After the policemen had sodomized the bus driver with a broomstick, and after one of the officers had sent a cell-phone video of the attack to other bus drivers in downtown Cairo to make clear that the cops could do as they pleased, and after someone had given the video to Wael Abbas, who posted it on his blog, something unusual happened — at least, something unusual for Egypt.
The video went viral on the Internet. Two officers were charged, convicted, and ultimately given three-year prison terms.
It was an extraordinary moment, this sudden burst of justice back in 2006. Few have dared to point their fingers at police wrongdoing in Egypt. And it’s even rarer that the culprits have been punished.
The tumult that has rocked Egypt this winter was clearly sparked by the Tunisian revolution. But the Egyptian uprising didn’t begin on Jan. 25. It was rooted in the waves of workers’ strikes and protests; the explosion of the Internet as a rallying megaphone for dissent about government abuse, corruption, and a vampire economy where a few flourish while many struggle; and a growing willingness by reporters, writers, and human-rights groups to tell the truth in the face of great risks.
The roots could be seen by anyone who has paid attention to the upheavals that have marked Egyptian society these last few years. But they were dismissed up until now as inconsequential and insufficient.