Kazeboon: Egypt’s anti-military campaign

In 2011, a group of young Egyptians organised public film screenings to expose military violence against civilians, writes Hebatalla Taha.

The case

In late 2011, a campaign entitled Askar Kazeboon (Military Liars) was launched by a group of young people in Egypt to circulate information about the military’s “lies”. They aimed to use alternative grassroots media tools, such as screenings of videos in local neighbourhoods, marches and social media to inform the public of alleged crimes committed by the military, such as attacking peaceful protestors. It specifically targeted the unaware and the usually uninterested, who might be easier subjects to government and military-controlled media, which routinely attributed violence to foreign third parties seeking destabilise the nation. Sally Toma, an active member in the Kazeboon campaign, told Al-Jazeera, “The main goal is to get Tahrir Square out of Tahrir Square and into every neighbourhood.”

Kazeboon started as a response to the military’s initial dismissal of widely-disseminated photos and videos of military police attacking a girl and exposing her blue bra – an incident that took the country by storm. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) eventually issued an apology to the “women of Egypt”. But Kazeboon’s campaign went on to gain popularity including more than 92,000 followers on Facebook and 44,000 on Twitter.

Their public screenings were threatened and attacked, the most notorious and violent example being a screening in Gamaat Al Dowal Al Arabiyya in Mohandisseen. One of their film screenings was banned by the governor in Daqahlia but the ban was publicly defied. Kazeboon was also subjected to violence by SCAF-supporters, many of whom argued that SCAF’s rule was essential to bring the country back to a stable condition.

Author opinion

The campaign represents an alternative and creative method of creating free speech in an unfree environment. Egyptian media has remained notoriously silent on key issues, such as the Maspero massacre in October 2011, when Christian protestors demonstrating the demolition of a church were attacked by the army, leading to dozens of deaths. The campaign is a response to the state’s propaganda machine, using whatever means it can get its hands on, such as volunteers, projectors and the internet. Such localised screenings were successfully able to remind people not to blindly believe government propaganda and were essentially an extension of the youth’s early use of social media. While the use of the term “liars” may almost seem to be an incitement, the crux of the campaign is to demand that the military takes responsibility for its actions. The campaign does not force citizens to accept its story or to attend events but works toward creating a free speech environment in which multiple views are presented.

- Hebatalla Taha

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Comments (1)

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  1. What has happened in Egypt these past few month’s was considered controversial. Many innocent people were killed because they were fighting for the most basic rights which they deserve, honestly i don’t know what has been going on but this was just plain outrageous.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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