful, and if they want to come inside to kill us, those people at the front lines will get tired. And if you get tired, we [End Page 62] will lose. So if they want to kill us, we will fight back." Actually she really boosted me with energy and I just started again … throwing either one or two stones at the front line and then going back.—Amir4
Omar and Amir are two protestors who participated in the Egyptian revolution that started 25th of January 2011.5 After Tunisia, Egypt was the second country where a dictator resigned after days of protest by millions of people in what was soon called the Arab Spring. They protested against the corrupt government, the lack of freedom and of free elections. When the revolution started in Tunisia and dictator Ben Ali was unseated, this accelerated the waves of protest in Egypt that were already going on against the regime, and it resulted in the decisive events from January 25 to February 11, 2011, when Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president of Egypt.6
Although this revolution became known as a relatively nonviolent one, there were many violent clashes between the regime and the protestors.7 The Mubarak regime ordered the police to prevent people by force from entering and staying in Tahrir Square in the first days of the revolution; and the regime released prisoners and ordered them to attack the protestors in the square by horses and camels on the 2nd of February, also known as the camel battle.8 These prisoners were called baltagiya, an Egyptian colloquial term often translated as thugs in English, and referring to poor and criminalized men who were hired by the regime to do the dirty work of attacking the protestors.9
After Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, the military forces (SCAF) were in charge. Field Marshal Tantawi promised a peaceful transition period until the parliamentary elections took place. Many people trusted the SCAF at first, but they failed to come with a concrete and democratic transition...