The right of the martyrs has been on the minds of many ever since the 25 January uprising. Every year, the count of people who have died for one political reason or another seems to increase. Perhaps the most violent of clashes after January 2011 took place in November of the same year in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Many protesters lost their lives in a face-off with the police, and even more lost their eyes after being targeted by a Ministry of Interior sniper, who was later found guilty.
This year, 19 November marked many things: the World Cup match with Ghana, Al-Sisi’s birthday, Muslim Brotherhood protests and the commemoration of Mohamed Mahmoud. People feared that this important date would get lost with all what was taking place. In an attempt to appease the public, the government decided to build a monument in memory of the many that died during Mohamed Mahmoud and in Tahrir Square. The monument was revealed on 18 November. It appeared to be a paved circle in the middle of the square made of yellow bricks. In the middle of it was a podium.
Both Twitter and Facebook were ablaze with comments about the peculiar structure. Some commented on how awful it looks and others wondered how it was intended to be a memorial for martyrs without their names written on the plaque. Instead, the plaque is filled with bureaucratic information regarding the government officials who attended the ceremony. Given its weird nature, people just started calling it “the thing,” which quickly brings to mind the 1982 horror movie with the same name. They do share an aspect of hideousness. Activists also wondered whether the government should have the right to commemorate an event regarding which many loose ends are yet to be tied, including trying those guilty of murdering protesters.
Staring at the faceless, nameless memorial, one is left to wonder how much the state actually cares about its lost people. The monument has no artistic value and it looks like a place to give speeches, or, as others suggested, pee, rather than a symbol of the past. It seems almost humiliating to be remembered by a vacuous statue that mentions the names of those in power rather than those who lost their lives.