I am a writer. It so happens that I am Egyptian. The combination of these two identities would normally not be problematic if it were not for the fact that I am also a young college student.
That my ambition, nationality, and age do not normally fit together well is due to the erroneous notion throughout my country and culture that devalues the voice and power of youth. First of all, as an artist, my work and I are looked down upon, for we are perceived as entities of luxury. As a youth, the challenge is even worse because of limited opportunities.
I found this predicament unacceptable. I was not only a youth who wanted to write, but one who wanted to spur influence and create sociocultural change with my work. I dreamed that I, in any way possible, could help others do the same. This is when I first thought of Tahrir.
I strive to approach the problems presented before me in an entrepreneurial manner, to produce the most sustainable and effective solution using the limited resources available. Last April, I decided that I would start my own creative writing project. I quickly realized that for it to be truly effective, I could not be alone. So I decided to make it accessible to anyone and that this project would live online. The only question that remained was the name.
Tahrir: Verses of Youth Liberation was surprisingly not a difficult name to come up with. The power of the word “tahrir” stems from its unique combination of literary, geographic, and historical meaning. Arabic for “liberation,” it is also the name of the square in which the 2011 Egyptian Revolution took place. Thus, on the one hand the word stands for exactly what I seek to achieve with my writing and what I hope to help others do with theirs, while on the other it marks the now immortal location in which the youth of my country made a definitive stand that could not be ignored, one in which the nation had to recognize its voices.
Tahrir was founded with the primary goal of being a space in which youth from around the world may share their struggles with, triumphs over, or general views on the various forms of oppression they experience. By oppression I mean any injustice experienced from mass institutionalized racism to tradition-based cultural sexism, all the way to societal degradation of alternative careers. I sought to make it a space in which anyone can not only contribute with their experiences of oppression, but also understand through the contributions of others what it’s like for them to experience their societal or cultural oppression.
Having traveled extensively and lived in three extremely diverse locations throughout my life, I’ve had the honor and privilege of experiencing the stories of diverse youths and sharing my own with them. I learned through this unique position that the more stories I heard, the more my perspective of oppression as a universal but immensely complex sociocultural phenomenon grew. For instance, learning about instances of sexism in Egypt alongside ethnoreligious marginalization in Kosovo, the imposition of language in China, or the intense stigmas regarding mental illness in the U.S. through the firsthand lens young people experience them allowed me to understand that none of us are completely free or detached from oppression. More importantly, it made me realize through their stories of struggle that, in communion, we can as young people tackle oppression together.
I felt the truth of this when several of my peers contributed and shared with me their experience with the process.
“Writing for Tahrir gave me the opportunity not only to share my thoughts but also to connect with others passionate about that oft-called upon and indispensable tenet of civilization: liberty,” Alice Markham-Cantor ’18 said.
“[Tahrir] brings a much needed element of solidarity to an experience that can sometimes feel so alienating,” Zachary Kramer ’17 said.