Rita .. the Jewish girl whom Palestinians love

Marcel is a singer, composer and one of the world’s most acclaimed oud players. He sings about freedom and nationalism and is famous for translating poetry into music. For years, he collaborated with the nationalist Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who wrote the most beautiful poems about Palestinian culture, lands, and struggle. Together, Marcel Khalifa and Mohamed Darwish, told the story of a nation, Immortalized its history and carried on the struggle among generations.

This song was written by Darwish to his neighbour “Rita”, the Jewish girl whom he loved deeply for years. Despite the controversy of falling in love with the enemy, Palestinians celebrated the beauty of the song and sang her name in their gatherings and celebrations. The aesthetics of the song created a special place for a Jewish girl within the Palestinian culture.

ريتا والبندقية

بين ريتا وعيوني… بندقيَّة
والذي يعرف ريتا , ينحني
لإلهٍ في العيون العسليَّة !
..وأنا قبَّلت ريتا
عندما كانت صغيره
عندما كانت صغيره
وأنا أذكر كيف التصقتْ
بي, وغَطَّتْ ساعدي أحلي ضفيرة
وأنا أذكر ريتا
مثلما يذكر عصفورٌ غديرَهْ
آه.. ريتا
بيننا مليون عصفور وصوره
ومواعيدُ كثيرة
أطلقتْ ناراً عليها.. بندقيَّة

اسم ريتا كان عيداً في فمي
جسم ريتا كان عرساً في دمي
وأنا ضعت بريتا … سنتَينِ.
وتعاهدنا على أجمل كأس , واحترقنا
في نبيذ الشفتين
وولدنا مرتين !
آه.. ريتا
أي شيء ردَّ عن عينيك عينيَّ
سوى إغفاءتين
وغيوم عسليّة
قبل هذي البندقيَّة!
كان يا ما كان
يا صمت العشيّة
قمري هاجَر في الصبح بعيداً
في العيون العسلَيّة
كنست كل المغنين, وريتا
بين وعيوني.. بندقيّة



What If you are a Homo Sacer but you don’t know it?


In the early morning of 24th, March 2016, Rasha Tarek an Egyptian housewife woke up to help her husband getting ready for work. He had to go to an affluent neighborhood in Cairo to do some wall painting. Rasha was suspicious that her husband is being unfaithful to her, so she called her father and brother to accompany the husband in the short work trip. Later on the day, Rasha called her husband to hear her brother’s voice begging someone for mercy. She kept calling over and over but the mobile phones of the three men were turned off.

الخمس ضحايا.jpg

At the following day, the headlines in Egyptian news celebrated the heroic achievement of the Egyptian police who could catch and kill the gang that kidnapped, robbed and tortured Guillio Regeni. The only evidence the Egyptian police provided was a picture of Guillio’s university card next to a handbag that was claimed to belong to the criminals. The alleged gang was composed of five men, three of them were Rasha’s father, brother, and husband. The five men have no criminal records and they met for the first time while taking the same bus to Cairo at the day of their tragic killing. Italy refused the Egyptian police story and small protests took place in Cairo streets calling for justice not only for Regeni, but also for the innocent five men. Also, many social media users used the hashtag (Justice for the five men and Justice for Regini) to write about them. However, now, only one month later, there is no mention of the five men in any media outlet or social media and till this moment very few people would know the actual names o the five men, unlike Regeni.


Guillio Regeni, an Italian PHD student at Cambridge University, disappeared in Cairo at the 5th anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. His battered and bruised body was found outside Cairo in early February. The incident sparked outrage in Italy, where officials questioned the various explanations Egypt has offered for young man’s death. Till this moment, the horrible death of Guillio is being talked about in international and European media as unsolved mystery and a pressure card at the hands of the Italian government.

