Parliament Square is not Tahrir Square

This is a cross-post by Shiraz Maher from Standpoint Magazine


Laurie Penny has published a remarkably ill informed piece over at the New Statesman today. Ordinarily, I would have described it as ‘disappointing’ but to do so would overlook the spectacular decline of the Staggers in recent years. Penny writes:

The difference between Tahrir Square and Parliament Square is one of scale, but not of substance. Across the world, ordinary people are being denied a voice, shut out of work and education, having their dignity trashed.

Penny misses the point entirely about the Egyptian revolution and, more broadly, what is transpiring elsewhere in the Middle East. She argues:

It was youth unemployment, graduate unrest and soaring food prices that catalysed the toppling of dictators in Egypt and Tunisia;

The catalyst for the Egyptian revolution was not unemployment or inflation. Those things matter, of course, but to suggest that is what has motivated these protests only illuminates how little Penny knows.

Agitations for reform built solidly after the murder of Khaled Said in Alexandria last June. Arrested by the police for exposing their corruption, they beat him mercilessly in the street. Said’s skull was smashed into marble tables and staircases in broad daylight. The police didn’t care about the onlookers. Why would they? They would operate with impunity.

Penny sees similar horrors at home:

I’m standing in Euston Road with 150 anti-cuts protesters, who have occupied the thoroughfare after being wrestled out of Camden Council’s budget meeting by a solid wall of police.

‘Wrestled out’; ‘a solid wall of police’; sounds rough.

Protesters on the Arab street are not a bunch of youths demanding the government spend public money on them. They are fighting for political accountability and liberty.

When Egyptians took to the streets, they expected to be arrested and tortured. Many were. Almost everyone I interviewed in Tahrir Square for this magazine told me they would die for their cause. Many did.

It is impossible to draw equivalences between protesters in the Middle East and those opposing budget cuts in London. There is a world of difference between Tahrir Sqaure and Parliament Square.