Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dialectics and Freedom of Speech: Response to The Freedom to Cuss-Out

I wrote this when I read the post : The Freedom to Cuss-Out and I have been thinking of Tamer Amin's statements about the sexual assault incident at Cairo University. I thought it would be a cool thought experiment to try a dialectical approach in thinking about these dialogues.

Cartesian Reductionism and reductionist thinking has kept many of us isolated within our disciplines and has constrained our ideas within these disciplines understanding of human consciousness. A world that is cut up and dissected into discrete and separate parts and our understanding of human consciousness has not escaped its scalpel. Economics speaks of our consciousness as a rational one, Biology of a genetic one, Psychology of an internal (nature/genetic) and external (nurture/environment) that are informing each other, limiting or exacerbating the effects that each can have on the organism's behavior as an expression of its internal and external world. Yes the disciplines may inform one another, but essentially in their treatment of human consciousness they still very much remain separate even if they acknowledge the "other" factors that may inform our consciousness.

When looking at the idea of free speech I cannot separate that from our understanding of human consciousness and how our understanding of the human consciousness limits where we draw the lines of where freedom of speech lies. Meaning certain perspectives may attribute a higher value to material versus conceptual violence. Violence to the body, but not violence to the soul or a person's own understanding of what affects them, and in this post: "The Freedom to Cuss out" there is a lot of emphasis of the material measurable violence. When is an action material or verbal considered a trespass? When we distinguish between the material, the visual or the verbal where are we placing power and agency? Where do we see and and how do we measure effects and what does that say about who we are and the power we give certain discourses. When we ascribe to a material world of cause and effect how do we constrain ourselves and limit our own agencies and what conditions are we also perpetuating? Are material and semiotic effects truly that separate, do they not stem from the very inequalities that limit our freedoms and also inform our consciousnesses? Materialism emerged within a certain elite class, patriarchal class, when we conceptualize our world a world of the material versus the conceptual or semiotic how are we constraining our own agency. When our method is one of dissection, one which weighs and values the tangible and the intangible in different ways, we also continue to create worlds that emerged from the imaginations of a small number of a powerful landowning elite, that violently enclosed and separated using their wealth, armies and power the land and everything else that humans can utilize on it. I'm not talking about just what we do being part of that story of the violence of capitalism and patriarchy. I am talking about the thoughts that first interpret the world around us and then inform our actions of what to do are also part of that story that writes the world we live in with all its injustices. 

 So I am naturally uncomfortable with broad and encompassing generalizations about everything, where every situation is extremely specific. I believe in freedom of speech and I believe in freedom of expression. It feels good and right to say that, but maybe the problem isn't whether or not we believe in freedom of speech and expression, maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions about how we think of freedom of speech and expression. Speech and expression both imply a certain codependency on modality, avenue and audience. When we say freedom of speech there is an inherent assumption that modalities, tools, avenues are all easily accessible. That the expression can be released into the world and received by an audience, it is suggested that we can all do that equally since we are "free" to do so. When we think of a complex world psychological, political, physical world we realize the constraints to our freedoms are both the ones that are external to us and the ones that stem from our own consciousness. I don't have an answer to whether we should switch off the remote on people's words but not on their actions of hate, I don't know if we should cuss them back or use state-run methods to limit them. But I do know that as I unravel the way my mind and my body experience living right now, there are new spaces within me that are able to imagine, experience and tell a story of a world of different possibilities and trajectories. So I would think the issue here isn't prohibition on speech as much as leveling the playing fields to some extent and then initiating a dialogue from that space. It means that we first resist, but not just what makes sense to a mind and body that are dissected or an individual and whole that can be separated, but just what does not feel good to us, and we continue resisting till we do feel good. We are not isolation and there is friction and change and different things that other people need to feel good and that will never stop, but nor should resistance, or attempts to understand injustice and violence outside of stories that narrate the body and mind as separate.

