It is difficult to write about a friend like Alaa at a time like this.

Difficult to write something that stands apart from the sea of rhetoric and recycled terminology that has drowned us since the revolution. But more so, it is difficult to write about someone as famous and about whom little is actually known. Who is the person behind this loud, boisterous, often angry voice against injustice?

I first came to hear of Alaa and Manal in 2002, while I was volunteering with children of the informal zilzaal area in Moqattam. Alaa and Manal also worked with the children there, through activities that taught them about their rights. Alaa and Manal had both been part of “Al-Nusur al-Saghira” — summer camps organized by a collective of parents in the 1990s. The camps created a space for children that was as fun as it was conducive to their creativity, their sense of initiative, their consciousness of the communities they lived in and their values as individuals. Al-Nusur is where Alaa and Manal met and where, at 12 and 13 years of age, their love grew. As they became teenagers, they and others their age of Al-Nusur took over. They started holding summer camps for the younger children while preparing the eldest to take over as they themselves prepared for university. The last summer camp organized by Alaa and his generation was held in 2001: their motto was “Sughayarin 'alatul” (Forever young).

Salma, our common friend, wanted to introduce me to Alaa in light of our shared dream of starting a summer camp or parallel school for children from all walks of life, where we could reverse the constraints of everyday schooling and focus on the children's sense of creativity, imagination and critical reasoning. Alaa and Manal, at the time recently married, shared a similar dream after the dissipation of Al-Nusur al-Saghira.

Somehow, in the ugliness of battle, we tend to forget that the root of this struggle is the love of life.

But as life scattered us in other directions — I never really met Alaa until 2005 — after that now famous protest dubbed “Black Wednesday.” The protest against constitutional amendments by Hosni Mubarak in May of 2005 was for many a turning point. A realization that our existence on the streets was a battle, that putting our foot down for what is right would be a difficult, often costly, endeavor. After the protest I headed to Hisham Mubarak Law Centre with friends and discovered Alaa's father, Ahmed Seif al-Islam. He was a man whose experience in jail for activism in his youth had brought him wisdom and the time to study law. His journey through ugliness transpired into the garden that is the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, a refuge for the many victims of an arbitrary and oppressive state. As soon as I was home, I wrote about him and sent the article into the ether. Alaa intercepted it and we became friends. He also encouraged me to blog.

My relationship with Alaa took off from 2005. For years onwards we shared notes and excitement about the possibilities of what surrounded us. We talked about movements, we poured over Assef Bayat's writing on pre-revolutionary Iran, and we scouted the streets before and after the call for the strike on April 6, 2008. Something was coming, but what, and when?

Alaa was part of several movements, all with the idea of politics becoming fun and accessible everywhere. He was part of movements against torture in Egypt, part of movements for the access of information and technology and part of several movements inspiring youth and creativity.

Alaa's activism may come as no surprise, given the family he is a part of. But the root of his activism came from his conviction that what is 'right' should be pursued without compromise. It was how he described his father to me in our first exchange in 2005: "The thing with my dad is he is not sacrificing, he is not doing anything special. To him it's a normal thing and I suppose that is what inspires everyone. You don't need to be special, courageous, strong or anything like that, you just need to be good." This was the sentiment that landed him in jail during the rule of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in October of 2012. He refused to be questioned by an authority he did not recognize, and demanded to appear before a civilian court. To him, his arrest was an opportunity to shed light on the plight of civilians appearing before military courts and consequentially receiving exaggerated sentences, often in the absence of their lawyers. He paid a price for his stance, of two months in jail, and, more importantly, missed the birth of his first son, Khaled, on December 6.

But why is Alaa in jail now? The official story is that he is charged for protesting, in a country where political expression on the streets has recently been outlawed. Alaa has also recently been falsely accused of assaulting a police officer and stealing his walky talky.

But why is Alaa really in jail?

Alaa is in jail because he openly speaks against injustice. He is as open in his opposition to the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood as he was of the crimes of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, as he is with the new regime. As a result he has been tried by every regime, from Mubarak to the current military state.

Since the beginning of the revolution, Alaa has been part of various initiatives that create spaces for politics and activism to become more accessible to all. He worked on the initiative “Ta'alu niktib dusturna” (Let's write our constitution), where a popular constitution was to be drafted through questionnaires, group discussions and interviews with people from different governorates, communities and vocations, whose voices would never reach the constitution otherwise. The goal was to have a popular constitution drafted, with a database of information of peoples' aspirations so that it served as material for the constitution to be drafted by any power. He created “Tweet Nadwa,” an initiative that materialized a space as open as Twitter beyond the Internet, and brought it to various public spaces in Tahrir, and beyond Cairo. Tweet Nadwa covered topics such as which political economy was best suited to Egypt, and initiatives people could join, such as the initiative to restructure the Ministry of Interior.

Most importantly however, Alaa was a godfather to students in schools and universities, in Cairo, Mansoura, Assiut and Alexandria, who wanted assistance to organize better, to articulate their political aspirations or simply become aware of their rights. Alaa spent the year after the revolution touring the country and generously providing his time for anyone who asked for it.

