Very young Egyptian blogger and writer Ali Hisham shares his views with Sarah Eissa on Egypt and the future
Playing on and searching for the latest video games, reading teen magazines and hanging out with friends are what teenagers usually do. But 14-year-old Ali Hisham would rather write short stories and blog.
Hisham had to postpone his appointment with Al-Ahram Weekly, not in order to meet a friend or play in a football match, but to participate in a protest against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in Zagazig governorate where he lives, parallel to a million-man march in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Almost from Day One Hisham participated in the revolution by protesting and posting about it on the Internet. Starting 26 January he joined protesters in Zagazig and in February he went to Tahrir Square. "I am convinced the revolution was everywhere, in governorates and Tahrir Square," Hisham says. He felt bad he did not witness the so-called 'Battle of the Camel' on 2 February. "Unfortunately I missed it because one of my brother's friends was martyred."
Despite his age, talking with Hisham shows his intelligence and understanding of Egypt's social and political life. He publishes short stories regularly in several prominent newspapers including Al-Badeel, Al-Ahram and Al-Dostour.
Hisham started writing in 2009 and created his own blog in 2010 which he called The Cup. He said that during the era of the former president Hosni Mubarak, "when anyone expressed views about wrongful acts in the country, the reply he got was to look at the cup half full and not to be greedy." However, Hisham believed the entire cup was empty.
Hisham likes reading all kinds of subjects. "To know how to write you can't write about a certain issue without reading about other fields," he states. Being a fan of many writers, Hisham believes the hardest question is who his favourite author is (they include Alaa El-Aswani, Omar Taher, Mohamed El-Makhzangi, and poet Salah Jaheen).
To Hisham, a revolution means toppling the ruler as well as the whole regime and replacing it with another. "Until now we've gone one quarter of the way. We removed the head of the regime but didn't remove the rest." He says the proof is that Mubarak is on trial in a civil court "while innocent revolutionaries are facing military trials" despite the announcement by SCAF head Hussein Tantawi that there will be no civilians standing trial in military courts. "Our people proved that we won't die and that we are very strong. The way we ousted Mubarak, we can topple the rest of the regime."
Hisham criticised the state media before and after the revolution. "It's very strange that before 11 February [when Mubarak stepped down] state TV was showing us nice views of the Nile while we were in Tahrir. Then on 11 February they were acting like revolutionaries, saying Mubarak was toppled." Hisham liked it when officials announced early in the revolution that the Ministry of Information would be abolished, thinking the media would become independent. But later the government brought in a new minister of information. "We didn't forget that during the events at Maspero [the state-run TV building] they were calling on the public to stand up against those trying to shake the army's prestige while the fact is the army started the violence." He adds that even if protesters broke the law "that does not justify driving military vehicles over them."
Hisham believes that after Mubarak was ousted Egyptians enjoyed "a good period" with the army and felt victorious even though there was a long way to go. "I myself chanted at the beginning of the demonstrations that the army and people are one hand." But his chants did not last long after SCAF, he said, began holding military trials for civilians, conducted virginity tests for girls in Tahrir, tortured people, and violently broke up sit-ins. He thinks that right now the major demands of protesters should be the formation of a civilian presidential council, an end to military trials, and the scrapping of the emergency law.
Hisham believes a presidential council will not divide people "because they are already divided by their political ideologies" and thus cannot be divided more. "On the contrary, there are many martyrs and I don't think there will be any words to say after people have died.
"The revolution will not succeed when we have a new president. It will succeed when I feel I am free, when there will be no Mubarak and his cronies, when all the corrupt regime remnants are prosecuted, and when the police protect me, not kill me."