Sunday, 20 January 2013

Violence outside Alex police trials

Police clashed with demonstrators today along the Corniche after a judge investigating the killing of protesters announced the case would be transferred to another court.

Only a week remains until the second anniversary of the revolution during which, according to Amnesty International, 840 people died. Trials are still ongoing for many of the security officials held responsible for civilian deaths.

One such trial had been taking place this weekend in Alexandria, where around 300 people died in the revolution. Family members of the martyrs gathered alongside other demonstrators outside Alexandria Criminal Court, where two security heads, as well as four other officers have been standing trial.

The judge's announcement that the case would be transferred led to an eruption of anger both within and outside the courthouse. Protesters hurled rocks and fireworks, and the police responded with tear gas and bird-shot. At least two police cars were hijacked and eventually set alight, along with legal documents that were raided from the courtroom.

The following video is footage I took from our rooftop on the Corniche, the promenade that runs around the city's Eastern Harbour.

These events would look out of place on this blog if there wasn't some sort of language learning involved. The chant that can be heard from the ten second mark is one that has swelled up in every Arab country undergoing revolution:

الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام
aššaʔb yurīd ʔisqāṭ anniẓām
The people want to bring down the regime

The phrase originated in Tunisia in the revolution of late 2010, but it's not Tunisian Colloquial Arabic. The young people of Sidi Bouzid, the epicentre of the Tunisian revolution, or perhaps those of the neighbouring towns to which the revolutionary fever spread, must have made a conscious decision to demand the fall of the regime in Modern Standard Arabic. The pan-Arab nature of MSA facilitated its spread to Libya, Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries where upheaval is underway.

Chants like these have become formulaic and can be adapted, depending on what it is exactly that the people want. When the judges announced at Alexandria Criminal Court that they were transferring the case, a feeling of betrayal brought about the following chant from demonstrators:

الشعب يريد تطهير القضاء
aššaʔb yurīd taṭhīr alqaḍāʔ
The people want to purge the judiciary

You'll just have to believe me that these phrases sound more rousing in Arabic than they do in English.

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