There is no bigger threat to despotism than hope. And Alaa inspires hope wherever he goes, because he believes justice is an achievable reality, and because he believes in the rule of law, despite those who oppress us in its name. Alaa is dangerous because his ideas and enthusiasm are contagious. Where would we be if we all had hope? How could a system that breads futility, survive us?

In an article he wrote months ago, Alaa described the excessive arming of civilians (in popular committees) as well as security forces as “khan' misahit hub al-hayah” (a stifling of the capacity to love life). The term has stuck with me since, because somehow, in the ugliness of battle, we tend to forget that the root of this struggle is the love of life.

If I were to articulate why it is that Alaa would risk so much, what it is he is resisting with all his might, it would be exactly that — he is resisting the stifling of our scope to love and to live.

The darkness of his solitary existence in that prison cell is heavier this time than any other. Because, whereas his willingness to risk being away from all those he loves to encourage others to speak out may have been effective in the past, this time the silence of a people defeated is deafening.

Alaa's absence leaves us in a terrible silence, flustered and clambering for hope. We will find that will to resist only if we remember how it is we would love to live.

Comments

Dear Alia,

Dear Alia,
Thank you for sharing... A great piece indeed...
Keep it up...

Nachoua

You can certainly see your

You can certainly see your enthusiasm in the work you write.
The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to say how they
believe. Always follow your heart.

Definitely consider that that

Definitely consider that that you stated. Your favourite reason appeared to be on the net the easiest factor to take into account
of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed whilst other
people think about concerns that they just do not recognise about.
You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the
whole thing without having side effect , folks could take a signal.
Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

Do you mind if I quote a

Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and
sources back to your blog? My blog site is in the exact same
niche as yours and my visitors would really benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
Please let me know if this ok with you. Appreciate it!

Hello! I could have sworn I

Hello! I could have sworn I've viseited this webb site
before buut after looking at some of the posts I realized it's new to me.
Nonetheless, I'm deefinitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I'll be book-marking it and checking back often!

I do not even know the way I

I do not even know the way I ended up right here, however I thought this
publish was once good. I do not recognize who you're but certainly you are
going to a well-known blogger if you happen to are not already.
Cheers!

Do you mind if I quote a

Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long
as I provide credit and sources back to your blog?
My website is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would really benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
Please let me know if this okay with you. Cheers!

Today, I went to the beach

Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4
year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear."
She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was
a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to
go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but
I had to tell someone!

Hi, Neat post. There's a

Hi, Neat post. There's a problem with your site in internet
explorer, would check this? IE still is the marketplace leader and a large
section of people will leave out your fantastic writing due to this problem.

An impressive share! I have

An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been doing a little homework on this.
And he actually ordered me breakfast because I found it for him...
lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx
for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your web
page.

First off I want to say great

First off I want to say great blog! I had a quick question that I'd
like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before
writing. I've had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there.
I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first
10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how
to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Many thanks!

Hiya! Quick question that's

Hiya! Quick question that's totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
My weblog looks weird when viewing from my iphone.

I'm trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to
resolve this issue. If you have any suggestions, please share.
With thanks!

Awesome blog you have here

Awesome blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.

If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Thanks!

I loved as much as you will

I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish.
nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness over that you wish
be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come
further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case
you shield this hike.

I've been browsing online

I've been browsing online greater than three hours these days, but I by
no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours.

It's lovely value sufficient for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content
material as you probably did, the web might be much more helpful than ever before.

You can also operate the

You can also operate the points in the Arcade games, or perhaps you
want to buy something special for the Avatar. You will have to pay a nominal amount for the membership that will include downloading of the games for a certain period of time.
Many families and schools have turned to the Wii for their every-day fitness routine because of
the number of games that keep the body moving.

Right here is the perfect web

Right here is the perfect web site for anyone who wishes to find out about this
topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not
that I personally would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a
fresh spin on a topic that's been written about
for many years. Great stuff, just great!

I'm really loving the theme

I'm really loving the theme/design of your blog.
Do you ever run into any web browder compatibility issues?
Ahandful of my blog visitors habe complained about my site not operating correctly
inn Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you havce any advice to help
fiix this problem?

When I initially commented I

When I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with tthe exact same comment.
Perhaps there iss a way you cann remove me from that
service? Appreciate it!

you're really a just right

you're really a just right webmaster. The web site loading pace
is incredible. It kind of feels that you are doing any unique trick.
Furthermore, The contents are masterwork. you've done a
excellent process on this subject!

When I initially commented I

When I initially commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added
I get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people
from that service? Thank you!

In addition to all the

In addition to all the foreclosures, numerous home prices have actually fallen in some areas.
Consider initial how much you can afford before you
appear on the listings and circle about houses that
you want.

It is appropriate time to

It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and
it is time to be happy. I've learn this submit and if I may I desire to counsel
you some interesting things or advice. Perhaps you can write next articles regarding this article.
I want to learn even more things approximately it!

Heya! I know this is somewhat

Heya! I know this is somewhat off-topic but I had to ask.
Does managing a well-established blog like yours require a massive amount work?
I'm brand neew to writing a blog however I do write in mmy
diary everyday. I'd like to start a bblog so I can share my own experience and feelings online.
Please let me knokw if you have any kind of recommendations or tips for
brand neww aspiring bloggers. Apppreciate it!

Add new comment