There's a lot of Timothy Mitchell "Everyday Metaphors of Power" and a lot of ideas from "The Dialectical Biologist"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stepping out of an Ageist Discourse: Tahrir Clashes Nov19 2013

I've been reflecting all morning about the clashes that happened in Tahrir last night. I've gone from judging the protestors to undermining them because of their age. I stood on the sides yesterday laughing at the absurdity of protestors running towards the tear gas canister and not away from it. But I just realized, 2 yrs since Mohamed Mahmoud and regardless of the distractions of the political puppet show there is a deep seated feeling of injustice. Lives lost, people injured and a sense of loss that may not be legally measurable. Something robbed and yet irretrievable, and even more so integral.
I am slightly ashamed to have been so non compassionate, so judgmental and patronizing. There is a rage at a world that is being constructed around us that goes against every single inherent gnosis we have of that world, and while most of us live to some varying degree in denial, some of us may not have lived long enough yet to have developed the same defense mechanisms. Some of us may be living and responding to a world that is darkly absurd and morbid a little bit more honestly than others. People suffered a loss and no justice or closure ever happened. Instead an invalidation of the reality that ripped through peoples lives. A small example among a million more of that is the memorial constructed to commemorate the martyrs, thankfully it didn't last more than 24 hours. The violence of these acts creates a justifiable rage, yet many of us will choose to instead demean these protestors because they are younger and judge them and question their sanity. Their reaction to everything that has been happening IS SANITY. A step up from that we sit and discuss these poor teens and tweens, the system failed them they are not to be blamed, let us fix them, they need something to do, oh these poor poor kids, let us educate them, let us engage them....  When is someone going to start saying let us VALIDATE them..
I want to be stripped from the defenses that I have built over the years, that tell me that the biggest joke in the world is that awful memorial that they put up. These defenses that make me laugh at the same time my stomach aches and churns, yet don't get up and tear that memorial down.I want to have that energy to express my rage over and over again, tear canister after tear canister, as one after the other falls to the ground. Over and over. That energy to express and enact my rage at every material and symbolic aspect of that system. Okay, lol, maybe I don't really want that :) ..... But at least I don't want to judge that.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Still Warm...

Yes, his blood had splattered across my legs
Still warm,
As those who could not find their son, brother or friend
pushed and crowded around the gurney
From the ambulance
Till the big metal doors
With more, many more, still warm
still dripping their blood, still not coagulated,
still behind these big metal doors
The blood splatters were of him
him, him and him
Gun shot to the head, to the chest, to the face
11…. a minute later
12…. 13…..
ambulances pulling in quietly, no sirens, no rush
blue, blood-soaked gurneys
Disappearing behind the metal doors
Padlocks slamming shut

Yes, they haunt me
and I see them,
every night, they flood me with their faces
with screams that tear at every organ inside me
screams of grief wrap around my throat
choking me, reminding me
Gunshot to the head, to the chest, to the face
not to the arm, not to the knee, not to the leg
Death faced with such an abandon
Justice, freedom, snipers and an insatiable military
I desperately grasp at these moments
remembering what it meant to cease to be I
The collective abandon
the futility of life constrained

An empty square, overflowing poll booths
blood stained streets,
spilled by those who now
glide through the skies painting hearts
as a nation soaks its feet in the blood
gone cold
of a moment of collective abandon
They visit me again that night,
the screams of grief are louder
louder than your F-16s, Apaches and airbuses
and they grip my heart and pierce it
With the futility of collective abandon.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

They Can Violate You, But...

They can violate you,
but they can't humiliate you
When their hands grab at your body
and you can't see their faces
too many faces, you smell their sweat
Dripping on your face, burning your eyes
The stank of a men's locker room
and you feel the wind against your face
and their bodies pressing against you
Too many faces,
Too many hands
Your feet are off the ground and hands pulling at your arms
a wave, no not a wave
a whirlpool, enclosing, drowning
Air, you need to come out for air
Dizziness, swirling, groping
You call on the Friend, the Guide, Truth
مدد يا مولانا
 Silence, a calmness between the waves
You breathe, and breathe and breathe
As you waltz your way between bodies,
trapped in a divine gift of momentary stillness
167 were not so lucky.

Monday, July 1, 2013

46 and counting.... Are we still having fun?

