Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared at Existence is Resistance.
Sometimes, words can never describe how you feel. That feeling that is called “speechless”; yes, that is how I feel right now. I have witnessed what I have never thought I would witness. I have seen what I have never seen before. I have felt what I have never felt before.
I saw death in front of my eyes.
On July 5th 2013, I decided that it is time to speak up against all the unfairness that we face; I decided to go down the streets and protest and protect my revolution, our revolution.
Before joining the protests, I put on some sun block and wore my sunglasses; well, I never saw what was coming my way. As my parents and I headed towards the Nahda Square, we were adjusting our intentions; we are not protesting for Morsi, we are protesting for democracy, for our votes and for our freedom. As we entered the square, I could see my loved ones and friends that I always see at such times since January 25th, 2011. Surprisingly enough, my spirits started lifting up; I felt that there was still hope.
We joined the chants that were calling for the fall of the SCAF and the old regime: “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر”. On the stage stood Bassem Ouda, the ex-minister of supply and internal trade, embedding in his audience the courage, hope and belief that we will win in sha Allah. My respect for that man increased the double; he was one of those respectful men who love this country truly from their hearts. As soon as Bassem Ouda finished his words, the square chanted in its loudest voice: “الإعلام فين، الشريف أهوه” (Where is the media, The noble man is here). I could see in the people’s eyes a lot of respect to that man; they carried him on the shoulders as he got down the stage. People hugged him and kissed his forehead; pictures were taken of him all the time; in those people’s eyes, he was a true hero and will always be.
After chanting for a few hours, we felt that our voices are unheard; there was no media coverage and no one acknowledged our presence, so we decided to march down the streets in Dokki and Mohand is in to make our voices heard. The march was marvelous; I could see more than 200,000 people in front me and behind me. The spirits were so high; the chants were so loud that we could hear the echoes as we march. We were so loud that the people in the buildings all came out to look at the march. We started our march at Al-Dokki street, then Al-Tahrir street, then Sheraton and Maglis Al Dawla. The chants were so powerful:
“دب برجلك طلع نار، إحنا معانا عزيز جبار”
“إرحل يا سيسى، مرسى هوه رئيسى”
(Leave Sissi, Morsi is my president)
“الإعلام فين الشعب المصرى أهوه”
(Where is the media, The Egyptian people are here).
The residents in the buildings started reacting; most of them were very supportive as they held Morsi’s pictures and cheered with us, while others would just take a look and turn around. Even though we marched with our loudest voices so that the media would cover this march and the world would know how we feel, not a single TV channel bothered to cover this march or even state that we were the longest human march done to support Morsi in Egypt.
We did our best. Now if the television won’t come to us, we will go to the television ourselves. And so, the march to Maspero (The Official TV station in Cairo) began. We won’t give up; we will make our voices heard no matter what. As we turned around to face the 6th October bridge, we started chanting in our loudest voices: “هما معاهم تلفزيون، و إحنا معانا رب الكون” (they have the television, but we have Allah, The God of the world)
We walked down the Korneish Street in the Agouza district till we reached the 6th of October bridge. I could see thousands of people climbing the bridge in front of me; hope, pride and dignity took over me. We can do it, God willing. Chanting all the way as we approached Downtown on foot through 6th October bridge, many people in their cars were chanting with us, showing their full support to our march. I started doubting; if all those people support Morsi, then what right does El-Sissi have to raise a Coup?!
As we crossed to the other side of the bridge to avoid getting near to Tahrir Square, we kept chanting “سلمية سلمية سلمية” (peaceful peaceful peaceful) to avoid any clashes with any of the protesters at Tahrir. Suddenly, we found the men standing in the middle of the bridge waving to the women to walk quickly and chant loudly. At the beginning, we did not understand what is going on, but when we asked one of those men, he said that there are some clashes on the other side and asked us to keep chanting loudly. As we descended the bridge, we could see thousands of people ahead of us in front of Maspero already; I was convincing myself by then that it was impossible for clashes to occur when we are in such great numbers, but apparently, I was totally wrong.
