I woke up this morning to the news that a good friend’s brother-in-law was shot in the head in Tahrir Square last night. He has been part of this revolution from the beginning, and, through his life-threatening injury, he is now paying the price in the fight for the freedom Egyptians deserve.
This, of course, comes after security forces have denied using live ammunition on protestors. So, either our friend’s brother-in-law is lying about the bullet in his head, or the security forces are lying to the world. I would say it is the latter. However, without meaning to trivialize what has happened to him, I do feel concern for what freedom actually means in this new Egypt. Case in point: Aliaa El-Mahdy, the young Egyptian woman who posted a nude self-portrait on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. To her, this was a type of protest against certain views in Egypt on sexuality, nudity, feminism and artistic rights. But to many people in Egypt her statement was labelled an outrageous act and she has been condemned — even by “the April 6 Movement,” the individuals trying to bring freedom and democracy to Egypt.
So, what is Egypt’s new freedom? Is it really freedom if those who are fighting reject someone else’s expression?
What is freedom without religious freedom? If someone is unable to make their own decisions on what to believe, how free are they? In the end, all of this death, violence and sacrifice really amounts to nothing if people are not free to make their own religious decisions or are unable to express themselves artistically. It should be noted however that this revolution is in its infancy; it is difficult to understand freedom if you have never had it before. Just look at the former states of the USSR: many of those countries are still struggling to understand what freedom means 20 years later. My concern is that if more conservative religious forces do end up leading the new Egypt, freedom will remain as elusive as ever.
We have already seen the effects of this revolution on Coptic Christians, who now appear to be facing ever greater intolerance and violence. Where is the April 6 Movement taking Egypt? How open will this group of revolutionaries be to exploring what true freedom is? Will they eventually see that Aliaa Elmahdy is not a criminal but rather someone exploring her own freedoms, just as anyone should be able to do in a free society? My fingers are crossed.
I don’t want the anguish of my friend’s brother-in-law to be in vain. I want people like Aliaa Elmahdy to benefit from this dangerous quest for freedom as much as anyone else in Egypt. And I wish the best for our friends during this difficult time and a speedy recovery for our friend’s brother-in-law, inshallah.
Chris Hearn wishes for the people of Egypt to build a truly free society.