On a weeknight in May, Tamer Qenawy, a thirty-year-old revolutionary, is pacing in El-Hosary Square in 6th October City, a satellite of Cairo. He and friends are setting up a film screening. They have tied a white screen to a fence right by a minibus stop. The projector and laptop are here but Qenawy is waiting for some other guys to bring the sound system. A crowd gathers and then the program begins: a screening of homemade videos depicting violent attacks on protesters during a demonstration outside the Ministry of Defense three weeks earlier.
The makeshift event is part of an imaginative campaign to raise public awareness about the ongoing struggle of Egypt’s revolutionaries and the repressive measures implemented by Egypt’s interim military rulers. It is called 3askar Kazeboon, which translates as “Military Liars.”
Activists launched 3askar Kazeboon partly to counter coverage in the still-powerful state television, radio, and newspapers that depict protesters as violent elements being directed by foreign enemies. The idea was inspired by the so-called “Blue Bra” incident in December 2011. After police beat a woman protester and stripped off her clothes, the incident was scarcely mentioned by the Egyptian media but a mobile phone video of it went viral on the Internet and sparked international outrage.
Organizers believe that public screenings of such footage are a way of bringing the truth to Egyptians who may only see and believe what the state media presents. It is also a way of bridging the gap between Egypt’s relatively small online community and the vast majority of Egyptians who lack Internet access. “Each and everyone of us, from organized groups to individuals who believe in the revolution, downloaded the footage and organized a screening in their neighborhood,” Qenawy explains.
3askar Kazeboon proved to be an effective mobilization tool as well. “We won a huge number of people to our side through our work,” says co-founder Ahmed Ezzat. He recalls the first anniversary of January 25, 2011. “Instead of celebrating, like the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council called for, millions of people joined us in one of five memorial marches in Cairo remembering the martyrs of the revolution and chanting against the military rule,” he says.
Such is 3askar Kazeboon’s success that it has gone into Season 2 with the support of a citizen journalism collective called Mosireen, Arabic for adamant. The group produces videos to raise awareness about social justice, focusing on citizen rights, and the military’s role in the economy, and education and health systems. Says Ezzat: “All you need is a video, a laptop, a projector, and a screen.”