In front of Maspero, the men stood to pray Maghrib while the women prayed as they sat on the ground. It was time to take a breath and drink some water to get back to the chanting. Unfortunately, we were unable to enjoy 5 minutes of peace and rest; the men starting asking us to move forward in a hurry. I could see the panic in their eyes; what was going on?! The chanting started again: “عسكر عسكر عسكر ليه؟ هوه إحنا عبيد و لا إيه؟” (Why Military? Are we slaves or what?). I could see in the people around me that something wrong was going on. My doubt became certain when I heard the gun shots as clear as they can be. The men started shouting, urging the women to move faster and keep chanting, but everybody knows women; they worry, and my mother was the first to worry. As my mother grabbed my hand and told me to stay next to her, I turned around to take a peek at what is behind us; I was unable to see the clashes or the thugs, all I could see was fireworks in the sky on the other side, on Tahrir square’s side. With each firework, I could hear a gun shot. With each firework, somebody was injured. I turned back to see guys running towards us shouting for people to step aside; there was a car coming towards the crowds. I could see the women look inside the car then their faces turn pale. I swallowed. Did someone die? I took a glance at the car as it passed by me; there were many people in the car, but on the couch lied two injured people drenched in blood. One of them looked dead with his face covered by red blood, red cold blood; he was shot in the head. The other man’s abdomen was drenched with blood; it looked like he was shot in below the heart. It took the car a glimpse of a second to pass by us, but it will take me years to forget how those martyrs looked like. I looked around me to see a girl drenched in tears, a woman with her hands up in the sky screaming “يا رب” (Oh God) and many others stunned in pale faces. My mother was already crying and saying “ده مات، قتلوه قتلوه”. I stood there, unable to comprehend what I just saw. I felt something hurting in my heart, a lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes. I looked at my mum, I found her crying as she mumbled “they killed him, the killed him”; I was unable to pat on her shoulder or ask her to calm down, how could I?!
The girl next to me was still crying as she leaned on her friend’s shoulder.
This time, a motorcycle passed by; there was an injured man on it, he was covering his eye with a white piece of cloth that turned red.
A minute passed.
The girl was still crying.
Another injured man passed by us, this time the white piece of cloth was on the back of his head, he was unconscious.
My mother was at that time fine. She locked her tears in and started chanting with the rest of the women.
The girl next to me was still crying.
Another girl started dropping some tears on the opposite side.
Another injured man passed on the motorcycle, but this time there was no piece of cloth, the blood covered all of his shirt and face; the piece of white cloth wouldn’t have been enough.
I stood there numb. Tears started falling, questions revolving in my mind; why do they have to die? I could not control my tears; it hurt so much that I couldn’t control it.
Two injured men passed by on the same motorcycle.
The girl was still crying.
I turned my face away, tears rolling down my cheeks. All I could think of is one thing: “يا رب احفظهم يا رب احقظهم” ( Allah, please protect them, please protect them)
I looked around me again; many girls now were crying.
Suddenly, a woman stood between us and shouted at the top of lungs:
“Those who are crying, go cry alone, or lock your tears in. We are not here to cry. We have Allah on our side and He will never let us down. Stop crying and pray and say يا رب يا رب يا رب”
All the women raised up their hands in the sky as one of the women started praying as loudly as she could while we all said “Ameeeeen” after her.
I can’t find the words that can describe how I felt at that moment. Injured men were still brought in to the crowds while we raise our hands asking Allah for His mercy and help. It was something I have never experienced before. Death was so close, so close that it could have taken anyone of us, and it did; but it took those who deserved it.
I lost count of the number of injured men who were brought to the field hospital as well as the number of fireworks in the sky. All I could hear was the sound of stones breaking next to me and people shouting and others chanting.
Standing there within all of this, I had flashbacks in my mind of the way I used to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters. Is this how they felt each time there was a clash?! I got flashbacks of the people who always abuse them with their words or actions. I got flashbacks of Mubarak and his old criminal regime. I got flashbacks of revolution.
It hurt. I wanted to scream out loud.
WHY DID THEY HAVE TO DIE?
Those guys were defending me, protecting me from those thugs and police that were attacking us. And after all that, they were called the killers, liars and criminals. WHY?!
I found my mother pulling me towards the other side asking me to move faster; I didn’t understand where we were going; I knew I didn’t want to leave. Apparently, we were leaving through a boat in the Nile, since there was no way out except through the Nile.
We got into a boat with many other women and families; we were running away as if we were criminals through the Nile. Very humiliating.
The boat driver asked us to remain silent as we passed under the 6th October bridge in order to avoid getting caught by the police or thugs. I looked around me, I could see the thugs shooting at the courageous men on our side, and I could see the fireworks on the other side.
We were dying while they were celebrating.
I am home safe.
I am a coward. But that was only till today.