Alaa Abd el-Fattah is arguably the most high-profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world, rising to international prominence during the revolution of 2011. Collected here for the first time in English are a selection of his essays, social media posts and interviews from 2011 until the present.
To read it is to be impressed, over and over, with the writer’s combination of honesty, originality, and humility. It is to be amazed by how often Abd el-Fattah is right, not in the sense that he knows what to do, but in the sense that he so often sees the truth of each messy, polarizing, often hopeless juncture. His writing is sharp and funny, passionate and vulnerable, straining generously to find something useful to say ... an invaluable record of events in Egypt in the past decade, of the evolution of a leftist, humanist, internationalist thinker, and of the efforts of a remarkable person not to come undone in the face of overwhelming injustice.
... veering from fine-grained arguments over a new constitution to visceral reports of the violence the state was still inflicting on those who defied it ... This mosaic of texts builds a picture of both the principles of resistance and democracy-building and the ugly, absurd, frightening, occasionally joyful experience of living by them in a stubbornly unreformed dictatorship. It’s also a reckoning with the legacy of his much-loved father, the human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who was imprisoned and tortured under Anwar Sadat and Mubarak ... There are no easy solutions here, but You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a heartbreaking, hopeful answer.
Alaa’s writing is assured and often insightful, ranging widely over subjects from climate change, feminism, and sectarianism to artificial intelligence, emojis and the Internet ... Despite the years he has spent incarcerated, there is humor and even joy in Alaa’s words.