Thursday, February 3, 2011

Demonstrating at the Egypt Sim

In recent days, Egypt has been the location of some major political demonstrations every day. Sparked by similar demonstrations in Tunisia that eventually forced the dictator there to step down, the Egyptian mass protests have the goal of forcing their leader of thirty years to step down as well. Mubarak has taken moves to try and hinder the protests, such as calling out the police and cutting off Internet and cell phone service, but these have had no real effect on the demonstrations.

In Second Life, there is an Egypt sim. The group owning it appears to be an Arabic one. I heard there was a number of Egyptians from outside the country meeting up there trading stories while waiting to hear from friends and loved ones back home. So I decided to give the place a look.

Dropping by Monday evening, there was a small group of people there. There were a few Egyptians, some from other Arabic countries, and some Westerners dropping by. When I arrived, one Arab was singing over voice, getting complements from a Western lady. Symbols of the protest were all over, avatars with Egyptian flags in their hands and shirts with the flag of Egypt printed on them.

One man identified himself as Tunisian and one lady Palestinian, wearing a shirt with both the Egyptian and Palestinian flags. They did tell me of a little trouble from a griefer named “Jewboy,” but didn’t consider him Jewish, “He's just there for attention ... playing on Muslim - Jew tensions.” Someone held a sign with Arabic script, I was told it read, “Peace be upon Egypt and the world. Freedom for all people. We are all siblings and I support freedom and love for everyone. I pray that heaven and earth smiles on Egypt.”

Some of the clothes a few avies wear was not what one would expect in an Arabic sim, one man bare chested with tattoos and one girl in a skimpy top. The people told me a little about the place, saying in normal times people dropped by to chat and play the games there, “The Arabs laugh out loud when they hear the parchesi game is called ‘cheesy.’ “

Stopping by the next day, the crowd was much larger with a different makeup. There were about 40 people in the sim, and someone told me it had been larger just minutes before I had logged in. Egyptian leader Mubarak had just concluded a speech in which he stated he would not be running in the next elections, several months away. And as the avatars began to take shape in front of me, that’s what the crowd was discussing, “This is my hope: Either continue protests until Mubarak steps down personally, or accept his remaining months of his idea of order and reform.”

Skyrilla Starsider, a woman from Russia, was the demonstrator who talked to me the most on Wednesday. She and others carried signs, “Yesterday we were all Tunisians. Today we are all Egyptians. Tomorrow we will all be free.” Discussing the issue with others, she was overall hopeful, but concerned about people getting hurt, “We Russians are fiery in spirit, but I can't help but fear a little.” She told me she had been showing up at the Egypt sim for a couple days, “I am here in the name of the people, for the people, because a raging fire and shout-out for democracy in one nation is a call for equality and liberty for the rest of the world. ... It's been almost 24 hours ago that there has been a steady flow of people here, it's only been increasing, the vast amount of national differences is inspiring indeed.”

Asking her how other Russians felt, “So far, Russians abroad and even those wishing to stay within Egypt have expressed sympathy and support, they understand that change is necessary and that enough is simply enough. These are uncertain times, as Egypt is the industrial heart of the Arabic world and a heart has many arteries, the Egyptian people must act wisely or risk severe bleeding.”

I didn’t see names I recognized from the night before, but there were a small number of Arabs around, one proudly saying he was from Tunisia.

When people were asked what message they would give the demonstrators, there were a number of replies, "We are all here in support of your people and we pray for your freedom. We know that you will be free because of the strength of your people and from all over the world, our peoples wish you well." “Yay, bless the Egyptian people and your courageous struggle!” “All the best to you in your fight for freedom.” “Freedom is earned, not given. I wish the people of Egypt success in their struggle. Know that there are many around the World that have you in our thoughts at this time, people of all religions and from all walks of life.”

Not everyone was here for well wishes. One wag held up not a protest sign, but “Will work for beer.” There was also a heckler whom upon hearing there was an American present blurted, “Down with the USA!” There were other obvious trolls, and one man came by with a sign asking for a workers revolution in Egypt in the name of Socialism.

People here were listening to the English Al-Jazeera web broadcast, and at one point there were gasps of, “Oh no!” Reports were coming in of fights in Cairo between the demonstrators and pro-Mubarak mobs, with the sounds of gunfire. It sounded like the Egyptian army had fired into the crowd, but when CNN talked about the incident an hour later, they stated the army had fired in the air, and there were no casualties.

When I dropped by a few hours later though, there were signs of friction between the people at the sim. “This is not just something in the news!” one Palestinian told others, “My best friend has not been heard from in days! When did you cry (name)? Do you watch TV, looking for friends’ faces? Each report, I look for my friends!” Those she was talking to didn't understand what her point was. The argument might have been going on a while before I appeared. With a big crowd and most of the people here now non-Arabic, those here from the Middle East may have felt they were losing their voice.

The following day on Thursday, there were more reports of violence between pro and anti-Mubarak groups. Logging in, the sim had a few more controls up this time. Voice was disabled, as were scripts. I saw more signs up, and curiously a picture of Mubarak. There were a few more Arab residents than the same time the previous day. And there were more signs of discord between people here, “(Name), you were never hungry, were you? ”Sure, I was without child support and on my own for years, I raised a son.” “You live in the USA, you don’t know want.” One stressed over and over again the conflict was an Egyptian one, “Egypt belongs to the Egyptians!!! ... Muslim or not they are Egyptians!!! ... Let Egypt choose!” There were accusations of paranoia of a Islamist conspiracy, one woman accusing Americans of desiring “USA control of the universe.”

Then a group of Socialists came in, and began chanting slogans, “LEAVE THE BOURGEOISIE!!!!!” “BOURGEOISIE MUST WORKING!!!!!!!!!” “bourgeois Earn your bread!!!!!!” “bourgeois dogs go to work!!!!!!” and others. This was frustrating for the Arabs, “Do any of you care about the Egyptian people, or just your own personal agendas?” But the chants continued.

As of the writing of this article, more reports are coming in from Egypt of fighting between pro and anti-Mubarak groups, with serious injuries and deaths. The US State Department has asked all Americans there to leave the country.

Bixyl Shuftan

1 comment:

  1. Serendipity UndercroftFebruary 4, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    They were communists rather than socialists but otherwise a fine, astute article. The Palestinian lady was quite right, too many people were there to further their own agenda and state their opinions rather than listen to the primary sources who wanted to tell their story.