Egypt's Revolution continues: One Chant at a Time

Randa Ali , Monday 23 Jan 2012

Egypt's revolutionary tale unfolds daily in its street; these chants are a reminder of the maelstrom of events that unfolded following the January 25 uprising

Protester leading the chants in Tahrir Square. (Photo: AP)

The Egyptian Revolution erupts on 25 January, 2011.


Thawra thawra hatta an-nasr; thawra fi Tunis; thawra fi Masr

(Revolution until victory; revolution in Tunisia; revolution in Egypt)

So cried the masses on the very first day of the uprising, January 25. With these words, Egyptians broke the fear barrier and took to the streets, empowered by Tunisia’s uprising.


Aeesh, horeya, aadala igtmaaya

(Bread, freedom, social equality)

This tripartite motto rung through the streets after years of oppression and humiliation.


El-shaab yureed Isqaat el-nizam

(The people demand the overthrow of the regime)

Inspired by revolutionary calls in Tunisia, Tahrir’s occupiers raised their voices in unison following a concerted three-day push to disperse protesters.


Selmya, selmya

(Peaceful, peaceful)

Confronted by tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, unarmed protesters arm themselves with calls of Selmya Selmya: a chant that rocked the nation on 28 January, setting a precedent for future protests.


El-geesh wel shaab eed wahda

(People and the army are one hand)

Security forces – protesters’ long-time enemy – withdrew after a prolonged, deadly clampdown on unarmed protesters. The army filled the security vacuum, as protesters hailed them as saviours.


Mish hanemshi howa yemshi

(We won't leave; he should leave)

Following the Battle of the Camel on 2 February, in which plain-clothed police and thugs swarmed Tahrir Square, angered and battered protesters hardened in their resolve to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak.


Maa as-salama maa as-salama yabn el-haramiya

(Goodbye you son of a [female] crook)

The 18-day uprising ended with Mubarak transferring his authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on 11 February.


El-geesh wil shorta eed wahda

(The army and police are one hand)

On 9 March military forces stabbed those who trusted them in the back. Virginity checks, beating and electrocuting protesters.


Olna aeesh adala horya mish mohakamaat aaskarya

(We asked for bread, justice and freedom not military trials)

Protesters saw the core demands of their revolution being trampled by a growing counter-revolution, as the numbers of detained protesters facing military trials increased with each day.


Maikel Nabil ya walad, segnak byhrar balad

(Michael Nabil, your prison sentence is liberating a country)

The latter chant became a template in which the names of other political detainees were added. Nabil was sentenced for two years after posting a blog criticising the ruling SCAF. The blogger began a partial hunger strike in August, escalating his protest on 18 December by refusing all forms of nourishment. He was released after 10 months.


El-idrab howa selahna, did el-sulta elli bitidbahna

(Industrial action is our only weapon in the face of a regime that slaughters us)

Egyptian workers thus replied after Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s Cabinet issued a law criminalising strikes and protests late March.


El-shaab yureed tatbeeq sharaa Allah

(People demand the application of God’s law)

Islamists from across Egypt descended onto Tahrir Square for “the Friday of One Demand” on 29 July subsequently breaking their agreement with the square’s political forces and raising Islamist slogans. The protest was later mockingly dubbed “Kandahar Friday."


Wehyat damak ya shaheed halbis eswed youm el-eid

(For the blood of the martyr I will be wearing black at feast)

This sombre slogan was chanted in the run-up to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as the military’s repressive policies continued to take their toll on Tahrir’s occupiers and protesters across the country. Soon demonstrators camped out in Tahrir and other revolutionary squares would call for a temporary withdrawal from their occupied grounds out of respect for the holy month. A new chant rang out: “Youm ma akhoud taarak youm el-eid” (When I take your (the martyr’s) revenge, then will it truly be a feast).


Tilbis meeri, tilbis boxer; yasqut, yasqut hokm el-askar

(Dress in military fatigue or in boxers; down, down with military rule)

This taunt followed a late night walkabout through downtown by Egypt’s de-facto leader Field Marshal Tantawi who shed his boots for civilian clothing. Rumours had already circulated to the effect that the aging military strongman was planning to make a bid for the presidency.


Ti’tl Khaled; ti’tl Mina; kul rosasa bitaweena

(Kill Khaled; kill Mina; your bullets will only make us stronger)

Mina Daniel became the iconic face of those killed by military forces during a bloody clampdown at Maspero on 9 October. The repressive and violent tactics employed that night recalled the 2010 killing of Khaled Said at the hands of police officers. This chant would also become a template which later took on the names of victims of December’s Cabinet clashes, notably Sheikh Emad Effat – one of the 17 casualties.


After eight months of military rule, protesters – now disillusioned with the transition – increasingly equated the repressive tactics of the junta with Mubarak-era security forces. “El-geesh wil shaab eed wahda” was used less and less, and by the second half of the 2011, anti-military council became a rallying cry for protesters.


Tafi el-nour ya Baheya kul el-askar harameya

(Turn off the lights, oh Baheya [referring to a folkloric symbol of Egypt], all military officers are crooks)


Doul mish balawi, doala katayeb El-Tantawi

(This is not our army, these are Tantawi’s militias)


El-dakhleya heya heya, lissa bardu baltagya

(The Ministry of Interior hasn’t changed; it’s filled with thugs all the same)

Protesters chanted this slogan during November’s Mohamed Mahmoud clashes: the first intensive confrontation between protesters and the ministry's Central Security Forces since January.  The clashes resulted in at least 45 civilian deaths.


Banat Masr khat ahmar

(Egyptian girls are a red line!)

On 20 December thousands of women hit the streets to protest army brutality against female protesters, following the release of a video showing a girl beaten and stripped of her clothes at the hands of soldiers during December’s Cabinet clashes.


As 25 January approaches, protesters have formulated a new chant to commemorate the first anniversary of the 18-day uprising:


Al-thowar ragaeen youm khamsa wa aeshreen

(Revolutionaries will return on the 25th)

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