"Every minute it takes us to get to the woman we are going from wishing we get to her before she's harassed, to wishing we could get to her before she is stripped of her clothes and raped by hundreds of hands and objects. Every second after that, the scenario gets worse, from maiming, injuring, killing...", that was one of the things told to us at my first practice session with OpAntiSh. It was one of the things that I could never forget and with every time we mobilized for an intervention yesterday I could hear it over and over again in my head. I am writing about this today because I need to share, one the one hand, I need to share as a way to process my own experience, to examine and release the feelings of terror and victimization, to explore the lessons learned, and to come out scarred inevitably, but just a little bit lighter and a little bit stronger. On the other hand, I write to engage a wider public in thinking about women in public spaces, the sanctity of the human body, mob sexual assaults and what drives them.

There has been much to say about who these people are. Are they hired? by who? The army, the brotherhood or the police? Is it organized gangs from slum areas? Is it just plain and simple mob mentality of a sexual frustrated people? Is it just chaos? Or is it just all these things compiled. I've been thinking of this for a long a time, ever since these incidents had starting emerging during the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes in November 2011. Based on what happened in 2005 outside the Journalist's Syndicate when hired NDP thugs targeted women journalists and stripped them of their clothes. Shortly following that incident there was another mob sexual assault downtown that could easily be attributed to just the plain and simple mob mentality of a sexually frustrated populace. Yet, despite this when examining these two incidents we need to think of them as something connected yet multi-layered. For any event to take place, a small space must be carved for it within our social functionings and interactions with one another. Mob sexual violence is state sponsored, yet not every incident is carried out by the state's insidious apparatuses of order and security, but it was the state that intentionally carved the social space for such incidents to occur as a clear strategy to exclude women from political and public spaces. I am not excluding the patriarchy and misogyny rampant in Egypt, or the education, legal and discursive narratives that subordinate women, these as well come into play. But specifically the mob sexual assaults against women that occur within political contexts are state sponsored strategies to immobilize politically more than half of its citizen. This does not end here, social spaces are not distinct or impermeable they are constantly seeping into one another, mixing and diffusing. These politically contextualized mob sexual assaults will not be confined to the political sphere, in the context of material and conceptual misogyny, the rate of diffusion may be a lot faster than most of us could have anticipated. These assaults must be stopped now, or very soon these will become a regular occurrence of our daily lives. I must say, in the face of such a threat to our existence as woman, we have been very lax in the our response to these situations. When the Shura Council issued its statements earlier this year indicting women for their own sexual assaults, we marched in protest, we did not even make it to the Shura Council, we chanted and we went home. Our response to the Shura Council's outright carte' blanche for the violation of our bodies and the eradication of our existence, should have been taken as a declaration of war against women and we should have responded to the Shura Council with the same, if not more level of violence. This is not and will not be a pacifist struggle, not unless you want to live confined and hiding within your homes, because the alternative is having your body and every part of it no longer become yours.

