Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Zainab Al Mahdy: When trauma and revolution kill

It's January 2016 and I'm realizing that the last thing I wrote on this blog was in October 2014, this is pretty bad.

With the 5 year anniversary of the "revolution" coming soon, I wanted to start publishing here again with a post from November 2014 on a young revolutionary who was found hanged in her apartment in Cairo, Egypt. For some reason I feel like this story resonates so much to whatever happened to the Egyptian movement. I see myself so much in her. I see reflections of my past and present in her.

Her name was Zainab Al Mahdy. She has an angelic face and she looks so much like my younger sister Menna and one of my best students Nesma. She looks like so many Egyptian and Muslim young women from the Arab world, but not the ones you see in the media. Her friends said that she suffered from sever depression and fear due to working for the years post the revolution on female political prisoners cases and reading horrific accounts on what's taking place in the Egyptian prisons specifically the torture, sexual assault, and rape cases. 

This is what I wrote the night I read the news, November 14th, 2014. I woke up two days ago thinking of her and feeling her presence so I decided to post this here for the record:

"Death, died, dead, killed, I'm getting used to using and hearing these words on a regular basis, and death is not big news anymore here, unfortunately. Every month of the year marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of a friend and I’m reading and talking about friend’s of friends .

However, I wanted to stop at a recent incident which hit me where I live. 

I could see myself and many of my loved ones in this noble soul who passed away in her early twenties in the most brutal manner. 

Zainab Al Mahdy, a young Egyptian revolutionary who took her life last week. This is something I wrote about her on my Facebook and it got widely shared the night I found out about her suicide: 

Zainab Al Mahdy, a young Egyptian revolutionary was found hanged in her apartment in Cairo today. She is a Rabaa survivor and had done a great effort in establishing all the grassroots work around the post-coup female political detainees that I benefited from myself. I just found out that Zainab and I have so many mutual friends in common and her death caused quite a stir in the movement here. 

Zainab who looks like many of us went from being a socially and politically active organizer from before 2011 to a neglected/isolated suicidal depression and PTSD victim in post-coup Egypt, dealing with spiritual/mental confusion and disillusionment on her own, and with very little hope left for bettering this situation, and this is where she ended. 

That's what militarism has been doing here in addition to killing and imprisoning, this is not the first case but it's quite shocking given how ordinary Zainab was.

#Jan25 youth committing suicide in apartments and prison cells or living as Zombies half alive half dead as the 4th anniversary approaches is quite a transition now. 

This is her last message to one of our friends before she deactivated her Facebook and stopped doing the work she was doing:

"I'm tired. I'm wasted. There is no use in all of that. It's like we are digging in water. We won't get anybody's right through any laws here, but we are doing what we ought to do. Just saying a word of justice to save our faces and not spit on it when we look at the mirror. 

There is no justice here. And I'm fully aware of this. There is no victory coming.
But we are just fooling ourselves to continue to live"."

It was one of these (this- shit- happens-to- ordinary- youth- who- look- like- me- now) moments.

Ordinary youth like myself are being killed by police violence in 2010.
Ordinary youth like myself are being imprisoned in 2011. 
Ordinary youth like myself are being killed, imprisoned, and exiled in 2013.
Ordinary youth like myself are committing suicide in 2014. 

Zainab’s end was both a slap on the face and a wake up call. Zainab was too sensitive, innocent, and fragile for all what she had to deal with at this age, at this historical moment, and in this society, where young women and women in general have to fight to survive without expecting too much support. This is happening on a large scale to many young people and young women her age in countries like ours. 

The revolution-or what used to be so- has killed and continues to kill its own children in so many ways besides the police and army's bullets. Things like depression, PTSD, lose of hope, extreme unbearable psychological and emotional stress and other issues are among the ways young Egyptians are losing their lives-literally. 

Unfortunately, there's very little that has been done to deal with the consequences of the movement on an emotional and psychological levels. People in Egypt either don't have awareness or knowledge of these things, or if they do know, they don't give it enough consideration. 

At the same time, I also believe people don't have the privilege or the choice to be taking care of their inner well-being considering the overwhelming amount of tragic events they have to continue to deal with on a regular basis. 5 years is quite a long time, and these 5 years were especially long.

So many youth including myself went through dramatic spiritual and intellectual shifts, and they don't feel very supported or encouraged. I think people need to stick to one another very firmly and stop being judgmental about how their friends and family members might be going through. I will come back to this again. 


Zainab giving a lecture in 2012 about the definition of "Theocracy" and "The Theocratic State" as a part of a political educational initiative inside Sultan Hassan mosque, Cairo. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikum sister,

I read your blog frequently and really appreciate your insights. May Allah shower His Mercy on Zainab and all of us struggling against oppression.

I stand in solidarity with you. I have you in my dua's
Jazakallah khair

your sister