Wednesday, 18 January 2017

January 1977… 40 years

It has been 40 years since what happened in January 18 and 19, 1977… Sadat described what happened as the “uprising of thieves”. Those who call themselves “strategic experts” in Egypt described it as “January events”. As to those meticulous in choosing terms and keen on distinguishing between uprising and revolution, they described it as the “uprising of the masses” or even “uprising of bread”. However, all who took part in that action along with all those burdened with the nation’s problems called it “January revolution” because they believe the revolution is a multi-phase continuous action, with each phase or ring connected to what is before and after it. This is the meaning of continuity in their opinion.

Some believe these rings go back to the first establishing ring represented in the two Cairo revolutions; the first in October 20, 1798 and the second in March 20, 1800, against the French campaign on Egypt. Then we come to the second ring; 1805 revolution against the Turkish rule, expelling the governor appointed by the Turks and choosing and appointing another one; that was Muhammed Ali… and to the third ring; 1881 Orabi revolution against tyranny and social inequality practiced by Muahmmed Ali’s successors… then to the forth ring of 1919; the biggest and greatest ring representing the struggle for independence and drafting the constitution. After this came 1952 ring when the rule of Muhammed Ali dynasty came to an end and another era started… and so on until we come to January, 1977 and the rings that followed next. The last of them was the ring of June, 30.

Before this massive uprising of the masses in January, 1977, I took part of the pre-1973 wide political and thought movement. I was also present and active in the post-1973 time when the victory achieved in October, 1973 by the Egyptian people was stolen and manipulated by a small bunch of brokers, foreign companies’ agents and big bureaucrats.

Then I participated in January 18th and 19th events and was arrested on January 28th, 1977 as I was hiding in a small apartment in Al-Qasr Al-Aini area which Dr. Salah Desouki managed to get me. My wife and struggler, Dr. Fatma Saleh was then pregnant in the last month of our daughter Mariam who was born on February 2nd, 1977; the same date of issuing the law of national unity. That law was issued by Sadat with the purpose of inhibiting and restricting any popular movements of any kind or any degree. I do not know what happened to that law and whether it died like the one who issued it or if it is still there lying next to similar laws.

Despite the 40 years that passed, the scenes and events of those two days are getting clearer in my mind and memory as if I am living them once again with all the details associated to them… seminars, conferences, meetings and attempts to establish a group combining between practicing politics in secret and having public interaction. We called it then “Nasserite committees of work”… then came what happened in al-Mansoura on January 18th and in Cairo on January 19th… then I started hiding and later was chased by the state security investigations while I was actually on my way to give myself in at state security headquarter in Lazoghli… then what happened since I entered there until I went to state security prosecution in Zaki st. in Cairo downtown… later, detention in preventive custody in appeal and Abu-Za’abal prisons… releasing me and banning from work… sleeping in public parks and sometimes begging a meal to eat and money to pay for transportation.

I wrote about all those in detail before and it is time now to collect them in a book… I ask for your prayers to recover from the “phobia” I have of writing books so that I can take this step…

I do not have enough space here to talk about my personal experiment… priority is for thanking the court judges who issued an exoneration verdict. Atop of them is the late counsellor Hakim Mounir Salib along with the honorable counsellors; Ali Abdel-Hakim Omara and Ahmed Muhammed Bakkar… here, let me again excerpt part of what came in the wording of the court verdict headed by counsellor Hakim Salib:

“but the court, while tackling these incidents with due inspection and investigation for finding the cause and truth lying behind, has to say in the beginning that an economic crisis was taking the grip of the Egyptian nation at that time; the crisis that extended to all aspects of life and human necessities for the Egyptian people who were struggling hard trying to provide their food while fighting the soaring prices with their fixed incomes.

This suffering affected people’s daily life in a very cruel way; they were exhausted and worn-out in moving from one place to another due to transportation problem while struggling every day, hour, and moment with lack of services not to mention the deterioration inflicted with such services.

Above all this came the housing crisis, despair gripped people’s hearts especially young men for they may not afford having a proper house; the necessity that is essential for building a family and future life.

In the middle of this crunching crisis, Egyptians used to hear government officials and politicians promising prosperity and solutions capable of putting an end to their sufferings and turning their life-to-come into an easy charmed one. While living in dreams broadcasted day and night in media outlets, people were suddenly shocked by government decisions raising prices of many essential goods affecting their daily provisions without prior preparation or warning. We can imagine the growing frustration that gripped those people’s hearts, the feelings they had before and the despair that washed over them after these decisions.

How can these people, with most of them low-incomed, balance between fixed incomes and such madly exorbitant prices?

A huge gap between the collapsing hopes and the bitter reality tore Egyptians’ hearts and souls. These furious emotions had to find a way out and so huge masses of people abruptly poured into streets and squares. Such demonstrations were collective and purely spontaneous. The masses huddled together roaring, clamoring, and declaring their fury and anger upon the decisions that killed hopes and destroyed the high expectations. Security forces tried to quell protests and regain control but failed amid this growing anger and great pains.

In the middle of this raging sea, vandals found a way to fulfill their evil instincts; they went burning, vandalizing, destroying, and looting money feeling safe from harm among such roaring masses. People went mad as hell when central security men stood in their way armed with clubs, shields, and tear-gas canisters. Things went out of control and chaos prevailed. Nothing could be done to stop riots and regain control and security but imposing curfew and having the armed forces men deployed in the streets. Only then, and with great effort, security was restored.

The court, as ascertained by the knowledge residing in the judges’ conscience, undoubtedly believes the economic decisions of raising prices were the direct and sole motive behind the serious incidents that took place on January 18 and 19, 1977. Those incidents are linked to the decisions like the ill is to illness and the result is to causes”.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper in January, 18 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

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