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You Have Not Yet Been Defeated by Alaa Abd el-Fattah review – a message to the world from an Egyptian prison | Politics books

In early 2011, a era of Egyptians took to the streets, confronted down the safety forces and defied the previous rule that Egypt’s residents may by no means be greater than cowed, obedient kids of a army state. “I’m addressing the youth of Egypt at the moment … from the coronary heart, a father’s dialogue along with his little children,” the 82-year-old dictator Hosni Mubarak stated as he clung to energy. In Tahrir Sq., tens of 1000’s of his “little children” – most of them not but born when he inherited energy from Anwar Sadat in 1981 – discovered this new intimacy unconvincing after the teargas and bullets, and chanted for his downfall.

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By the subsequent day Mubarak was gone, and the protesters had been being hailed by the world leaders who had helped preserve him in workplace for thus lengthy. (“Egypt won’t ever be the identical,” stated Barack Obama, whose administration gave the nation’s army $1.3bn annually.) Certainly one of the greatest recognized was the 29-year-old programmer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, already a veteran of road protest and imprisonment, and a champion of the on-line areas that gave younger Egyptians a digital escape from the stifling political and social repression inside their very own borders. To many, he personified the narrative of a recent begin made attainable partly by the new instruments of world info sharing – what the worldwide media labelled a “social media revolution”.

Ten years on, a army dictator is again in energy in Cairo and Abd el-Fattah is again in prison, alongside an estimated 60,000 different political detainees. You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a assortment of his writings throughout that turbulent decade, from essays to tweets to reflections scrawled in pencil and smuggled out of prison, translated and edited by an nameless collective of supporters. It opens after the euphoria of Tahrir, in the chaotic days of late 2011, veering from fine-grained arguments over a new structure to visceral reviews of the violence the state was nonetheless inflicting on those that defied it. “We fought time with slabs of ice and depressing followers,” he says of struggling to protect our bodies retrieved from the Maspero bloodbath of Coptic protesters; the interim army council locks him up once more for his efforts.

Abd el-Fattah at his home in Cairo, 2019.
Abd el-Fattah at his house in Cairo, 2019. {Photograph}: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Photos

This mosaic of texts builds a image of each the ideas of resistance and democracy-building and the ugly, absurd, horrifying, often joyful expertise of dwelling by them in a stubbornly unreformed dictatorship. It’s additionally a reckoning with the legacy of his much-loved father, the human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who was imprisoned and tortured beneath Anwar Sadat and Mubarak. “From my father, I inherited a prison cell and a dream,” Abd el-Fattah writes. In 2011, he’s in prison for the start of his son Khaled, simply as his father missed the start of his sister Mona; in 2014, he misses his father’s demise, too.

As the private and non-private tragedies mount up, cracks seem in his standard eloquence and certainty: he describes his unhappiness at leaving Khaled to meet his nightly probation curfew; his fears that imprisonment will depart him completely unemployable; his wrestle, in a succession of lonely, decrepit cells, with despair. “Our sin was delight, not treachery,” he writes from prison after the army coup that introduced Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – later described by Donald Trump as “my favorite dictator” – to energy. “We stated, ‘We’re not like those that got here earlier than us.’” For the revolutionaries, the state’s bloodbath of greater than 900 Islamist protesters after the coup is a brutal turning level “we are going to by no means have the opportunity to escape”. In the finish, Egypt’s previous proves inconceivable to shake.

However like the success of the revolution in 2011, its defeat isn’t solely an Egyptian story. The remainder of us are the “you” of the ebook’s title, and the speech it’s drawn from makes a name to perceive and shield the web as a area for “common rights and freedoms” – to see and act towards tax avoidance, coverage interference, the gig financial system, algorithms that promote pretend information, the exploitation of our knowledge, our discount to passive eyeballs for advertisers. “Repair your personal democracy,” Abd el-Fattah encourages us, from his cell; Egypt’s rulers try to isolate, fragment and conceal resistance as a result of it wants a world ecosystem to flourish. What can anybody individual do with a legacy of ache, wrestle and braveness? There are not any simple options right here, however You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a heartbreaking, hopeful reply.

You Have Not Yet Been Defeated, translated by an nameless collective, is printed by Fitzcarraldo (£12.99). To help the Guardian and the Observer purchase a copy at guardianbookshop.com. Supply prices might apply.

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