Skip to main content

Middle East Eye releases first documentary, 'The Exiles'

A decade after the Arab Spring, five Egyptian activists ask the question they cannot escape: was the revolution worth it?
‘The Exiles’ is the first documentary film presented by Middle East Eye. It is produced and directed by Khaled Shalaby and Hossam Sarhan

Ten years ago, young Egyptians changed the course of history, overthrowing Hosni Mubarak after a 30-year reign and mesmerising the world. They carried the torch of hope for the Arab world, with a dream of turning their country into an open, democratic, and free society.

But the leaders of Egypt’s revolution now find themselves hunted, imprisoned, or chased out of their homes and left to fend for themselves abroad. Alone in exile, and struggling to make sense of their misfortunes, these revolutionaries look back at the events that began on 25 January 2011, and which haunt them today.

The Exiles, produced and directed by Khaled Shalaby and Hossam Sarhan, is Middle East Eye's first documentary.

The film features Hosam Yahya, Walid Abdel Raouf, Islam Lutfi, Ali Khafagy, and Osama Gawish, five Egyptian activists from different backgrounds and political ideologies, who met in Tahrir Square. A decade on, they come together again to talk about how their lives have been impacted, their struggles with trauma and isolation, and the question they cannot escape: was the revolution worth it?

The documentary explores the personal and mental toll of isolation through the eyes of the five political dissidents who sought to change their country, only to be shut out.

Thousands of others have faced a similar fate, blacklisted by Egypt’s government or sentenced on political charges in absentia. Their families have been harassed and detained, their financial assets frozen, and their names slandered in the state-owned press. These tactics were intended to intimidate voices of opposition into silence and to send a clear warning that they were no longer welcome home.

Left fighting for survival as asylum seekers, these once youthful idealists have to contend with the realities of the world around them, often obsessing over the mistakes they made a decade ago and how these have impacted their lives.

The story of these five individuals echoes the complex narratives of the Arab world today, a region still reeling from the violence and repression that followed the events of the so-called Arab Spring, and wrestling with questions about what the future holds.