Egypt: Bittersweet Revolution

There was blood in streets during Egypt’s Arab Spring as furious citizens raged against Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive regime. In the wake of the government coup, civil rights are deteriorating as a burgeoning fundamentalist influence takes hold. On the first anniversary of the new president Morsi’s election, 33 million people take to the streets in the largest protest in history. This episode introduces brave civilians using protest songs and social media to spark a change in the system and revolutionize the mindsets that tainted their nation’s past.

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Who is Ramy Essam?

Muhammad Aladdin

When I was in Tahrir Square, in the midst of the January 25 revolution, I heard this song coming from the stage made by the revolutionaries: "Kneel your head, kneel it kneel it, you are in a democratic state." This one with it’s simple lyrics and tone, has always stayed in my memory. What I saw was this young singer, with the long hair, singing enthusiastically on his guitar, cheered by thousands of listeners.This young singer named Ramy Essam, from Mansoura, a city in the Nile Delta, is a revolutionary. I knew he had formed a band – I never heard of it before seeing him – called Mashakel in 2008, and that he studied architecture. That field is considered prestigious for Egyptian people, but he left it for art, which many consider, either in Egypt or outside, as waste of .timeRamy has sung another song called "Irhal" (Get Lost) in Tahrir as well, and he went on singing it until Mubarak left on 11th of Feb. 2011, but it wasn't the end for all evils, especially for Ramy. He was arrested and tortured by the Egyptian army during a strike in March 2011. They were using the Egyptian museum as a torturing camp back then, as he mentioned in a testimony published online:

"A group of soldiers dragged me towards the museum’s building and handed me to army officers who tied my hands and legs up and started kicking me all over my body and face. Then they started hitting me on my back and legs with sticks, metal bars, wires, and hoses. After that they brought the electric taser that was used in demonstrations before and used it on various parts of my body, then they started using more than one taser at the same time. The officers insulted me and stomped with their feet, jumped over my back and face, and threw shoes in my face. Then they cut my hair (it was long) and put my face in the dirt before burying my body neck down." Essam was later awarded the Swedish Freemus award, which considered him "A real embodiment of the active role music has played in the Arab Spring." He performed in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany, and Irhal was named by Time Out London as the third in the top one hundred most influential songs to have affected humanity.

Ramy Essam

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