CAIRO: "He was my son, he was my brother, he was my friend, he was my everything…I just want him beside me now," sobbed Kawthar, mother of Mostafa Ragab Mohamed, the first Egyptian to die on Jan.25, the first day of the 18-day revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Mohamed, 21, lived with his family in a modest apartment in Amer village in the suburban area of Ganayen, Suez. He died of a gunshot to the heart by central security forces in El-Arbaein Square, which witnessed the most violent clashes in the province.
Kawthar first heard news of her son’s death on television.
"It felt like someone literally pulled my heart out," she said.
The walls of Kawthar’s apartment are decorated with photographs of Mohamed radiating an optimistic smile. A big Egyptian flag is draped on the couch with Mostafa’s name emblazoned across it.
"His friends made this flag for him," she said.
As she ushered me in, Kawthar proudly adjusted the certificates of honor she received for the bravery of her son who helped spark the revolution. "He is a hero," she said.
Suez is considered the birthplace of the uprising, where the first three protesters were killed.
Mohamed had never joined a protest before Jan.25 and wasn’t interested in politics. But he, like the rest of the Egyptian people, believed that change was inevitable according to Kawthar.
"The country was full of theft and corruption, everyone was sick and tired of the way things were," she said.
But a year later, Kawthar said that authorities have failed her and all the other martyrs’ families.
"We want a just verdict against Mubarak and his aides," she said.
Mubarak, former interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides are being tried for complicity in the killing of hundreds protesters, while Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal, along with their father, are facing corruption charges in the same trial.
Although a fact finding mission said 846 were killed during the 18-day uprising, Mubarak is facing charges for the killing of 225 who were killed in public squares not in front of police stations.
The trial began on Aug. 3 but was discontinued for two months when lawyers representing he families of martyrs requested changing the presiding judge. The defense hearings are scheduled to end on Feb. 16 when the court will adjourn for deliberations.
"If this was a fair trial, the court would have ordered their execution long ago…it’s been a year already," Kawthar said.
Mubarak was charged with complicity in killing protesters lat May only after mass protesters pressured the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), say activists.
"How can someone on trial be transferred with a helicopter to court and receive such royal treatment?" said Faiza, mother of martyr Mostafa El-Sawy, referring to Mubarak, who is staying in an army-affiliated world class hospital allegedly to be treated for a heart condition.
El-Sawy was the first martyr to die on Cairo’s Qasr El-Nile Bridge on Jan.28. It was also his birthday. He had just turned 26 on the "Friday of Rage," when protesters forced central security forces to withdraw from the streets and took over Tahrir Square.
"Sometimes I can sense him breathing beside me, I feel him all around me," Faiza said, breaking down into tears.
Faiza’s mobile phone rang interrupting her thoughts. "That’s the voice of my son reciting supplications, we use it as a ring tone," she said.
El-Sawy used to teach children Quran recitation in Dar El-Hosary Mosque near his home in Agouza for free and used to lead his neighbors in prayers.
"Everyone in the neighborhood loved him and mourned him when he died," Faiza said.
His home is known to everyone in the neighborhood as "the home of the martyr."
Faiza recalled that on Thursday, Jan.27, El-Sawy gathered the children and told them "long live Egypt…this is all happening for you, so you can have decent lives and the country can improve.
He was supposed to have a physical check-up the next day to join the military, but he never made it.
Faiza and Kawthar refused to celebrate Jan.25 and have decided to join the mass protests planned to reiterate the demands of the revolution.
"Our celebration is the execution of Mubarak and his aides … if that happens, I won’t cry over my son, I’ll even be happy," Kawthar said.
"The people who condemn the protests were not hurt like us. If they were, they would’ve stood by the martyrs’ families and fought for their rights," she added.
But Tamador, mother of martyr Mahmoud Hassan Ramadan, disagreed. She said she is against the protests for fear that more clashes would lead to more deaths, and she would lose her other son Mostafa.
"Mostafa joins protests behind my back. I get really worried and tell him it’s enough that we lost your brother; I don’t want to lose another son," she said.
Mostafa and Tamador believe that many politicians and activists exploit the martyrs’ families for political and personal gain.
Mostafa, 26, was the one who identified his brother’s body on Jan. 30, two days after his demise.
"It’s the kind of thing you see in (American) movies, but you never think it will happen to you," Mostafa said.
"I will never forget that sight, which will push me to fight for my brother’s rights for the rest of my life," he said.
The street where Ramadan’s family lives in Mala’a district in Dar El-Salam has now been named after him. In-front of Tabarak Hospital near his home, a huge banner carrying a picture of him and two other martyrs has been erected to remind residents of what was sacrificed to oust Mubarak and end his 30-year autocratic rule.
"If I could reach Mubarak, I’d kill him with my bear hands," Tamador said.
"I know my son is a hero and they named the street after him, but in my heart I can’t help but feel that his rights are still lost," she said.
Ramadan, 31, worked as a cashier in On the Run cafe. He was shot in the head in Tahrir Square on the Friday of Rage.
Both Ramadan and Mohamed’s fathers had died years ago. But Tamador and Kawthar said they don’t need any compensation for the killing of their sons.
"The compensation the government is giving the martyrs’ families is like throwing them a bone to keep them quiet," Kawthar said.
In July, the government had ordered a pension of LE 1,500 for the martyrs’ families for three years or a lump sum of LE 50,000.
"I don’t want any compensation, I want my son," said Faiza.
Martyr Mostafa El-Sawy’s mother, Faiza. (Daily News Egypt Photo/ Hassan Ibrahim)
Martyr Mahmoud Hassan Ramadan’s mother, Tamador. (Daily News Egypt Photo/ Hassan Ibrahim)