Egypt: Twittering from the Rooftops

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

The Egyptian Twittersphere on #jan25 is thick with stories of the ongoing unrest. For observers, the rooftops have become a favored vantage. In Suez, Ian Lee @ianinegypt captures the feeling:

I'm shooting video from rooftops, too dangerous for foreigners on street. Numbers in thousands. #jan25 #suez

A lot of Twitter coverage on #jan25 is in English, suggesting that it is being used for amplification and international news purposes, rather than for organizational purposes on the ground. Metaphorically as well, social media present a rooftop vantage.

Jailan El-Rafie's tweet captures this mood. She translates, and then tweets about her English version of a descriptive essay by a filmmaker, Amr Salama. This is @AmrMSalama ‘s article, in English. Please RT so we can get more people to read it. #Egypt #Jan25

Salama's story is itself a media event; both a graphic account the beating he took by police, and a self-observed and reported view of himself as demonstrator. He begins his story by identifying himself as playing a role:

The street was totally vacant of people, and in the horizon I could see a mass of people. At first I thought they were protesters but then I noticed that they all were dressed in black, coming in our direction and holding black sticks. I remembered the scenes from old war movies, like Braveheart and Gladiator, and I had the exact feeling of old battle grounds, and I found myself one of the first people to run towards the approaching lines of police.

Salama's story quickly turns grim. He changes roles, from action hero to war reporter to victim:

I had my dear iPhone in hand, and I was trying to take photos or record videos, until I got surrounded by a large enough amount of soldiers who started beating me ferociously with their sticks, delivering painful blows on my head, face, stomach and legs.

As the beating continues, Salama is dragged off the street and beaten multiple times:

Then we entered a building, the nice soldiers escorting, he locked the entrance, tripped my legs and got me on the ground, then started the painful episode of vicious beating.

He reports that he begins to imagine himself as a social media martyr:

Visions about my family, how this was going to affect them, about the movie that I hadn’t finished directing yet, about the page that would be created about me on Facebook, and I wondered if it would have the title “We all are Amr Salama”. I also thought about the statement the Ministry of Interior would issue, saying that I must have died after accidently swallowing my iPhone.

Saved by some of the soldiers, he is able to escape. He then pinpoints his motives:

I discovered that the most important thing is that I realized these things, that I know why I was beaten, why I protested, and that I know that without signs and complex political demands I understood why I endured all this. I endured all this because I want a better Egypt, a better Egypt without absolute ongoing power to anyone of its governors, and a better Egypt without a large gap in social structure.

Nora Shalaby contributes a Flickr set that shows a different face of protest. Kinetic night images of crowds and celebrations.

"Mubarak hung from a pole," Nora Shalaby, 2010, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Al Jazeera has pulled together a compilation of intense “Amateur video from the streets.” Included is a dramatic video by  malakndawood that shows protesters tumbling from a water truck.

MFMAegy's video, shot from the rooftoops, may be the greatest echo of famous protest imagery. This video from January 25 shows Egypt's Tiananmen moment, with a similar camera angle:

Screenshot of MFMAegy's YouTube video. A protester confronts a water cannon.

Screenshot of Wikipedia article showing Tiananmen Square "tank man."

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.


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