Liberation Square by Ashraf Khalil

12160875Nonfiction — print. St. Martin’s Press, 2011. 324 pgs. Library copy.

Subtitled “Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation”, Khalil provides his first-person insights into the 2011 Egyptian Revolution from his home base of Cairo where he serves as a journalist for an English-language paper in the country. Contrary to what was originally reported in the American news media, the revolution was more than a spontaneous uprising.

The problem was not just Hosni Mubarak but the way his reign turned Egypt into, according to Khalil, a country full of cynical people who believe nothing can change. But small events, particularly the murder of a young man who was seen as everyone’s son by the general public, helped contribute to years of mounting tension brought on by a state that shamelessly abused its authority rigging elections, silencing opposition, and violently attacking its citizens.

Introducing readers to these small events help to foster a better understanding of why the revolution occurred the way it did. Painting a bigger, clear picture of the country suddenly thrust into the spotlight in the American news media would certainly go a long way in helping readers understand the country Khalil is from and covers. In many ways, I felt like I was right there in Tahrir Square with Khalil as he interviewed the participants, as he was mobbed by pro-Mubark protestors.

I can appreciate this insight and wish it had been available as events were unfolding, but I can’t help think this isn’t a definitive account. It relies so much on seeing events as participant that the background as to how Mubark came into power, how he consolidated that power and created the Interior department that terrorized the Egyptian people is fairly glossed over. I found myself reaching the final page and wishing for a more detailed historical analysis, and I guess I will have to wait a few more years for that book to be published. This one, after all, was published in the same year as the revolution.

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