Date: 28th of January 2015
Interview by Lena Dorfschmidt
I went [to Tahrir Square] on the 25th of January 2011 because I was suffering from persecution in this country. I mean, I didn’t get an ID for 7 years. [Imagine], as a man or a boy, just to wander around the streets and as I go though check points they [would] ask me, “Where is your ID?”, and I [would have to] say, “I don’t have [one]”. Sometimes they [would] take me to the police station and call my family and they [had to] go there and explain, “This is our son, and he cannot get an ID, because of the laws of this country.” And they let me out. It happened a lot to me.
I was really suffering from that. I left the college, because I [couldn’t] continue, because of the ID thing. I had to work in a call center. Actually not only that… […] I cannot sign a contract, because I don’t have and ID and can’t sign a contract without an ID. So I was doing somehow illegal work. I never signed a contract.
I thought on the 25th of January, something might happen. Maybe some change. It [was] the first time ever I was on the streets. I never went there before. And that day I had my ID in my hand. It was kind of like, if they arrested me and checked my ID and the record, it would be so clear, because I [had] just [gotten] my ID two months ago. [laughs].
I went there and I reached Tahrir. […] [There were] few people there, so we almost all knew each other. I went there and I left at four in the night, because my mom [called] me that she saw on TV, that [there was] gonna be a fight and there gonna fire… So I said, “Okay fine, I am going home”, because I live with my mom only. She was not feeling good about it. So I went home and just watched TV. They were firing with water cannons, just to scare people and to push them away from Tahrir.
On the 26th it was still ongoing. The tear gases were everywhere on that day. The 27th I didn’t leave home, because I was not leaving.
On the 28th that was the day I couldn’t believe it is gonna happen. I went there with my uncle, because we are the only man in the house. My granny […] lives in downtown, at Ramses. We started from there, on Ramses street until the Egyptian museum and then we got to Tahrir. That day I never reached Tahrir. I couldn’t reach. [There were] over ten lines of officers. If you crossed the first one, you crossed the second… It takes time to cross, because they push you, they fire tear gases that made us go back and start all over again – and rubber bullets.
[It was] like 3PM, or maybe it was around 2PM, when they started using real bullets, live bullets. And I saw people falling down. Even my uncle got shot with a rubber ball in his leg. It was from close distance so it really went into his leg, but we managed that day to take it out. I carried him to the Crescent Hospital in Ramses Street. They refused to let us in, because they had the instruction from the police to not let anyone in. So I really had a great fight, because I saw that my uncle [was] bleeding and I [knew] that he is diabetic. […] I [knew] that actually it is gonna be a big problem for him. […] I really had to fight with the security until a doctor came and they asked what [had] happened. […] I told them that he is diabetic and he got shot. So they took him in and I told him not to go anywhere where I [couldn’t] see him, because if they take him somewhere I will never see him gain.
So I waited for him until they finished. They took the bullet out, they cleaned the injury. I tried to get him, but they refused to let me in. So I [kept] telling him if he [could] move or [if] someone [could] help him to come closer. He was behind the security, until someone came to push [another] injured in. I took [my uncle] from behind the security and we went home.
They wanted to arrest him. Yes, definitely. They wanted to arrest anyone who was injured that day as a proof that he was in so they can have…
So that day we went home around 5PM. I saw the police leaving. And I couldn’t believe they were running. I believe [they received] orders [to] leave, because they were running. Within ten to thirty minutes there were zero officers, zero cops in the street. They received the orders to leave. People say that [they were scared] and because the army that was coming, I don’t know the story honestly. I don’t know why they did that. But they left. And I was amazed by that. We had been fighting all day for three days.
So they left the streets and it is almost like people took over. They burned a couple of cars, trucks and even the police stations. Stuff like that. And then the army came to the streets of Cairo. A couple of hours after they came I saw tanks, tanks were everywhere and people were chanting, “The army and people are one hand.”
Around five we went home to bring my uncle to bed. After that I kept getting in and out just to check what is happening. So the army came to street where we lived. And nothing happened that day. We kept waiting there after 7PM people were finally allowed to access Tahrir, because it was clear. So people went there and started the protest. I didn’t go that day, because my family after they saw my injured uncle they were like, “No you are not going out,” and stuff like that. But the next day I went to Tahrir and then I went almost every day until the eighteenth day, until Mubarak stepped down.
During [those days] we had [conflicts with] a lot people and we had a lot of fights like people throwing rocks on us. And all the action always happened at night. That is why I had the night shift at Tahrir. I always went at night. I was always there for action. I believe I am physically strong so I was always there for that. I can throw rocks, I can do the night security thing, defend people. I mean I [didn’t] know these people, but I [had] met them [a] few days ago against the cops and I was as well suffering from the cops. [I thought that] maybe they have worse cases [than mine], maybe I am the piece of the cake.
One day the regime paid for people on camels to access Tahrir and to run over people. Camels and horses. Mawk’et El Gamal. We didn’t know [where the camels were coming from]. Honestly I wasn’t there. Most people say they were there, but I was home, sleeping, because I had the night shift. […] The camels entered Tahrir in the morning or afternoon and I woke up at 7 and I went there, but [by then] the fight was people against people and rocks only.
