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Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation Hardcover – January 3, 2012
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“A thrilling account of Egypt's revolution. . . . What's remarkable about Liberation Square is how good it is, how well written, how perfectly calibrated in its amounts of background, commentary and prognostication--and above all how thrilling it is to read.” ―Salon
“Egyptian journalist Ashraf Khalil confounds expectations with an insightful account that feels rich…. It is difficult to imagine a better guide to the Egyptian portion of the so-called Arab Spring than Khalil's book Liberation Square…. [Khalil] offers plenty of wisdom, along with action-packed reportage, along the way.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“Compelling, nuanced, and engaging. . . . Blends astute observations with reportage of the demonstrations as they unfolded. . . . Khalil's account is essential reading, evoking the urgency and vitality of the Arab spring's Egyptian chapter.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Khalil's illuminating reporting situates the revolt in the stultifying decades that preceded it…He does an admirable job pulling together the threads of the early dissident and activist efforts rooted in the late 1990s.” ―The Daily Beast
“A personal account that will be appreciated by those looking to move beyond the day's headlines, from one who wrote some of the stories published under those headlines.” ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
ASHRAF KHALIL has covered the Middle East for the The Times (London), The Economist, Foreign Policy, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Middle East edition of Rolling Stone. He worked as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times in the Baghdad and Jerusalem bureaus and has been based in Cairo for most of the last fifteen years.
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Khalil is frank. He is clear the Tahrir Square would not have been possible with the prior example of the Tunisia uprising. He highlights the widespread non-violent protests while acknowledging the role of violent and rageful rock-throwers. He speaks of the Mohammed ElBaradei's irrelevance to the revolution. He speaks of Muslim Brotherhood, an organization once banned from a role in Egyptian politics, its initial lack participation in the revolution and its eventual rise in prominence. Khalil speaks of the regime's use of the Brotherhood as a bogeyman to frighten moderates. He respects the group's organizational abilities, but tempers the fears of those worried about its post-revolution status. The group, he feels, is not as monolithic as outsides think, and will diminish in power when faced with open elections.
"Liberation Square" provides a ground-up view of a popular movement to overthrow a dictator and his ruthless security apparatus. It is a story of a people finally fed up with living in fear, lies and hopelessness, taking their destiny in their own hands. It is informative and inspiring look at how many factors combine to move a people to overthrow their shackles and live as free people
Now here we are, one year later, and there's already an incredible book on the subject.
Liberation Square is, for someone like me, a damn near perfect way to better understand what happened Egypt. The book is a seasoned journalist taking the reader through Mubarak's rise to power and the details of his reign and then into the revolution itself. I'd say about half the book is devoted to the causes and history of dissent and half to last year's events proper.
There's a little bit of history, following Egypt from Nasser to Sadat to Mubarak, and the unrest in surrounding areas. There are eyewitness accounts, some from the author himself. But Khalil also catalogues the jokes that Egyptian citizens told about their leaders and their situation, and he traces how those changed just as artfully and clearly as he traces the literal facts of succession. The best part of all is that nothing is ever boring. Ashraf Khalil is someone who (luckily for us) is both perfectly informed and deeply passionate about what he is writing.
I almost wish that the author had gone further with his timeline, to examine Egypt and its possible future. But I suppose that that story isn't over yet. Somehow I doubt that any speculation could be as interesting as everything that has actually happened, and everything that will. For someone wishing to understand the fall of Mubarak and the events of Tahrir Square, I haven't found better.