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Egypt: The Verb “To Mubarak”

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, North America, Egypt, U.S.A., Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Protest

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011 [1].

Last Thursday evening, riders of San Francisco, California's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) discovered that their mobile phones weren't working. By the next morning, rumors were circling as to whether service had been disconnected on the system, and by 10:00, BART had made a statement [2] (since updated), confirming that they had shut off networks on subway platforms, in anticipation of a protest.

Last month, local activists [3] protesting the shooting deaths of Charles Hill [4] (warning: violent content) and Oscar Grant [5] succeeded in shutting down BART stations in protest.

BART's actions provoked ire from civil liberties groups and activists, as well as Anonymous, which immediately sprung to action, planning #opBART on Twitter. By Sunday, they had defaced the website mybart.org. At the same time, local activists planned a protest [6] for Monday, August 15.

While the protests were taking place in San Francisco, an Egyptian solidarity campaign was taking form on Twitter. Coining the hashtag #MuBARTek, Egyptians compared BART's actions with those of former president Mubarak who in January famously shut down Internet networks in an attempt to quell protests.

Tarek Amr (@gr33ndata) explained the hashtag [7] to followers:

In case you're wondering, yes, the Egyptians now have a mockery hastag combining #opBART with #Mubarak farce, and it's called #muBARTek

Ahmed Kamal added [8]:

#opBART الهاش تاج هيبقي تريند ومفيش اي حد بيكتب عليه الا المصريين صباح الضحك يعني :D
#opBART This hashtag is going to trend and nobody's writing on it except Egyptians. A good morning for laughter :D

@magyj compared [9] the media coverage of BART protests with the Egyptian state media's coverage in January:

#OPBart there is nothing on CNN about #SanFran !!! It's look like z Egyptian media on #jan25 #MuBARTek

Adding humor to the conversation, Gigi Ibrahim (@GSquare86) noted [10] Mubarak's role:

Mubarak's great achievement: a new verb “To Mubarak” to the english dictionary meaning to oppress&cut communication on ppl #MuBARTek #opBART

In response to @3arabawy [11] jokingly asking if Egyptian mobile provider Mobinil had networks in San Francisco, @SalmaNoshokaty referenced another network's famous gaffe [12] remarking [13], “In light of recent events, I am almost sure @VodafoneEgypt does!”

From the US, Zeynep Tufekci (@techsoc) quipped [14]:

Next, BART will send camels and thugs to Embarcadero Station. #OpBart #MuBARTek

She added [15]:

BART decides to recklessly, needlessly & possibly illegally shut down cell service & then overreacts to the reaction? Brilliant. #OpBart

To which Rasha Abdulla responded [16]:

@techsoc Once again, we need to criminalize blocking access to mobile and wireless communications #OpBart #FreeSpeech

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011 [1].