I am really bad with dates, but I believe it was the 11th of February when Mubarak stepped down. I was there on the square. And I didn’t hear the speech itself. But I was standing in the middle of the square. I couldn’t hear that, but I saw… It was like one jump at the same time. [It was like a] Mexican wave [started]. People heard it and started jumping and eventually understood what happened. I started jumping with them. [I was chanting with them first and only later] I understood – Mubarak stepped down. [Then I was like], “Ouuuuuhhh”. [We had been happy and only later understood why]. That is actually one of the funniest things.
The life itself [during the revolution] was… The Eighteen Days were actually the best part of the revolution, for me and for all the people. […] The square was very organized. People who were there were very polite. […] No one actually harassed any girl. Zero harassment. Zero. Actually any kind of insult, anything bad – I never saw that. It was really good. People who were there were actually amazing. We had like the kind of inspiration of the revolution there. We used to sleep in tents there. You [didn’t] have to know the person [who owns the tent]. You [would] just get in. So friendly! […] I used to go there at night. So I used to go home to sleep, because I knew that usually nothing happens in the morning. And when I go at night I just wander around the square, just checking if anyone is coming and stuff like that. We usually [got] false alarm. [Someone would scream, “People are coming, people are coming” and we start to cover. [Then they would be like], “Okay, we just saw two people running”… False alarm. It always happened.
After Mubarak stepped down, actually they removed all the tents. And they kicked all people out that day. Some of them they didn’t agree, but sometimes you don’t have an option, because the army actually was really strong at that time. I mean I faced the cops and they were just pussies. I can say that the police, they were afraid of us. So you had the option, I take the order or I can negotiate. But the army, they were different. It was like, “Kill or die.” But the army – no you cannot. The higher positions they are actually allowed to kill. It is real in the army: They can kill! So people had to agree with [the order] and they cleared the square. People tried to come back again. [It was an on-and-off-situation]. The military supreme council […] took over and they were very, very strict. When they [said], “Clear the square,” you have to clear the square.
So people did the celebration the next day. We cleaned the square. I was there and cleaned the square. We had what we asked for – Mubarak [had] stepped down. That is what we wanted. We just got what we wanted, [so we thought], let’s clean the square. That day actually, I bumped into people I hadn’t seen for ages, they were there to clean. That was actually really funny. So we started painting the sidewalks.
Then a lot of things happened. I don’t remember the dates at all, but after that there was a lot of fights. […] After a while the military supreme council […] wanted to stay in charge of the country for [longer]. We asked for elections, so we can elect a president and stuff like that. They tried to make it a little longer… And also people went to Tahrir to ask for the trial of Mubarak. So we kept going every Friday. I personally went every Friday there and we kept asking for a trial for Mubarak. And some people got killed.
I don’t remember exactly when… it’s been four years. Once it happened actually, there was a battle […]. The battle started with the cops, because they they thought people wanted to reach the Ministers of Interior… The Mohammed Mahmoud Street was one of the streets leading to that place. So they start thinking that we are going there and there was a lot of police. A lot of people [kept] falling and dying there on the streets, that is why we never stopped and kept going.
I personally, honestly, at that time I didn’t go because of Mubarak or anything. I went there because of the friends I met in the revolution. And I tried to protect them. [Up to a] certain point I can do that. The main reason why I was going there was to look after my friends, to protect them, at least to make sure that they [were] not going to get arrested, because sometimes the cops were afraid of us. If it was one to one, they run. Because they [knew] we [had] anger to take it on. I personally [experienced] that. They tried to arrest one of my friends. He was pulling my friend. Once I started pulling the officer, [he] let him go. “Just don’t take me.” “Okay fine.” Because he [knew] that if we take him he is gonna be tortured, could be dead. I don’t know.
So the reason I was there was because of my friends. I was always in the front line. I was really active during that period. I kept taking like pictures from the front line and stuff like that, and [posting] updates. I got a lot of followers. I got 1000 followers during that [time].
After that […] I was kind of giving up, because nothing really happen. So I tried to be more positive. […] Females in the square, they started getting harassed, getting kind of sexually assaulted. We believe that – because that never happen before – [the men got paid to do that]. They [did] it to ruin the reputation [of the revolutionary movement].
We noticed a lot of cases like sexual [assault], harassment happening in the square. So some people started Opantish, which is Operation Anti Sexual Harassment. I joined them as one of the force, where we would get in and save the girl. So we usually had to call each other first, just […] make noise or go in a group so we can know what we are doing. [Later on] we had a uniform. Just a shirt. It says, “Security of the square,” and on the back “Opantish, Operation Anti Sexual Harassment.” I saw a lot of cases [of sexual harassment and assault]. […]
I tell you [that] they were paid, [because] they did not just do sexual assault, they do that with knife. I saw a girl that we were late on. The guy [had scratched her with a knife], just like that, on her legs. So it wasn’t just like harassment, there is nothing you can enjoy about that. That was one of the cases. Also one of our team members, they tried to take her and assault her a lot.
