Egypt: after the revolution comes the battle for language

A Dictionary of the Revolution covered in The Guardian

"Was it a coup? Was it a revolution? The overthrow of Mohamed Morsi last July spawned unending debate in Egypt about how the president’s removal should be defined. Not that this was unusual: since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, the country’s many factions have competed to impose their narratives on highly contested events. As a result, words used to describe the events of the revolution can have wildly different meanings, depending on the speaker.

Fascinated by this lexical battleground, Amira Hanafi, an Egyptian-American artist, is travelling across Egypt to create a dictionary of its ill-fated revolution. She is interviewing hundreds of ordinary people about what 160 buzzwords related to the revolution – terms such as “freedom”, “coup”, and even “revolution” – mean to them. The replies will be turned into a book.”

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No Comment



08 March 2011 Women suffer assault and derision at Tahrir march Al-Masry Al-Youm 


I believed I was invisible until I stood on Feleki Street wearing an orange vest, my extraordinary hair and a gas mask while BBC Arabic approached with their puffy black microphone, everyone around me saying, “No comment,” and my sisters walking arm-in-arm through the gas. All the foreigners are at home, and I imagine myself an observer against this wall, one year to the day after my night of savage indoctrination behind a window overlooking Abdel Moneim Riyadh Square, using status updates to never save myself from damage.


19 March 2011 The Saudi Women Revolution Statement Jadaliyya


23 March 2011 Egyptian women protesters forced to take “virginity tests” Amnesty


26 March 2011 Libyan woman tells of abuse Al-Jazeera


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Truck: Amira Hanafi: Mahdy's Walk

Mahdy’s Walk, a text constructed from 20 conversations on a walk performed 20 times in April 2013, in Ard El Lewa, Giza, Egypt, is published over at Halvard Johnson’s poetry blog Truck. I’m pleased to be selected by May’s guest editor/driver, Glenn Bach.

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"No Comment," a new short text of mine, is included in Makhzin’s first issue. Makhzin is a trilingual, experimental writing magazine that is a a project of Beirut-based 98 weeks. I’m pleased to be published alongside 22 authors writing in English, Arabic, and French: Lina Morawetz, Raed Rafei, Alex Cuff, Haig Aivazian, Christopher Rey Pérez, Raafat Majzoub, JK Rowling, Amira Hanafi, Wajdi al-Ahdal (Translated by Nada Ghosn), Monica Basbous, Aya Nabih, Hisham Bustani, Mo Maria Sarkis, Jalal Maghout, Mariam Yassin, Bassem Mansour, Chloé Griffin and Samuel Wilder, Robert Ostrom, Rim Battal, Claire Wilcox, and Ruth Höflich.

Marcia Lynx Qualey interviews Makhzin editor Mirene Arsanios on her blog Arabic Literature in English

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New writing by Amira Hanafi at, with text and images appropriated from English-language media sources on the internet.
Cover image by Corrina Mehiel

New writing by Amira Hanafi at, with text and images appropriated from English-language media sources on the internet.

Cover image by Corrina Mehiel

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