An incident was reported by the Arab League, our intervention team mobilized moving quickly within the square in single file. Trying to move discretely not to attract more people to where the mob is, but needing to move fast enough, because every minute the woman is closer to death. We moved as people cheered the army helicopters flying above, as music blared from the stages, as boys ran around blowing their horns and dancing. Every minute you could hear different bangs as an endless array of fireworks would color the sky. We got to the mob as we moved closer trying to clear a path for ourselves, hands grabbing at me trying to pull me out, telling me not to go into the mob, other hands grabbing at my ass, I waved my baton, as me and the other girl on the intervention team tried to make our way to where the woman was being attacked. We could see she was being pushed against the wall of the Arab League building. Within seconds, a couple of men had climbed the 8-10 meter fence, from one to the next they handed her over,  her body was lifeless, being tossed in the air from one hand to the next. Where they saving her or where they taking her somewhere to finish her off? I don't know the answer to this, but this is the typical extreme level of chaos and confusion within these mob assaults. The men then tossed her over the wall, I couldn't see if there was someone on the other side to catch her but I could hear myself scream as I watched her body fall to the other side of the fence. I think here is where I went wrong, I had a lapse of judgement after what I had seen happen to that woman, or maybe I had also become infected with that same mob frenzy. She was gone on the other side of the wall, there was no need for me to remain within the mob, yet I found myself pushing in rage to the point where they had picked the girl. Within split seconds we were surrounded, we had replaced that woman, hands were pulling at me from every direction, moving me, forming a cordon around us, but the grabbing wouldn't stop, I used my baton hitting this one man who on the one hand was protecting me from hundreds of dirty hands reaching to grope me, and at the same was also having an open buffet all over my body. I must have hit his testicles over three times full force with a metal baton, and this man did not react. The crowd kept closing in on us, we were being moved as if we were weightless, everyone protecting and yet everyone groping. For a moment I thought that was it and I really was filled with terror, then I saw a familiar face from the OpAntiSh team, I remember his face looking at me, terrified and helpless as the mob was moving us around off our feet, as tens of hands grabbed at my body, pulling at my arms. I watched his face change from fear, to anger and then to clarity. I could breathe finally, in the middle of hundreds of men surrounding me, I could breathe. I'm okay today, slightly bruised, but intact physically and emotionally, and my heart is truly overflowing with gratitude and not just towards him, but to every single person that was with us last night from the opantish team and our friends that dropped by with food and supplies.

I realized the more I panicked the more the mob would close onto us like a pack of abused rabid dogs, the more I was calm and asked them gently to make space, the more room we had to move. I realized that I could ignore some gropes, because if I became agitated the crowd would become more aggressive. I also saw that I couldn't ignore all the gropes, because some if not stopped, they would continue to escalate and I would find my clothes being taken off me. I saw that when I would hit their hands or bodies off me, I would need to do it discretely still, because if I raised my baton over my head to bring it down hard the mob would become extremely agitated. I can't claim to understand what mob mentality is, but after yesterday I really do think that the calmer one can remain within the mob, the easier it becomes to escape it. The absurdity of the situation reached new heights, when I could hear the army helicopter above, I started pointing and waving to it frantically, chanting "eid wa7da" "and to my surprise a large amount of the mob started pointing, cheering, chanting and clapping, amazingly we had even more room to move and managed to make our way out and back safely. Shortly after I heard that our team had managed to rescue that woman.

In the midst of the turbulent events of the last two years, we have forgotten about ourselves and our struggle. I remember the first time I was groped in the middle of the tear gas in Mohamed Mahmoud, or when my friend unconscious was carried from the field hospital by men who were supposed to transport her to an ambulance but instead started running off with her, putting their hands in her pants and grabbing at her. I remember saying to myself, I don't want to write about this, because I don't want to distract away from the real issue. At this point and so I can say I have learned a lesson, I will bring up another uncomfortable topic, so many men tried to pull me out of the mobs, ask me to go hide somewhere because I was a woman, or try and keep me safely cordoned within the women's area. As grateful as I am for this form of care and compassion, we must also call it out as being the other side of the coin of sexual assaults. This is our fight, where do we go if they won't let us fight it ourselves, what will really change if we are continually through love and through hatred confined to spaces that we do not choose to be in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dignity and Social Justice: SIDELINED

While we are still fighting in the trenches of revolution, starting with the referendum the parties and candidates have slowly been placing the building blocks of our future political sphere. Those players are currently determining the position of dignity and social justice in Egypt’s future political sphere. Dreaming of social justice and human dignity is not idealistic, but is the very premise of what #Jan25 stands for, we cannot allow it to become side-lined or remain as words we chant in our protests. While the bourgeoisie will never understand how the absence of dignity and social justice affect people who are constantly undergoing daily social and economic humiliation, the reality is that there are many people that cannot live another day under these conditions. These values must materialize in every action of building and instead of allowing these values to be limited to reverberations in the squares, we must limit the actions and policies of these political players that will only exacerbate humiliation and social injustice.

