there is no poetry in revolution

I have tried tracing back to the moment Cairo changed everything.

Perhaps it was the hunger. It is inescapable, littering the gutter faces of the poor, more popularly a reference point for Muslim Brotherhood manipulation or illiteracy rates, but never for their sad toothless smiles.

Bolder yet was the daily congestion of dirty hands that robbed me of pantyhose and ass, leaving me to weep in the middle of bustling streets all too often. The many conversations, like that of a relative’s incessant defence of her late husband’s right to paint her soul in bruises, compounded the helplessness into utterly displaced rage.

Or perhaps it was the burnt rubber smell of disbanded protests. The chaos of it all. First-timers caressing their tear-gassed eyes with Coca Cola, all the while, locals spilling boiling water over balconies as storeowners stand menacing with home-made batons patrolling the doors to their livelihoods.

An eery silence always followed.

There was plenty of that to go around. Loud boisterous parties in Downtown, the epicentre of Cairene resistance, never failed to feature pockets of whispered dejection. Then there was the cute revolutionary I met twice who better articulated hope forgone with one grief-stricken glance to the ceiling. Great book collection too.

But when my friend pointed out we had spent the better part of our twenties mourning the death of comrades, it hit me.

They are gone.

I have smoked countless Marlboro cigarettes in an anxious fervour, unable to placate the gut-wrenching dread of what is to come. There’s little spine to the romance of revolution.

Many were martyred in its name. I have lost count of their names… their faces… This truth has rendered me inconsolable well into many starless nights (re: Cairo’s light pollution). Still, I remind myself they live on through those of us that remain, emboldening our hearts in the face of many risks, including harassment, assault and uncharged imprisonment. Many are already in prison as I write this.

The counterrevolution is upon us. But when it seems the majority of the nation is suckling at the tits of propaganda, how can we realistically challenge those in power?

This next phase is crucial.

The search for pure radicalism is suffocating our revolution. Our current tactics are enough to wither any hope intangible. Street protests disrupt the livelihoods of many low and middle class Egyptians, alienating many of them from a movement supposedly championing their empowerment. It is time we considered our own privileged positions within the revolutionary current because we cannot possibly hope to challenge unequal power dynamics while replicating them within our own movements. Recognising this is going to make or break our struggle.

Critical politics need to be made accessible to the general public. This is a different sort of resistance. It involves redirecting our energy from street protests to educating our communities on their rights and the power of the collective in securing them.

Of course, building an army of critical minds that can match and challenge the State is no simple matter. It will take years, perhaps even decades, before the planted seeds reach their potential.

But guess what, no one ever said revolution was going to be easy.

-Hala Nasr is an Egyptian poet.



  1. “It will take decades” – you don’t have decades, the world wide trend is towards greater authoritarianism and corporate control. Drown them in their own blood before they killyou off.

  2. Reblogged this on daninstockholm and commented:
    Beautiful piece!!!

  3. Reblogged this on Tanasim تناسيم.

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