Looking back on the year 2011 I remember all that moved the world, revolutions and wars in the Arab world, and the west that couldn’t believe its eyes, hesitant at first, confronted with what it saw as being so “western”: a secular mass movement demanding democracy, spilling over from one country to the next, Tunesia, Egypt, Lybia, which next…Seeing and hearing their brave and fair demands did more for understanding and sympathy than many years of th so-called multi-cultural society have achieved so far.
Then there were natural disasters, terrorism, the economic crisis. There were demonstrations over here too, especially in Amsterdam. I went to a Spanish demonstration, students who realized there was hardly any future in their home country with no jobs for more than 1/3 of young people and numbers rising whilst the country remained deep in debt, its Mediterranean coast lined with empty white hotels. I photographed those proud young people full of life, and the girl behind the banner, with the white flower in her hair, aware of her act and visibly enjoying every moment of the comradeship and common goal. I kept hearing vague memories of songs from the Spanish civil war and Charlie Haden’s plaintive bass lines with the Liberation Music Orchestra.
The second image that still stays with me is from another demonstration, supporting the people on Tahrir Square, Cairo. I was photographing an Egyptian family in Amsterdam and concentrated on an older couple. The woman was not looking at the men, who were waving an Egyptian flag, but at the baby in the pram she held. Amidst all the noise and shouting I could not hear what she muttered, but I tried to understand, because she cried. Then I suddenly heard what she said: “Misr habibi….Misr habibi” – my dear Egypt.