A list of the economic policies of some of the main parties was compiled by @hussein_allam. The parties included in the list are: The Free Egyptians Party Al Masriyeen El Ahrar (المصريين الأحرار), The Egyptian Democratic and Social Party Al Masry Al Democrati Al Igtmaay (المصرى الديمقراطى الإجتماعى), The Justice Party Hizb El Adl (حزب العدل) , The Egypt Freedom Party Masr El Hurreya (مصر الحرية), The Light Party Hizb El Nour (حزب النور) , The Middle Party Hizb El Wast (حزب الوسط), Freedom and Justice Party El Hurreya wa El Aadala (الحرية و العدالة) . I will be outlining how these economic policies will further increase disproportionate wealth accumulation and will inevitably fail at achieving social justice. I would definitely encourage a close reading of the afore-mentioned list of economic policies prior to reading this post. While I would have liked to include tourism and large mega-projects in this critique of the parties' economic policies I will leave these as subjects for other posts, since the three main points that I will raise in this post suffice to show how these economic policies are destined to fail in creating the foundations of social justice.

First of all, I would like to briefly speak about human dignity, I've written a previous post about human dignity and what the parliamentary elections mean in terms of human dignity. Prior to the November uprising in #Tahrir I could consider the parliamentary elections and candidates at the very best naive and optimistic to have accepted participation in these elections while we are still under #SCAF's dictatorship, but following November uprising I consider their participation a betrayal and complete disregard to the basic human right to dignity. I will not blame voters for their participation in these farcical elections, but I blame the parties and the candidates for granting legitimacy to an authority that was shooting to kill and eradicate dissidents. The short-sightedness and blatant weakness of these parties in their ability to organize as a political front and reject #SCAF's legitimacy and violence leaves me frustrated that the political arena is occupied by self-interested individuals and parties that lack any true vision that will allow Egyptians to finally break free from the throes of oppression and humiliation. Many parties and candidates continued to run for elections despite the atrocities that were being committed by #SCAF and the #CSF out of fear of losing power and ground in the elections to the Islamist parties instead of organizing and boycotting these elections. The parties and candidates were either too stupid or too self-serving and having them in any sort of power will hold a bleak future for the revolution.

What is social justice? Its a term that has been used since #Jan25, chanted, hung on banners and included in every dialogue on revolutionary reform. Part of why it’s so easy to forget about it is because it is not defined. It can be easily appropriated by anyone to mean a range of things including creating a larger vocational labor force who will ultimately be working in factories to make others richer. But for the purpose of this post I will define it as equal access to the means of production and the ability of people to subsist without having their labor exploited by someone. In other words, it means that no individual is able to monopolize say for instance a factory, and then through the labor of others derive a profit that is significantly larger than what the labor is acquiring through this exploitative relationship. In the current scheme of things, what we've seen is that those who own the means of production are able to generate immense wealth that allows them to further monopolize more means of production. That way this ruling class of owners is constantly becoming richer while those whose labor is the very essence of their wealth become more and more impoverished. There is a finite amount of wealth circulating in human societies when someone owns the means of production what ends up happening is that this wealth and resources become more concentrated around those epicenters of production leaving less available to be circulated among those who do not own these means of production. A capitalist economic system is constantly creating and replicating this relationship between capital and labor and social justice cannot be ever achieved under these conditions, even if it may seem so temporarily. Even if we intervene, mitigate and use taxation systems and protectionist economic models to prevent this, ultimately this is a system that is self-destructive and the only way for it to survive is through a process of constant expansion. Eventually this system will run out of more resources to utilize and spaces (both physical and conceptual) to expand into and will collapse. The question here is will we wait for a system that is devastating both the planet and its people to self-implode making it extremely hard for people to recover from its devastating effects or will we work to bring this system down before more losses are incurred?

