You Have Not Yet Been Defeated by Alaa Abd el-Fattah review – a message to the world from an Egyptian prison

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In aboriginal 2011, a procreation of Egyptians took to the streets, faced down the information forces and defied the aged regularisation that Egypt’s citizens could ne'er beryllium much than cowed, obedient children of a subject state. “I americium addressing the younker of Egypt contiguous … from the heart, a father’s dialog with his sons and daughters,” the 82-year-old dictator Hosni Mubarak said arsenic helium clung to power. In Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of his “sons and daughters” – astir of them not yet calved erstwhile helium inherited powerfulness from Anwar Sadat successful 1981 – recovered this caller intimacy unconvincing aft the teargas and bullets, and chanted for his downfall.

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By the adjacent time Mubarak was gone, and the protesters were being hailed by the satellite leaders who had helped support him successful bureau for truthful long. (“Egypt volition ne'er beryllium the same,” said Barack Obama, whose medication gave the country’s subject $1.3bn each year.) One of the champion known was the 29-year-old programmer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, already a seasoned of thoroughfare protestation and imprisonment, and a champion of the online spaces that gave young Egyptians a virtual flight from the stifling governmental and social repression wrong their ain borders. To many, helium personified the communicative of a caller commencement made imaginable partially by the caller tools of planetary accusation sharing – what the planetary media labelled a “social media revolution”.

Ten years on, a subject dictator is backmost successful powerfulness successful Cairo and Abd el-Fattah is backmost successful prison, alongside an estimated 60,000 different governmental detainees. You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is simply a postulation of his writings crossed that turbulent decade, from essays to tweets to reflections scrawled successful pencil and smuggled retired of prison, translated and edited by an anonymous corporate of supporters. It opens aft the euphoria of Tahrir, successful the chaotic days of precocious 2011, veering from fine-grained arguments implicit a caller constitution to visceral reports of the unit the authorities was inactive inflicting connected those who defied it. “We fought clip with slabs of crystal and miserable fans,” helium says of struggling to sphere bodies retrieved from the Maspero massacre of Coptic protesters; the interim subject assembly locks him up again for his efforts.

Abd el-Fattah astatine  his location  successful  Cairo, 2019.
Abd el-Fattah astatine his location successful Cairo, 2019. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

This mosaic of texts builds a representation of some the principles of absorption and democracy-building and the ugly, absurd, frightening, occasionally joyful acquisition of surviving by them successful a stubbornly unreformed dictatorship. It’s besides a reckoning with the bequest of his much-loved father, the quality rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who was imprisoned and tortured nether Anwar Sadat and Mubarak. “From my father, I inherited a situation compartment and a dream,” Abd el-Fattah writes. In 2011, helium is successful situation for the commencement of his lad Khaled, conscionable arsenic his begetter missed the commencement of his sister Mona; successful 2014, helium misses his father’s death, too.

As the nationalist and backstage tragedies equine up, cracks look successful his accustomed eloquence and certainty: helium describes his sadness astatine leaving Khaled to conscionable his nightly probation curfew; his fears that imprisonment volition permission him permanently unemployable; his struggle, successful a succession of lonely, decrepit cells, with despair. “Our misdeed was pride, not treachery,” helium writes from situation aft the subject coup that brought Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – aboriginal described by Donald Trump arsenic “my favourite dictator” – to power. “We said, ‘We’re not similar those who came earlier us.’” For the revolutionaries, the state’s massacre of much than 900 Islamist protesters aft the coup is simply a brutal turning constituent “we volition ne'er beryllium capable to escape”. In the end, Egypt’s past proves intolerable to shake.

But similar the occurrence of the gyration successful 2011, its decision isn’t lone an Egyptian story. The remainder of america are the “you” of the book’s title, and the code it is drawn from makes a telephone to recognize and support the net arsenic a abstraction for “universal rights and freedoms” – to spot and enactment against taxation avoidance, argumentation interference, the gig economy, algorithms that beforehand fake news, the exploitation of our data, our simplification to passive eyeballs for advertisers. “Fix your ain democracy,” Abd el-Fattah encourages us, from his cell; Egypt’s rulers effort to isolate, fragment and conceal resistance because it needs a planetary ecosystem to flourish. What tin immoderate 1 idiosyncratic bash with a bequest of pain, conflict and courage? There are nary casual solutions here, but You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is simply a heartbreaking, hopeful answer.