A revolutionary/counter-revolutionary phrase book

Cairo in January 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Almost one year on from the start of the protests that would end up toppling the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a vocabulary of dissent, revolution, and counter-revolution has evolved, with each new label carrying a mixed payload of history, emotion, and calculated objectives. Ahram Online (the English-language website of Al-Ahram, the Middle East’s oldest published newspaper) has pulled together a handy phrase book; reading it teaches some important lessons about how powerful a weapon language is to both sides in a conflict. Here’s an extract:

Al-Askar (army)

While many simply refer to the military forces as El-Geish (the army), protesters used another word to define them in the aftermath of notorious post-revolution incidents of violence that put the military junta under huge pressure. Al-Askar is used to degrade the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces], implying that its officials can only handle army-related issues and are not qualified to be in power or to deal with civilians. The term was criticised by many pundits and pro-SCAF analysts, who deemed it rude.

Aidy/Asabee Kharegia (foreign hands/fingers)

This is one of several terms used to describe an alleged foreign element spurring protests and violence in Egypt since the January uprising. As the conspiracy theory dominated many post-revolution political discussions between ordinary Egyptians, aidy/asabee kharegiawas was widely uttered by anti-revolution forces, and more importantly SCAF and governmental officials. However, none has clarified who is actually behind this alleged foreign plot, who deserve to be referred to as foreign hands/fingers.

Read the rest here. Ahram has also compiled a guide to the popular chants of the revolution, a review of newspaper headlines on the day before the January 25 protests, and a summary of the post-revolutionary political significance of key streets, squares, and towns.