Uprisings start with a calling, desperation, a mixture of hope and anger that makes your heart race and your voice rise. A limit is reached. Energized and determined, ordinary people rise up to display their collective dissent.
In the recent uprisings that started in Tunisia, surged to Egypt, then swept through other parts of the Middle East, women played an important role, standing alongside their male counterparts.
Coming from different ideological and social backgrounds, the women portrayed in this series defy stereotypes. Spirited, idealistic, courageous, and resolute, they led or instigated revolutionary acts in their respective countries.
In their conversations with me, these activists revealed their individual perspectives and motivations. All were on the front lines, hopeful of change, breaking down barriers, fighting for a better future for their country. Their ordinary appearances conceal the strain of heroic acts. They stand resilient, toughened from the march, from raised fists, from evading bullets and teargas, from their full-throated battle cries.
“What made you want to risk your life?” “What made you go back after hearing the reports, after being threatened, crushed, beaten, tear-gassed?” These questions I did not have to ask.
Disappointment, disillusionment, depression and a view of iron bars have been the outcome for some of these courageous women.
What is certain is that after those euphoric and nightmarish days and nights out in the streets, public squares, rooftops and balconies, not one of them remained unchanged.
Interspersed throughout the series (and book) are collected images and articles (both historical and current) that circulated on social media at the time. These archival images give a visual context to the photographs: some have inspired uprisings; others deal with stereotypes, feature important role models or activist artwork.
In the aftermath of the uprisings, battered buildings and stained walls silently testify to bloodshed and violence, to a once unthinkable rebellion and to those who lost their lives. Mundane and militant objects remain as evidence of dramatic events that took place.
Many of the buildings and murals in this series have since been destroyed or demol­ished. Yet, memories linger and traces of hope endure. The words of Tunisian playwright and activist Jalila Baccar express the spirit of resistance: “We will not be silent, we will not be silent… We will not submit and we will not kneel.

“I took a class at Cairo University on ‘the history of social mobilization under autho­ritarian regimes’. In that class, I got to know student activists who were part of the revolutionary socialist movement, an underground secret group that formed in 2009. In 2010, Khaled Saeed happened [Khaled Mohamed Saeed was a young Egyptian man who was brutally beaten and killed at the hands of the Egyptian police in Alexandria on 6 June 2010, after being arrested and taken into their custody. Images of his violated face and body spread throughout the country.] This injustice politicized a lot of youth. Protests started to happen on the streets on a regular basis.” – Gigi Ibrahim (28). revolutionary socialist. activist. citizen Journalist Excerpt from our conversation in Cairo, 2014

“There was not much political space for people to be active in Egypt before, except the protests held for the Palestinian intifada. In fact, most of the activism against the Mubarak regime that thrived in 2005 was the off­spring of the protests in support of those and the ones against the war in Iraq in 2003. The groups that organized themselves around these protests are the ones that shaped the activism against the Mubarak regime, which then turned into a revolution … Even though no one expected a revolution to actually happen, our engagement with contentious politics made us feel like something had to happen in this country.
I always thought that even though I was involved with a lot of groups like Kefeiya, Youth for Change, and earlier the groups for Palestine, my activism permeates my jour­nalism and that I did not need to classically be a part of a specific group or movement. Journalism was and is my activism. I always felt that there was something stifling and uncreative in the modes of organizing that are prevalent here in Egypt and I think elsewhere in the world for that matter.”- Lina Attalah. media figure. journalist and founder of Mada Masr online news magazine Excerpt from our conversation in Cairo, 2015

Teargas canisters fired on unarmed protesters on Tahrir square, and boots from a soldier, found during the protests, Cairo, Egypt

“In Egypt graffiti is political. It is a kind of messaging tool in public spaces After the revolution, graffiti and massive murals that expressed ideals of freedom started appear­ing, drawn not by graffiti artists but by people who had studied fine arts and painting. They were huge collaborative pieces that provoked dialogue. People were taking back Public Space and using it to express different political ideas and statements. A meet­ing point was created where people could look at each other’s statements and ideas and debate about them. …” Angie Balata (34), women’s rights activist and writer. Excerpt from our conversation in Cairo, 2014

” I spend many hours in this chat-room following all the events. In 2008, when Facebook came to Egypt, I created a page that called for a strike on the 6th of April. This was the first political page in Egypt and had 70.000 followers only after a few weeks. On April 6, 2008 at 11 am in the morning [on the day the strike was going to take place], the police arrested me. I spent 18 days in jail.
We only had three demands from the very start of the protests: the end of emer­gency law, the resignation of the minister of interior and the punishment of the police­men who tortured Khaled Saeed. “

Esra a Abdelfattah (35). activist. Excerpt from our conversation in Cairo on 13 01 .2014

Safety goggles; first used in first Mohamed Mahmoud clashes in Nov 2011 that lasted for a week, after police intentionally aimed shotgun shells & rubber bullets at the eyes of protesters. A few key activists lost sight in one or both as a result in the very first days (namely Malek Mostafa & Ahmed Harara, many others did too). Found during protests, Cairo, Egypt

For me, Rabaa is not just a square or a place. During the protest against the military coup, it was a place where we lived, standing by each other, loving each other, cooperating with each other in good ethics, struggling together. It was the perfect place, like in Aristotle’s Utopia. Up until the day the army and security forces surrounded and attacked us with helicopters, tanks and bullets. The smell of tear gas filled the air, the sound of bullets was everywhere. We had nothing, just bottles of water to put the gas bombs in, and fire to make the tear gas go. Even the Molotov cocktails, we only had a few … When they shot my fiancee, I tried to get to the hospital in Rabaa to find him, but I couldn’t because there were so many dead corpses and blood everywhere. I can’t describe this … Sarah (20), spokesperson for the Anti-Coup student movement at El Azhar University Excerpt from our conversations in Cairo, 2014