Geopolitics

What Egypt's Martyrs Left Behind: The Jan. 25 Revolution, One Year Later

To mark the anniversary of the day that sparked the Arab spring's most momentous revolution, a reporter visits the homes of those Egyptians who didn't live to see it through. The remains of their lives are both painful memories for their

Cairo, Jan. 29, 2011 (lilianwagdy)
Cairo, Jan. 29, 2011 (lilianwagdy)
Samah Abdel Aaty

CAIRO - In their earthly possessions lie the shadows of their souls, like avatars of their bodies that now rest in the ground. The left-behind books, papers, clothes, walls and furniture carry their secrets. Some belongings remain as they left them, others have been changed to ward off the unbearable grief their deaths have caused in the hearts of their loved ones.

Some of their belongings bring tears, some trigger laughter; whether ordinary objects or those that carry tales worth telling, in the end, they all bear witness to human beings who once lived among us.

Ahmed: an anonymous letter to a girl
Nothing in Ahmed Abdel Latif's bedroom remains as it was when he was alive. His bed and the couch in his room were rearranged, while his computer table, cassette player, bookcase and the rest of his personal belongings were all taken out of his room. Even his clothes were given away.

"We changed everything because his mother sees him in the room all the time, and sees him in his things and his clothes, so we had to give his clothes away ... so she can go on with her life," whispers Ahmed's eldest sister.

But when you ask their mother, for whom all these changes were made, if any piece of Ahmed's clothing remains at home, she will show you his undershirt, which she wears under her galabeya: "This is Ahmed's," she says.

His mother says she still sees his smiling face. He was her only son of five children. She says she will never forget the day Ahmed left his home in Mahatat al-Raml, Alexandria, on the evening of Jan. 28 last year, better known as the Friday of Anger. She was home alone waiting for President Hosni Mubarak's televised speech and heard Ahmed asking her if she wanted him to bring home milk on his way back. She says that after Mubarak's speech, Ahmed's friends came, shouting that he'd been shot. Ahmed's father and some neighbors then went out to search for him. They found him at the morgue.

He was born on March 15, 1989, and he worked at his uncle's tire workshop while pursuing his studies. Last January, just before he was killed, 2011 Ahmed had just finished his first-term exams for his fourth year at the Higher Institute for Computer Maintenance.

Since Ahmed was never a big talker, after his passing, his family looked through his papers and books in search of any notes or the like, only to find a short letter in one of his drawers addressed to an unknown girl. In the letter Ahmed proposes marriage. The family tried in vain to find the girl but their efforts were in vain.

Mohamed: buried in his blood-soaked clothes
For Mohamed Ahmed Youssef, his small bedroom was his big world. His family tried to give Mohamed and his younger brother, nicknamed "the Prince," enough space in their tiny apartment in Suez, but he had little privacy. His bedroom consists of a large bed and a huge table with a TV and computer on top and his work equipment stored below. Mohamed had several jobs — during the day, he worked at an oil company and in the evening, he worked at an upholstery business. During holidays, he worked as a freelance butcher.

On the evening of Jan. 28, Mohamed joined a group of angry protesters, and wound up dead.

Mohamed's mother changed nothing about his small room after he was killed. The bed faces the doorway and sits under a large window overlooking their small street, which branches off Sidi Ghareib Square.

Each morning, 25-year-old Mohamed got out of bed, got dressed and went off to the oil company he had worked at since receiving his bachelor's degree at a private computer institute. Mohamed helped with the family's expenses as his father was retired, and he was also helping his sister Amira buy some of the household appliances she needed for marriage.

Mohamed bought his sister an electric oven, which can still be found in his room, as well as a large plastic doll for Ramadan. He also bought his mother a mobile phone on Mother's Day.

Inside a cardboard carton under the table in his room, Mohamed stored some of his belongings, including the side-view mirror of the motorcycle he bought with his own earnings. His father would end up using it to transfer injured protesters to the hospital during the early days of the revolution.

Mohamed had joined the protests in his city on Jan. 25, his mother says, and remained on the streets with the other protesters even as violence escalated. Mohamed hadn't joined the protests to demand the right to employment, as he was already employed, but he went out to demand the rights of all Egyptians to "bread, freedom and social justice."

Mohamed left his home for the last time on Jan. 28. He and a number of other protesters were shot that evening and, in accordance with Sheikh Hafez Salama's fatwa, he was buried in his blood-soaked clothes.

Mina Daniel's room awaits his return
Mina Daniel's room on the second floor of his family home in Ezbat al-Nakhl, Cairo, looks like he just left it yesterday. The window in Mina's room overlooks one of the neighborhood's main streets, and he always kept his window open.

Mina, the family's youngest child, was born on August 1, 1991, and he received his diploma from the Industrial School in Restoration of Monuments in 2008.

His bedroom consists of a wooden bed with an adjacent side table on which several books sit. Mina's closet and his desk, on which his personal computer can still be found, lie on the opposite side of the room.

Mina left his room for the last time on the evening of October 9, when he joined the Coptic march protesting the demolition of the Marinab Church in Aswan.

Mina's tidy bed is covered with a pillow and a blanket, and his clothes are neatly folded in his closet. His toothbrush, shaving cream, deodorant and sunglasses still lie on one of his shelves as if waiting for the young man with long hair to come home.

In his room you can find Mina's papers everywhere, in his closet and desk drawers and between the pages of his books. The papers include school work, political leaflets and revolutionary statements. Mina was an avid supporter of the revolution.

In a TV interview with media personality Wael al-Ibrashy, Mina had said he joined the protests on Jan. 25 to protest widespread unemployment and to demand improvement in the education system, which he described as corrupt. He went on to denounce political corruption in Egypt and the lack of justice or equality for its citizens.

In one of his desk drawers, Mina kept a large paper on which he wrote "the revolution's demands." He summarized these demands as "public trials for corrupt individuals' and the "dissolution of the National Democratic Party."

Mina's leftist inclinations are apparent from the books he kept by his bedside. These books include "Dead Sea" by George Amado, a poem titled "The Poor Always Lose When It Comes to Love" by Ali Mansour, and "Dawn of Conscience" by James H. Breasted.

Mina's role in the revolution and the million-man protests is evident in the certificates of appreciation he received from various sources. Inside one of his books, one by Tawfiq al-Hakim titled "The Youth's Revolution," someone named Abdu wrote him the following note: "To my dear brother Mina, who represents an icon of the January 25 revolution, to which we owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation."

Mina was shot dead during the Coptic-led march to Maspero on October 9. He left pictures of his family in a small plastic bag inside one of his desk drawers, while not a single picture of him can be found. The love Mina's family has for him is apparent from the writing on his wall. In one of the writings, dated November 1, 2010, Mina's younger sister Sherri urges him to eat the sandwich she left him by his bed. In another, she tells him she left him some dessert in the refrigerator. Mina himself only wrote down three words in his room, on his bedroom door — the words "God is love."

Read the article in full at Al-Masry Al-Youm

Photo - lilianwagdy

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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