“Shut down the arms dealers. Do not let them make it, ship it.” -From Tahrir Square, November 22, 2011
by SabiTaj Mahal,
Earth First! Journal
January 25, 2013, is the two year anniversary of a massive gathering that took place in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, that kicked off a series of events that eventually lead to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, and the Egyptian Revolution (See: Timeline: Egypt’s Revolution)
My father spent four years in Egypt during the 1970’s. As a young spry Muslim college student from Pakistan, he chose to go to Egypt because he wanted to learn more about the historic region and learn a new language while completing his university education. As soon as I was able to talk, he told me stories of his adventures in Egypt, describing in detail his awe of the environment, and how they were special moments stuck in time. Because of this ever increasing industrial world, the Egypt my father experienced no longer exists. One of his favorite stories to share with me was when he first tasted the freshwater from the Nile:
“I drank the water from the Nile. We were on a trip going down the Nile… I forgot to bring water and I was thirsty… so I layed stomach down on the raft, cupped my hands, scooped up what I could… it was the sweetest water I ever tasted! The man who was pushing our boat told me, ‘You will now talk about Egypt for the rest of your life’. I feel lucky, because now, you can’t drink from the Nile anymore, its too polluted.”
Air and water quality in Cairo is a health hazard due to pollution from extraction industries (particularly copper smelting), vehicle emissions, inadequate and overflowing sewage systems, and unorganized waste management (the only waste management available is provided by the Zabbaleen people who have been deemed by Western media sources the most recycle-efficient group of people in the world). Approximately 700 industrial facilities line the Nile. Also, in recent years, a mysterious black cloud occasionally appears over Cairo in the fall. With these factors at play, it’s not a surprise that the water isn’t safe to drink anymore.
As the black bloc masks up today and the world tweets and facebooks attempting to synthesize and compartmentalize where this revolution is going– in the region that is talked about in public schools for it’s mythology and history of empire but is now correlated with the Arab Spring– we have yet to hear any explicit calls-to-action from Tahrir Square against extraction industries or corporations that, in their continued pursuit of capital, are also notorious polluters. The Egypt Independent reported in 2011 community organized Eco-resistance against a polluting fertilizer plant and British Gas project, but we have yet to hear about similar targeted mobilizations since. If we look back to November 22, 2011, in Urgent From Tahrir Square: Join our struggle for the survival of the Revolution Egyptian revolutionaries reminds us, “The US is still sending $1.2 billion in military aid to the Egyptian military. The army and police rely on tear gas, bullets and weapons from abroad. No doubt their stock has been replenished by US and other governments over the last nine months. Stock will run low again.” Among the list of possible solidarity action, they say “Shut down the arms dealers. Do not let them make it, ship it.” For those of us here in the United States who consider ourselves activists, environmentalists, or be it, eco-warriors, this is a pointed piece of advice that should be taken seriously: not only is the US military a global oppressive force, they’re also one of the world’s largest polluters. The call-out to to target and shut-down arms dealers is just as relevant today as it was in the 2011 communique, and will continue to be relevant as long as the United States continues to function as a violently expanding economic and military empire with no remorse for human, animal, or the Earth.
“We in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a System that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants.”
I am eagerly awaiting what Egypt has to say about the solidarity they seek in their struggle today, and how this revolution will continue to unfold. Here in the United States, people continue putting their bodies on the line, occupying spaces and places to hault the building of pipelines, fracking disposal sites, and other extraction industries that are poisoning people for profit and contributing to climate change. There is a reason ecological-resisters are considered terrorists by the United States, often receiving unusually hefty sentences for our so-called crimes: as we organize against these extraction industries here in the United States– against the Keystone XL Pipeline, Tar Sands, and in solidarity with #IdleNoMore amongst other fights– this ecological resistance movement is ultimately an anti-capitalist one. In disrupting the flow of capital (often times literally) the expansion of corporate controlled economic empire is disrupted, hence, the ecological resistance movement is an anti-imperialist one. We are in solidarity with the people of Egypt, the Arab Spring, and resistance against the domination of people and the Earth.
I end these thoughts remembering the Solidarity Statement from Cairo to Occupy, and reflecting on how these movements have changed over the past two years, looking forward by remembering the past:
“As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme…
“It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose…
“We are all watching one another now, and from Cairo we want to say that we are in solidarity with you, and we love you all for what you are doing.”
- Comrades from Cairo, 24th of October, 2011
SabiTaj Mahal is an anarchist and reproductive justice activist from Northern California. She is a current short-term collective member and guest-editor for Earth First! Journal.