The Tahrir Square that Eclipsed the Terror Scare: Reframing Osama Bin Laden in Revolutionary Egypt


Transcript of my speech presented at the University of Western Australia
click here for details of the event UWA Panel

Abstract: The presentation will seek to argue that while Osama Bin Laden and Egyptian society shared two similar key goals: end to oppressive dictatorship and US meddling in the region. It was Bin Laden who lost considerable legitimacy on Egypt’s streets prior to and, more significantly, as a result of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Mubarak’s Egypt was central to Bin Laden’s narrative of repression and political revolution in the Arab world, ideologically underpinned by his deputy, Egyptian physician, Ayman Al Zawahiri. Three main dynamics came into play to sideline an already waning Al-Qaida narrative: the opening of an alternative route of political and social dissent; the growing Al-Qaida-Egyptian Islamist divide as well as the latter’s political maturation; and, critically, societal perception shifts vis-à-vis the burden of responsibility in the ruler-ruled paradigm.

Continue reading “The Tahrir Square that Eclipsed the Terror Scare: Reframing Osama Bin Laden in Revolutionary Egypt”


Forget Osama, The Battle for the Arab World’s Future is Underway



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On a windy evening, 27 April, a momentous event occurred that received little international headline but was significant to Egypt’s future, and, by extension, the Arab world. An unprecedented debate took place between the Muslim Brotherhood, led by Sobhi Saleh, and the secular liberals, led by Amr Hamzawy.

The event was scheduled to be held in the famous Library of Alexandria. But a last minute unexplained decision shifted the event across the street to the College of Law, Alexandria University.

The venue packed over ten thousand into the theatre, with students, activists, and the general public, cramped into seats, spread on the floor, dangling off windows. Doors were forcibly shut to stop the public from entering an already over-crowed venue. Continue reading “Forget Osama, The Battle for the Arab World’s Future is Underway”


The War of Academia on Social Media


When Henry Kissinger once queried the Chinese Premier Zhou En Lai in 1971 for his views on the consequences of the French Revolution, Zhou famously respond, “It is too early to tell”. In other words, 180 years notwithstanding, Zhou’s point was that the consequences of social revolutions do not crystallise until much later.

Academics who specialise in revolutions and Middle East studies are often fond of quoting the Zhou lesson yet are quick to omit social media from the discourse explaining the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Since January, I have attended countless academic seminars discussing the uprisings where specialists are downplaying social media to such an extent as to make it inconsequential. You know you are in for the long haul when a speaker remarks smugly that Facebook did as much for Egypt as the fax machine did for the fall of the Berlin wall.

The line goes something like this: “The revolutions of the French, the Russians, the Iranians, are proof that you do not need social media”. This argument has been repeated to me ad nauseum. Moreover, the critics are engaged in the logical fallacy they often warn against: argumentum ad antiquitatem, “appeal to tradition”, that is to say, because it happened in this manner in the past, it has to be correct. Continue reading “The War of Academia on Social Media”


Revolution – SBS Insight


SBS Insight Forum “Monumental change is sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.

Overview: “Powerful dictators are being toppled and long-entrenched regimes are under threat. Insight looks at the unfolding new order in the region and how democracy might work there. What do the people actually want … and what will they get?”

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:


The Revolution in Alexandria (visual timeline)

9 July 2010

These photos were taken on 9 July, a little over a month after the death of Khalid Saeed. My article on the aftermath was published the same day.

21 September 2010

In Alexandria\'s humid climate, protesters battle it out with Mubarak\'s security forces. Plain clothes police men are quite easy to identify.

10 October 2010

With time, Alexandria\'s youth became experienced in the art of flash protests, all coordinated via social media and mobile phones.

25 January 2011 (The Revolution)

Police Day was chosen for the day of the revolution. The protesters were given a much needed lease of life thanks to the deposing of the Tunisia\'s Ben-Ali ten days earlier.

28 January 2011

By this stage, Egypt\'s internet and cellular networks were cut off by the regime. But the momentum was already in full swing. The army is ordered onto the streets.

29 January 2011

Despite Mubarak sacking his cabinet, his refusal to step down incensed the people. For the first time in 30 years, the dictator appointed former spy chief Omar Sulleiman as vice-president. Alexandria\'s youth formed citizens committees to protect their neighborhoods following the withdrawal of the police force and the mass release of hardened prisoners

31 January 2011

With rapid dwindling internet access and non-existent cellular networks, Alexandrians are in effect cut off from their counterparts in Cairo. Fortunately, satellite TV was more or less still working.

1 February 2011

Following Mubarak\'s televised speech that he will not resign, clashes broke out in Alexandria between pro and anti-Mubarak demonstrators. This was an omen of what was to take place the next day in Tahrir Square on a dramatic scale in the \'Battle of the Camel\'.

4 February 2011

The eleventh day of unrest, and two days following the camel and horse charges in Tahrir Square which sealed the fate of Mubarak. Alexandrians come out in mass protests in the \"Day of Departure\"

6 February 2011

Communications is gradually restored, some banks are opening for a few hours. The regime entered talks with the opposition, but this reprieve was not to last long. Activist Wael Ghonim is released the next day, and his emotional display on TV gave a new lease of life to the protest movement.

11 February 2011

Spurned on by mass industrial strikes, and Mubarak\'s speech in which he refused to resign. Alexandrians took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands marching on the Summer palace of Mubarak. Just before evening, the vice-president announced the resignation of Mubarak.