In winter 2011 I chanted “Dégagé” in the Passage square to hear its echo in the Benghazi Courts’ Complex. “People want to live their life!” It travelled quickly to Tahrir square— “People want to topple the regime”—then, Taghier square “We are sitting in here until the darkness evokes.” Finally it landed in Omayyad square, soaring chants of “Allah, Syria, freedom only” filled the streets. I am charmed by the revolution and there is no way to break my spell.
You can recognise me easily among the hundreds of thousands of protesters, from the hope shining in my eyes to the glowing aura that surrounds me. I am the first to shout the revolutionary battle cries, the leader and influencer of the revolutions. The rhythm of my words can be felt by the deaf, and my freedom anthems are echoed by millions around the world. I am the maestro of the uprising, the bedrock of the civil society organisations, forever their lord and master.
Why would you need my resume? This is an insult. Search my name on Google in any language and you will find my fabulous interviews, and thousands of documentaries and spontaneous videos starring me, and only me. I am the one who speaks to the steadfastness of the people, the one who broadcasts threats to the traitors among us. I am the only noble here, the one who carries the biggest burden as the guardian of the revolution. I am as intrepid as they come, infallible like a god.
My achievements are the revolution’s most legendary moments. Anyone else’s accomplishments are exploitation on the backs of my people. My mistakes are justified; the mistakes of others have cost us our victories. I work with NGOs to help victims of war, and achieve justice for our cause. Others’ work is nothing more than fraud for profit. The positions that I hold are the revolutionary badges of honour that I deserve, and that is why I am the spokesman for all of their groups and the representative of all of their delegations. Anyone else claiming to be so are ignorant politicians, who only represent themselves. Who elected them to speak on our behalf?
I am the smartest analyst, the one who understands our affairs and their political developments the best. Anyone who disagrees is either stupid, or does not have the revolutionary legacy to challenge my opinion. I was in prison for longer than them. If I was not, then I was tortured more, lost more. I am the winner of the oppression olympics, and I have the right to stigmatize anyone who says otherwise.
The God of the Revolution
In my dictionary tens of ideological insults and accusations which I form according to the situation, for example:
1) Human rights defenders who stand against the violators that I support. These are certainly opportunists claiming up the misery of my people for their own recognition.
2) “Feminists” who dare to criticize our patriarchal society. Westerners sold them their beliefs, now they are working with them to spread moral decay. What else would motivate our female civil society activists to criticise their society unless they are being paid to do so?
3) Anyone who criticises the armed groups that I support is a disconnected “white person.” Let him form the Guevara battalion and fight in field, then he can have his say.
4) Anyone who reports the mistakes of my favourite civil society group are stupid and shallow. They are pro-regime thugs. I can prove this through my credible social media posts.
5) Anyone who criticises my beliefs are blasphemers who will burn in hell. But those who defend the Islamists that I dislike are extremists, funded by the Gulf to be a part of ISIL.
6) During the siege, I described the activists of nearby towns who are commenting on our internal affairs as arm chair activists. I was the last to leave. I blame those who left before me; if they had stayed, we would have won.
I am the only one who is authorised to hypothesise. Unlike the others, I can do this from wherever I am based, not only because of my revolutionary legacy but because celebrity heroes are allowed to do things that others are not.
I know what you are thinking. No, I do not attack the successful people as some claim. I throw my poisoned arrows towards anyone and everyone who distorts my version of what happened. I can prove this, because I do not oppose the populists who support my version of what happened.
It’s true that my richly offensive vocabulary often betrays when responding to my institution’s financiers, but how am I supposed to live and spread the revolutionary virtue if I am hungry?Do you want me to steal? God forbid, I might even have to support my financier and press the like button on his sectarian posts. Didn’t I tell you earlier that a hero is entitled to things that no one else is?
I returned home yesterday after a typical revolutionary evening, snatching at another opportunist trying to discuss the mistakes of the revolution. Did he not see what the regime and the international community did to us? And the Rohingya massacres? What about the cosmic plot against us? Is this the right time to criticize the mistakes of our blessed revolution, eight years later?
I knocked the door as I accused the so-called rebel of being a pro-regime liar. My wife greeted me.“Haven’t you had enough of theorizing yet?” she asked, coldly. “Leave the people to their lives and focus on your own family.”
I didn’t hold back. I grabbed her, wrapping her hair around my left fist and smacked her in the face with my right one. I threw her to the ground and started kicking her, the same way that the security forces did to me when I was arrested.
“I am theorizing you daughter of P**..! I shouted, beating her. “When I pulled you out of your family’s swamp, you were nothing! I made you the wife of a hero, you got to represent the women of the revolution in the most important events around the world. You bullshitted about women’s role and struggles, but you are nothing but a fertile cow whose job is keep my family name alive. I made you, go away before I do something I would regret, no one speak to heroes like this!
I spat on her. “Inferior, pro-regime bitch.”
She turned towards me, crying. “Wake up. Your expired-heroism won’t feed us bread nor pay your Internet bill. The glory days are over, heroes will be forgotten when their counties’ fade away from the headlines. Heroism is not a profession.”
I pounced on her, like a soldier who had just finished raping his victim. “Bitch! I am the hero, the only honest man among the thieves and opportunists using the despair of war victims to get visas, trips and earn a living. I am the lone knight of these dark times. Why are you looking at me like this with your eyes popping out of their sockets? Why your face is so yellow? Surprised? As if you haven’t witnessed me in the battlefield? Doubting my heroism, you traitor, I will slaughter you and post on my facebook page that it was the regime who cut your throat in revenge for your chants for freedom, your lucky ungrateful woman! I will turn you into an icon.”
This is not the first time that I had to teach my wife a lesson. She is living as a princess in my house, earning fame from merely being associated with me. Surely this is because I am a fierce defender of women’s rights. That is, so long as they don’t violate tradition and religion—these are red lines. Crossing them is akin to advocating for prostitution and obscenity.
Damn the feminists who forget the suffering of the people in my country. The displacement, the bombing and torture shoved aside to complain that a prostitute was killed in an “honour crime!”As for me, I have withstood the truncheons, torture, marginalization and abandonment. What a cruel betrayal, Abeer. Today I am fighting the whirlwind of despair and insanity, battling its treacherous manifestations.
Tell me one last thing. What would I do if not heroism? How can I go back to studying or working as a blacksmith after obtaining a certificate of heroism and fame? Why don’t you respond? Am I worried about my honorary position over my cause? What cause? What will remain of it—and of me—if I close my Facebook page?
What is this spell that is overtaking me? What am I saying? Abeer, do you know any schools that teach new beginnings after defeat? How can I live when what I say is no longer echoed in the streets? If my posts on social media stop being shared? If they no longer evoke days-long discussions? What can I do but speak about the past? Is there a pill to remind me of the old version of myself, an antidote these fat years of heroism?
Abeer! Our new icon, I will broadcast my speech now to the revolutionaries, get out of the frame.
Dear devoted followers,
Don’t worry about my stress and uncertainty. I will come back to you from every absence, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, a genie from a bottle. I will arrive without warning, sometimes like an angry mother and sometimes with the force of a harrowing storm blowing through your memories.
I will enter your consciousness from the digital screens of this vertical world, dancing, purifying myself from any anxiety about your perceptions of me. I will take off my veneer of diplomacy and insult everyone who criticises me. For there is no consolation for defeat except the destruction of all.