An often overlooked element to why capitalism has not caused the devastation that those who oppose it have prophesied is that not everyone is completely integrated within the market economy, in fact there are many places within Egypt that people are still able to subsist through what economists have termed informal economies. Informal economies are ways that different groups of people are able survive external to these market economies through both monetized and non-monetized exchanges usually extremely location specific and heavily reliant on social and kinship ties. A close look at the parties' economic policies shows that The Free Egyptians Party, The Egyptian Democratic Social Party, The Justice Party, The Free Egypt Party and The Light Party all in one form or the other encourage the start-up and maintenance of small to medium enterprises (SMEs). While this may initially appear as a step in the right direction, I urge you take a minute to reflect about what that really means in context of what I explained earlier. By encouraging the creation of SMEs, on the one hand new epicenters of requiring smaller capital are being created that for them to function require even smaller wages and naturally more exploitation of the labor force. On the other hand, an increase of SMEs will only further integrate many informal economies into the market economy. While theoretically this may at first appear as increased distribution of wealth, but reality is that access to markets and market information can be very limited. Many of these informal economies once integrated into a market economy will lose the very non-measurable methods for subsistence that allowed people to subsist and will most likely lead to a disruption to these economies that rely on social and kinship ties leaving many people impoverished.

The Freedom and Justice Party, The Middle Party, The Light Party, The Free Egypt Party, The Justice Party, The Egyptian Democratic and Social Party and the Free Egyptians Party all employ different schemes and policies to mitigate the destructive effects of what is thought of as a free market, ranging from tax subsidies and minimum wages to anti-inflation policies. What these policies are doing in essence is working in the complete opposite direction of a free market economy, yet while these policies work in opposition to the free market economy, all they are doing is allowing this market economy to further flourish. Without these policies what would eventually happen is that people would no longer be able to subsist and inevitably lead to a complete collapse of the market economy. So by employing these different protectionist schemes these parties are creating conditions in which a collapse of the market economy is slowed down, keeping people’s heads barely over the water and supporting their continued exploitation. Economic justice can never be achieved through protectionist economic policies only the continued exploitation of people is achieved.

By encouraging expansion and development (whether agriculture or tourism) into what are considered “marginalized” or “empty” landscapes a two-fold process is occurring here. The first, it is implicit within this process that a very state and legislatively recognized form of private property will be taking place. Private property at its very essence is the right of certain individuals or institutions to exclude others from access to the decision-making process of how this property will be utilized. In the context of capital accumulation this means that individuals and institutions with capital and power are able to deny access of others to this property. Capital generates more capital and private property especially that integrated into a market economy will only lead to more capital and further alienate a vast majority of people from their ability access this property whether it is land or resource, transforming the majority of people’s relationship to land and resource to those of tenants and not owners. The second process that is occurring is what I consider an inherently conceptually violent process of erasure of people and their livelihood practices. These targeted lands, whether the North Coast, “deserts” or Sinai as outlined by The Freedom and Justice Party, The Middle Party, The Light Party, The Egyptian Democratic and Social Party and The Free Egyptians Party, are imagined empty and devoid of people. I will leave my readers to draw their own conclusions about this process, but I urge you to ask yourself what does it mean to the people living in these locations to become erased and considered non-existent in how our economic policies are developed? What does it mean impose projects on people while we sit in our offices developing these policies with little or no regard to how others wish to live their lives? What does it mean to not recognize thousand-year old processes of ownership unless they conform to our current state definition of private property? How can social justice be achieved when over 500,000 individuals’ existence is being erased as we choose to consider these locations “marginal”, “uninhabited” and “unused”?

For many of us integrated into the market economy, it is very difficult to imagine a world outside of capitalism. But this is a revolution and we must challenge our imaginations. Capitalism derives its power largely in how we think of it as a natural, inevitable and unchangeable system. But capitalism is hardly natural, it is not governed by the laws of nature and has come into existence through violent and coercive forms of rule and governance, it emergence is not separate from colonial and neo-colonial projects and this is something we must not overlook. Additionally, capitalism was not inevitable, it has resulted through the choices, decisions and theories of a ruling class that have had the physical means to super-impose this system, again often violently on different groups of people. Finally, capitalism is not unchangeable, it is hard to imagine alternatives while it is dominating our every interaction and interpretation of the world around us. If capitalism collapses it doesn’t mean our means of production will also collapse, it doesn’t mean that agricultural lands and factories will cease to exist, it will only mean that they will no longer belong to a small ruling elite class and their benefits will be distributed more equitably. If we allow ourselves to dare and dream of a different world; one where our economic policies are not alienating or excluding, where social justice and human dignity are at its forefront, maybe then we will not rush to ballots supporting parties based on fears of islamists or liberals and finally address the core essence of a socio-economic system that not just within Egypt, but has globally enslaved to different degrees an extremely large majority of people who inhabit this planet.

