This is Egypt: New Voices, Untold Stories [Video]

Since January 25 2011, the Egyptian political scene has been dominated by a war of narratives each defining Egypt on its own terms and each claiming to represent the people. Chants of “bread, freedom, and social justice,” heard during the early days of revolutionary fervor were later replaced by “the army and the people are one hand” and were soon after challenged by “ Islameya Islameya.” Each chant supported its own political faction and conveyed a specific narrative. These narratives, which serve only the political factions they represent, distort or neglect the reality of many Egyptians.

After a failed experience in Egypt’s military-led transition in 2011, the army appears to have learned the importance of controlling these political narratives. Shortly after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian authorities moved quickly to silence any dissent, shutting down several Islamist channels. Many independent media outlets have fallen in line with their state counterparts, broadcasting a strong pro-government message. Basil Dabh, an Egyptian-American journalist based in Cairo, called attention to these actions saying, “We’ve seen in the last three years, it is always a battle of narratives.” He went on to describe the pro-regime media’s crafted message as “If you are not with us, not only are you against us, you are conspiring with everyone else who isn’t with us, against us.” Promoters of this narrative often cite conspiracy theories and unknown sources to support their narrative.

Over the past eight months Egypt’s military-backed transitional government has become increasingly hostile to journalists promoting narratives that contradict the military’s narrative. Since July 3, dozens of journalists have been arrested on baseless charges. Sarah El Sirgany, a freelance journalist based in Cairo, criticized the government’s treatment of the media saying, “Sometimes I feel that we [journalists] are bullied into asking certain questions.” Through coercion and co-optation the transitional government has been muzzling competing political narratives in Egypt. Photographer, Mosa’ab El Shamy echoed the sentiment, saying as a photojournalist, “The challenges are not always limited to violence from the state or security, forces.” Protesters themselves have been a source of violence, targeting journalists if they are perceived as promoting a narrative contrary to one that serves their purpose.

In spite of three years of political factions and their competing narratives throughout Egypt little has changed for most Egyptians. Mohammad Tolba, founder of the grassroots civil society group Salafayo Costa, expressed his frustration with the current political narratives in Egypt saying, “Politics in my own point of view is about serving the society, if politics is not about serving the society we should leave politics aside.” Adding, “It’s time to try and translate those slogans and chants into some real deeds.” As the new military backed government continues to trumpet its narrative without creating any real political change, millions of Egyptians continue to suffer under the weight of another government without any real solutions to Egypt’s very real problems.

Find out more about Egypt’s untold stories in EgyptSource’s first Washington D.C. event featuring Mohammad Tolba, Sarah El Sirgany, Mosa’ab El Shamy and Basil Dabh:

Related Experts: Sarah El Sirgany