The thing about the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes specifically is the mere fact that those who had never joined a protest even through the 18 glorious days took to that one. They did so not because they wanted to grab power or even present a political demand, but in defence of family members of those who died in those 18 days, who were for some reason attacked by police forces during their sit-in at Tahrir square. Those who joined the Mohamed Mahmoud fight did so partly because they felt the revolution they so hoped for and loved was being contaminated, partly because of all those brave activists and human rights advocates were calling for help, and partly because some of them felt guilty that they didn’t take to the streets with those who died.
That mostly silent majority, who couldn’t quit their jobs and families and give the revolution all they had, had spent their lives angry at the Ministry of Interior, and that, perhaps, was their final straw – to see the mothers and fathers of those who were killed fighting for the freedom and justice of all being dragged on the asphalt, beaten up and suffocating from teargas.
The revolutionary youth did come to the rescue, but they were not enough to fight back the violence of the police officers; the violence that lasted eight days, killing 50, 14 of which in just one day.
The reason these revolutionary activists were not enough is because they had been smeared continuously by a brutal but quite effective campaign against them, orchestrated by the SCAF and the Mubarak feloul – on top of the fact that thousands of them had already been rounded up and put in military jails. Every month for ten months, a revolutionary protest was being forcibly dispersed, resulting in many deaths and arrests.
Back then, the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamist allies were busy with their elections and the under-the-table deals, so they forbade their youth to go to the rescue. Of course, some (very few) did not adhere to the ban and did indeed go help, but the majority did not and the leaders regarded those protesters as “thugs who intended to disrupt the country and create chaos”.
Many of those who were home following up on the situation, seeing the revolutionaries being abandoned and brutally attacked, could not stand the sight. They decided to help, since they had already taken enough of police brutality and the revolution was a chance for them to rid themselves and their country of it. (A reminder I insist on repeating: the revolution broke out BECAUSE of police brutality then escalated to the downfall of the regime when they were denied MOI change.)
“There were faces we had never seen before in protests – many new faces,” I had heard active revolutionaries say several times over social networks and blogs. Those faces, as they said, gave them hope that the revolution had not died, and that no matter what or who tries to smear them, people will always believe, at least in the idea, in the possibility of freedom.
The following are translated lines from a blog of a friend who had only started being an active part of the protests and the revolution after he joined the 19 November violence. These were voices coming from every angle: attacks from the Brotherhood, warnings from friends, defiance from fellow revolutionaries, and denials from the MOI that stood in surreal contrast to the author’s observations on the ground. The voices came, one after another, all conflicting.
“Why are they there? There are elections being prepared, are they there because they are afraid a religious parliament will be in power, you infidels blasphemous lot.”
– I can’t take it anymore, I will go join them [the revolutionaries]!
…Take care of yourself…
“They are killing us; there will be no more of us. Everyone will die, Zika.”
– No, there is more; there are many more. Let them try to kill all the Egyptians.
….There is no birdshot…
“Is there no brave man in these politicians to come here, present an alternative until the elections?”
– Everyone is afraid, friend, we were sold.
“We will leave at 5, if anyone wants to send medications to the field hospital; @TahrirSupplies has a list of what is needed.”
– Pull this rope back with me; we need to make room for the motorcycles transferring the injured. The attack is getting heavier, maybe they can save someone.
….a pile of dead bodies near the garbage
“This is the third time I’ve treated this boy, every time I finish his stitches and he goes back to the frontlines, I can’t stop him, he will die”
-No one will be able to stop him, Qadry. Let him be.
“The Brotherhood sold us out, friend; the kids were being sold out while being killed.”
“They say the teargas used is per international standards. Good, go tell that boy who died choking and spasming next to me.”
…Gada’ Ya Basha (Bravo, man –A congratulatory phrase uttered by a police officer in a video after a police sniper successfully shot a protester in the eye.)
“Hold you ground, hold your ground, if they [police] move closer, they will get to the square [Tahrir], there are many people, and there are lots of women.”
…Hold your ground
“The cowards attacked the field hospital and are beating up the doctors, Qadry is there and we can’t reach him.”
“Don’t go there again Youssef, the tear gas is messing your chest, you are coughing like crazy.”
“I am going anyway, will you take me with you, or shall we meet by chance there?”
“Hussein is arrested, the bastards broke the truce and shot the boys in the backs”
“Please retreat to the square, it is safer, they are being brutal in the frontlines” [addressing a girl]
“No I am staying right here, just as you are, none of us will leave. If we die here, so be it!
…these are thugs who want to storm into the ministry of interior
From this cacophony, the clearest voices were not those outside the clashes, but only those with the clarity to see them.
You cannot take Mohamed Mahmoud to yourselves. You cannot give it to those who choked them with tear gas, fired rubber bullets, buckshot and live ammunition at them. Nor can you protest against the army under the Rabaa banner after your sheikhs and leaders not only left them for dead, but also slandered and attacked them.
No one should think they can take Mohamed Mahmoud from the revolutionaries, even if no one but uniforms or beards took to the streets this coming 19 November, the revolution owns this day… and beware the rage that follows if you attempt to!