How a Wired, 23 Year Old Brand New Revolutionary is Staying Involved
From The Newyorker.com
Like thousands of other youth in Egypt, Sarrah Abdel Rahman (@Sarrahsworld) attended her first political protest on January 25th. Now, she refuses to resume her normal life until greater reforms are made.
Sarrah is an example of a new crop of youth activists, trained by one another during the 18 days that led to the fall of Mubarak, that will continue to shape Egyptian politics. Whatever happens, the networks that developed during those 18 days will likely be one of the strongest legacies of the revolution.
As she put it over lunch this week at a cafe by Tahrir Square, “during the 18 days, personally I changed so much and learned so much. I met so many people and made so many friends. You have this bond with someone because you’ve been beaten together and you have been though violent situations together. Self-determination is the biggest thing we gained [in that time]."
Sarrah first started a video blog on February 19, 2011 and now, she says, “I don’t think anyone can shut me up.” It would definitely be harder to: before January 25, she estimates that she had 300 followers on Twitter. Her followership has ballooned to more than 10,000, in large part due to her video blog. She's gained a virtual megaphone that allows her to broadcast her views and influence a much wider circle than just her immediate friends and family. But what's she going to do with it?
Continuing to come out to protest, and imploring others to do so, is one option. She's been in Tahrir every day since the second sit-in started on July 8, demanding that the military yield some of its control over the current political transition and put the policemen who used violence against protestors on trial, among other things. She points out that full freedom of the press still does not exist in Egypt, particularly on matters involving the military. “The media’s fight is my fight because I’m a blogger,” she said.
More broadly, Egypt's new generation of activists can begin using new media for a new set of goals. The internet's role with regard to the revolution, from her perspective, lay in weakening the regime by “exposing truths and spreading the message faster... the power of images and the power of video has a great impact." She brings up, as an example (one of many), a video from 10 years ago of a police officer torturing a microbus driver that was filmed by the driver himself so he could circulate it to other microbus drivers. "It took a year for it to be exposed on the internet. A lot of people reacted to it then.” How can this use of the web be translated and replicated for today's political environment?
That is the most important question that's raised by newly minted activists and Twitterati like Sarahh, her friend Gigi Ibrahim, and others. Activists still need to build awareness, just not necessarily about the same things. So now they're using social media, for one, to raise money. Last week, mainly through Twitter, they raised 250,000 USD for a direct services NGO serving a Cairo slum. That ongoing fundraising event was called a "Tweetback," and was meant to be the first in a series. The Twitter crowd doesn't necessarily have to get off Twitter to create offline change and fight for a more democratic Egypt, they just have to use Twitter strategically.