This post is inspired by conversations with @bassemk, @atlemk, @sumayaholdijk,@yasminb and @fazerofzanight. This post is theoretically influenced by Karl Marx's Das Capital, Karl Polyani's Great Transformation, Nancy Peluso’s interpretation Bundles of Power, David Harvey’s Spaces of Hope, Timothy Mitchell on the Performativity of Markets and James Scott's Seeing Like a State.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Battle of Mohamed Mahmoud -Tahrir (Nov 19 - Nov 23)-

As a tear gas canister starts to land in the middle of protesters in Mohamed Mahmoud street, thousands of people turn and start running towards #tahrir. Mohamed Mahmoud feels smaller than it's ever been and the building on its sides seem larger, taller, enclosing us, trapping us and the gases between them. Within seconds, protesters start running back towards #Tahrir, trying to outrun the a thick white cloud of smoke, stumbling, gasping for air. My eyes and face start burning, my eyes shut and I could not see, I only knew which way was out because of the bodies that swept me out of Mohamed Mahmoud. I see to my right @sumayaholdijk's head disappear under a wave of people rushing to escape the white cloud of teargas. Before I can begin to worry about @sumayaholdijk, I start gasping for air, in a moment of panic I pull off my scarf and mask and gasp for air, but instead I fill my lungs with a gas that feels like I inhaled searing hot pins. I try and inhale, but there is no air, just more pins tearing up my insides, by the third time I try to take a breath, my head starts spinning, my legs become heavy and everything becomes silent. As my knees buckle under me, someone on my right hooks his arm into my right arm and someone on my left hooks his arm into my left one. I don't feel my legs as I glide with the crowd through the smoke. I hear a muted voice screaming, "save us,الحقونا" and realize its my own. I look behind me in time to see @fazerofzanight slide under the feet of the fleeing protesters, I try and pick her, but my legs won't hold me and my screams become clearer as I shout, "Save her, save her, someone save her,الحقوها الحقوها حد يلحقها". I couldn't breathe and I knew that if I did not escape the cloud of teargas in a few seconds I would die and surely if I did then @fazerofzanight would also die. A man behind me, also with swollen eyes, carried @fazerofzanight towards the Field Hospital in Mohamed Mahmoud, instantaneously other protesters starting clearing a way for her to get through as we went through people on the sides started spraying our faces with a mixture of yeast, bicarbonate, saline and other things and I could finally breathe. We made it to the field hospital and after a very close call we were all, though extremely shaken, miraculously okay.

Many people don't understand why so many were injured and others had fallen dead in what they consider the pointless clashes of the battle for Mohamed Mahmoud. If we recall the events of June 28th, tear gas canisters were landing in the middle of Tahrir square, these canisters were being launched from Mohamed Mahmoud. Mohamed Mahmoud is the closest point with the clearest trajectory to Tahrir Square. If #CSF forces were to take it over than there is no doubt that within minutes #Tahrir would be covered in a formidable cloud of teargas.

The battle of Mohamed Mahmoud is an organic show of sacrifice like no other I have seen or experienced before in my life. It is a living breathing barricade of people who are willing to risk snipers, asphyxiation, burning eyes and seizures to stop the disbanding of the #Tahrir sit-in. People on the front-lines escape the teargas to be quickly replaced by others, while hundreds wait for the fallen to carry them to the over-crowded under equipped nearby field hospitals, while they spray whatever they can into the air to dissipate the effects of the pernicious gas that has already taken the lives of many of us. People are determined to maintain the #tahrir sit-in at every and all costs. That is the story of the battle of the living breathing barricades of Mohamed Mahmoud, you have not experienced camaraderie till you've experienced Mohamed Mahmoud.