Anyone keen to engage with the continuing turmoil in the Arab world should make their way down to London’s Southbank Centre this Saturday, when the Queen Elizabeth Hall plays host to The Arab Revolutions; What You Need to Know, billed as “A Day of Music, Performance and Exchange”. Highlights include updates from the frontlines of each revolution, the UK premiere of Fallega (2011), a record of last year’s month-long Tunisian sit-in; and discussions about how Arab protests fit in to a wider picture of global unrest. The day will close with a performance by Eskenderella, the most popular Arab revolutionary band.
I took to the street along with millions of other Egyptians to demand the fall of the (Mubarak) regime. I come from a political family, and I believe that when the masses joined the politicised groups they made this revolution possible
The event’s curator is Egyptian blogger Salma Said, one of the founders of Mosireen, a Cairo-based collective of filmmakers and activists who document protest and make the footage available to the wider world. Said made headlines in February when facial injuries she suffered at the hands of Egypt’s security forces were posted online.
Dazed Digital: Tell us about the event at the Southbank.
Salma Said: After the sensational beginning of the revolutions, international media quickly withdrew from the scene. The international community was left with a false impression that the revolutions had completed their goals. This day at the Southbank Centre attempts to address that knowledge gap. The audience will meet activists and artists from the revolutions, and gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in the Arab region and its impact around the world. I am excited to meet all these amazing people in one place!
DD: How involved were you in the events of Tahir Square in January/February last year?
Salma Said: I took to the street along with millions of other Egyptians to demand the fall of the (Mubarak) regime. I come from a political family, and I believe that when the masses joined the politicised groups they made this revolution possible.
DD: How can sympathetic people in the west help?
Salma Said: Right after Mubarak stepped down, David Cameron came to Egypt to finish an arms deal, insisting there was no contradiction in promoting trade and pushing for political reform. But the army has committed massacres against the Egyptian people during the past year-and-a-half. Some of the UK campaigns that are most significant to what is happening in the Arab region are Platform, the Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
DD: How did you come to be injured, and why did you post the wounds online?
Salma Said: I got shot by the police last February during protests against police brutality. My friends posted the photo online because the government was saying that the police were not using firearms against protesters. Fifty people lost their eyes in the same event because the police shot us with birdshot.
DD: Why did you and others start Mosireen? How important is online activism to what is happening on the streets?
Salma Said: Mosireen was born out of the explosion of citizen media and cultural activism during the revolution. Armed with mobile phones and cameras, citizens recorded events as they happened, wrong-footing censorship and empowering the voice of a street-level perspective. Egypt's march towards the future its millions demanded did not end with Mubarak leaving power, it began. Within three months of publishing videos Mosireen had the most watched non-profit YouTube channel in Egypt of all time, and in the whole world in January.
The Arab Revolutions; What You Need to Know takes place on September 15 at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1. Book tickets here.
Follow Rory Lewarne on Twitter here: @rorita