According to Agamben, Homo Sacer means those reduced to bare life and can be killed by anyone in the society with no consequences. In Roman times, the sovereignty, which also implies the ability to kill, was only for the king who has the authorities of God, so he has the right and capacity take the life of any of his objects. Now in modern states, the sovereignty is scattered among the constituencies of the system, and the right to kill became a collective not individual responsibility on the society, however, the implementation remained at the hands of the state.The state has a totalitarian control of life and death with no justification needed. The Egyptian state did not even exert any effort in creating a solid story. The five men with no previous connection, who cooperated together to kill a random Italian guy with no motive and kept his belongings while driving together through Cairo streets is a ridiculous story that a kid would not believe, so the state is not actually interested in providing a justification for killing five people. Citizens, as viewed, the state are just objects with biological nature…A zeo with some rights of Bios.. A creature whose death has no impact nor his/her life… A bare life.

That is exactly why I feel so scared every time I go to protest in Egypt, knowing that my life and death mean nothing for the power holders. It means a lot to my family and to my social circles, but within the context of the Egyptian state, we are in a state of exception where all ordinary citizens are Homo Sacers.

Agamben, G. (1998) ‘Part two: Homo Sacer’ in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp.71-115.

Guillio’s Regeni Mother’s speech in front of the Italian Parliament

Italian student’s killing pulls Egyptian family into web of deaths, dead ends

Human Rights watch- World Report 2015: Egypt

Who killed Regeni? (Arabic)

List of the Egyptian police victims in the first quarter of 2016 (Arabic)


The new NUS president who wouldn’t condemn Isis

Unruliness is not just about opposing or challenging the state rules of the game, it can also exist in any power structure where powerful players impose their transcript to direct the actions and the reactions of the less powerful. One week ago a new president was elected for the UK National Union of Students, as they do every year. This year was slightly different, though. The new president is a black woman (She is actually more of beige but she identifies herself as ethnically black), who is an Arab Muslim. It did not stop here, she is also a strong defender of Palestinians’ rights and a leading member in “Decolonize Education” movement.

Malia Bouttain, the current NUS president, did not follow the dominant discourse and unapologetically brought the hidden transcript of Muslim Arabs (some of them at least) to the public sphere, causing noticeable rupture. She spoke about the Palestinians’ right in pursuing an armed struggle to defend themselves and their land, which is fair enough for a nation that has been under brutal occupation for more than 60 years, however, I can hardly hear anyone in the British Academic and activism circles stating that. If someone is going to support Palestine they will have to quickly condemn all armed activities, clarify they are not terrorists and emphasize on the security of the state of Israel.

She did not only challenge the public discourse, she is also actively trying to change it. For example, Malia refused to use the word “Terrorism”, as it is purposefully used to only refer to political violence committed by one specific group of people. Instead, she referred to ISIS actions as “Political violence”, opposed any kind of wars in the region and blamed its existence and expansion on ‘white supremacy’. Along with these lines she is one of the organizers behind the “NUS Students Not Suspects campaign”, which tells Muslim students they are being spied on and how to stop that. The shocking discourse got her elected as NUS president, but also got her a powerful opposition. Now seven of UK biggest and wealthiest universities, led by Oxford, are threatening to break ties with NUS if the president did not step down, which will cause a financial black hole for NUS and maybe its collapse. Even core principle of western paradigm such as Democracy, can be thrown away if it clashed with or challenged the public transcript.

I believe in most of the causes Malia calls for, however, I always chose my words carefully while speaking of these topics publicly when I am in a western country or on the borders-less cyber space. After all, I am an Arab Muslim woman, who can be easily categorized as violent, terrorist, oppressed or ignorant. This category unconsciously limited my language and took away my own words and believes. It is Palestinian struggle against occupation, not terrorism. It is spying on Muslims and discrimination against them not counter-terrorism measurements. It is a Zionist-led media and a colonized education that force their public transcript on us and gradually getting us ashamed of talking about resistance and justice. Malia, whether you agree with her or not, made a huge step by, boldly and unapologetically, introducing the hidden script of a big community of Muslim and Arabs in western countries offering it as an alternative.


I’m the new NUS president – and no, I’m not an antisemitic Isis sympathiser

The election of Malia Bouattia as NUS President sends a dark message to Jewish students

Oxford leading revolt against NUS president who supported a Taliban fighter and campaigned to scupper campus counter-terror measures

Students threaten break with NUS over the election of new NUS president