One of the most phenomenal aspects of the revolution in Egypt is how young people went out in masses despite their usual passiveness and the pervasive culture of fear security bodies have built.
(Down with the regime)
30 years of oppression provide ample reason to go out and protest whether for price increases, poor wages, taxes, pensions or the corruption within the entire People’s Assembly. Many of the protests before January 25 were related to professional grievances. There were protests for doctors’ wages, railway workers, government employees and factory workers. All of these in my opinion were just catalysts.
The real reason people went out and protested on January 25, 2011 was because of Khaled Said. In June 2010, Khaled Said, a young man of age 27, was murdered in Alexandria at the hands of two police goons in plain sight. He died for seemingly no reason but refusing to show his identification to the plain clothed policemen who did not want to present him with their ID. They violently dragged him out of a cyber café, took him inside a building next door and beat him till he died. When charges were brought against the police, the forensic report was falsified and the Ministry of Interior started a smear campaign against the young man full of lies in order to cover up for the policemen.
This incident of brutality infuriated most of the young people of Khaled’s age and class. It had been a long standing unspoken rule that people from good families were never mistreated by the police. This incident, the blatant smear campaign and the protection of the murderers struck a chord with young middle-class Egyptians. In retaliation, they staged demonstrations that took place opposite the Ministry of Interior protesting the injustice that had befallen Khaled. This was one of the few mass protests where ordinary citizens other than activists, journalists and certain professionals decided to partake including the disgruntled youth.
The Ministry of Interior confronted the protests against police violence with police violence. Brutality terrorized protesters and many were arrested through the use of violent thugs.
The young men and women, desperately trying to get their message across devised alternate forms of protests that wouldn’t anger authorities. They decided to protest in creative ways, such as asking people in Cairo and Alexandria to wear black, stand on the bank of the Nile or the Mediterranean, backs to the street reading whatever holy book they believe in. The authorities were still angered at this form of silent protest and cracked down on the protesters in various ways. It felt that authorities were not angered by the manner of protest, but by the concept of citizens expressing themselves collectively in any way.
The feeling of oppression was driven to new limits with a clear message from security bodies: anyone can be picked on; anyone can be beaten to death. Not only do you have to accept it, but you have no right to object.
The feeling of injustice lingered on with those young men and women. It was an implosive force waiting for a chance to explode. Khaled Said was a true symbol of someone young, talented and vibrant, whose life was stolen unlawfully by those who were supposed to uphold the law. The slogan, which authorities may have taken lightly was, “We are all Khaled Said.”
Till today the authorities are wary of some sort of conspiracy theory unaware of how true the slogan was. The young men and women felt as though they were Khaled Said, it wasn’t a shallow slogan like those the government invents. They felt his mother’s pain and they felt his injustice as he asked he pleaded with his murders to stop their brutality.
Despite all efforts, Khaled Said was not forgotten. He was the epitome of everything that was wrong with this country. Everything was building up in the background: poverty, ignorance, corruption, dictatorship and misrepresentation, but Khaled Said hit very close to home.
When the Saints’ Church in Alexandria was bombed right after the biggest falsification of the People’s Assembly, people were further charged. When Tunisia proved that dictators can go and that injustice can be fought, the implosive energy exploded.
Joined by others with various grievances, those young men and women took to the streets starting January 25 charged with a load of injustice. The young men and women fighting for their freedoms went out fighting for one another. They went out fighting so that there wouldn’t be another Khaled Said.
They did not want police brutality to continue unquestioned; they did not want to live in a sea of injustice. They wanted the perpetrators held accountable. They wanted to be safe and they wanted their friends safe. They wanted a future where parents would not wonder if their child has been beaten to death by the so-called upholders of the law. They wanted a chance to express their anger, and tell the world not to believe the lies of the police and the regime. They wanted life; they wanted justice.