An Egypt of 1919 to be exact, and one about to be betrothed to the British Mandate.
On the cusp of the union riots broke out and the following account of the revolution and its participants is simultaneously evocative of another era and a close relation to the scenes of recent months:
The anger overflowed and raged. Its manifested itself in one form in all the vicinities of the land without contrivance or prior agreement: The ripping up on the iron rails between Tanta and Tala began on the thirteenth day of March. Then the rails were ripped up in many directions, in one upsurge. The destruction and demolition took the telegraph and telephone cables and even the shafts of the railways, because the hands of the revolutionaries reached them.
This demolition was not devoid of purpose aimed at by the revolutionaries with a deliberate design: to obstruct the armed trains and patrol units from circulating in the cities and villages to collect arms and search houses and harm people. Yet the greater motivation for the destruction and demolition was a defiant impetus without specific intent … the impetus of the wrathful who does not know what to do with his wrath … as if in this defiant revolt he wants the world to hear him even if it is in the smashing of his own furniture and the burning of his own house. [pp. 168-169]
The above account is poignant not only in terms of its content, but also its author: Huda Sha’rawi, widely regarded as one of the Arab world’s foremost feminist activists.
In 1923 she established the Egyptian Feminist Union and in a symbolic gesture removed her hijab in public, an act that both scandalized Egyptian society and spurred the nascent struggle for women’s rights.
The founder and publisher of the feminist magazines l’Egyptienne and el-Masreyya, she tirelessly picketed, petitioned and protested until her death in 1947.
Sha’rawi was one of a few women who lit the spark of future feminist discourse in the Middle East and for that reason, she will always be my enduring Egyptian revolutionary of choice.
Excerpt taken from Mudhakkirati, Ed. Abd al-Hamid Fahmi Mursi. (Cairo: Dar al-Hilal) 1981.