[We always] tried to take [the girls] and [take them] to one [specific] building. It is called Piere building. It is kind of a safe building, because it has two doors. The girls [entered] from the front door and [left though] the other door after they [recovered], or just like [calmed down].
But people tried to enter from [the back] door, so I personally sometimes just watched the door and pushed people back. […] People came with knives and tried to hurt us so they can get in. We had […] sticks.
[Even more troubling] is that actually once any of us from Operation Anti Sexual Harassment started to get a girl, [people] started hitting us. I personally got […] a knife in my back while I tried to save a girl. I did save her actually that day. It was really happening in a group and it always happened around 6:30 PM. Once the sun [went] off, […] they [started] the harassment.
They didn’t say [anything], they [didn’t] speak. We came up with the explanation that first of all they did that [to] ruin the reputation [of the revolutionary movement], and secondly, because all of this happened on TV. It’s a message to people, “Don’t come to Tahrir, especially if you have family.” It was a way to stop people to come to Tahrir. Because the more people [came] to Tahrir, the [stronger we were]. We went through that almost like every Friday and the anniversary of 25th. I personally just [went] there to save the girls, because I have my sisters and I could not imagine if something like this happened to them.
It was really hectic. I didn’t know that I was stabbed until I went home – too much adrenaline. You cannot imagine what you are going though. People pushing you, hitting you. You don’t care, you have a target, that you get through and take this girl in your arms, or just with one hand and with the other you will push or you will use [something] like a stick, or like a pipe, a metal one so it hurts, when you hit people. Usually when someone goes to take a girl, we all jump in to make a circle till she is safe.
[There were many cases] Usually [we had] between thirteen and fifteen cases, every active Friday. Some cases actually were unbelievable. If you watch the videos in YouTube it will make you cry. Sometimes we [heard] the report after we finished the work, the next day, [and found out that] we [had] saved fifteen girls before they were assaulted, before they got hurt. I mean they were hurt, but not physically. Somehow it is better then nothing.
The media is fucked up here. During the eighteen days they were saying actually that people in Tahrir, they do drugs, they have sex, they drink. There is a famous actor, his name is Talaat Zakaria. He [said that], “What is happening in Tahrir, is they dance, they take drugs, they have sex.” Yes he said that on TV. […] There is also Tahrir Body Guard. They went for the same reason.
[The first time] I heard about [Operation Anti Sexual Harassment], I was just in the square and I [met] a friend. She is an activist, her name is Salma Sayid. We met on Tahrir, we know each other. So I met her and she was like, “Hey, would you like to join us for the Operation Anti Sexual Harassment?” And I was like, “Fu*k yeah.” It is like I am full of anger and there is nothing happening with the cops, I mean we are just protesting there and nothing more. So I joined them. I don’t attend the meeting, I am just one of the force. I am just physically good at it. I can push people, I am kind of big. I can get in. I can get in and take the girl and find a way out. That is what I am good out. Other people [would help her] when we got in, and there was ambulance for emergencies.
There was a lot of food and medical supplies. There was like field hospital. Usually you get shot and you go to the field hospital, “Fix me!” There [were] a lot of field hospitals. The injuries [were] all about rubber bullets, bird shots. They used to shoot us with that thing and it penetrates our skin and stays there. I have a lot of them in my ass. Because usually, once I hear that they fight, I [bent down] to protect my tattoos and my face. Whenever we hear that [they were shooting], we [would] turn [around and bend down]. Maybe if I [am with a] friend I hide her, or him and then, “Fine, lets go [to the field hospital].” They hurt, because it is really small and it is inside, it gets in. But I was like, No one will touch my ass. I still have them. It’s inside. I will show you my friends. They have it here and can show it to you. Luckily, whenever I access the security machine I don’t go beep, beep, beep. Thank god, otherwise [they might ask], “What do you have in your butt? What’s in there? Let me check.”
I really saw a lot of people who died because of shots. We used to carry them. [After everything that has happened], I [am] stronger. I could handle anything now. I carried people. It could [have been] me. [Every time when I was running from the shots, I would see people falling. They were shot. It could have been me.]
I never actually got shot. I got fired with a tear gas bomb. It fucking hurts. Because they shouldn’t fire it targeting us, supposedly [to fire the bomb from a long distance] and it is very strong. They push it far away. [When they shoot] one at you it hurts like fuck. [Once they] tried to catch me. I was just walking, not running. I was just making sure that all my friends were with me and [were] okay. I [could] see where the cops and soldiers [were] coming from behind. [But then] they did a sudden attack and they shot [a tear gas bomb] at my ankle. I felt it and it hurts. I couldn’t walk. He fired the second one. I couldn’t walk, I just jumped ‘til people came to help me. […] I had to walk with a crutch for a while. [My friends would say,] “ Salamtak [get well soon], are you okay? What has happened to you?” I was really ashamed to say it was a tear gas bomb. So I didn’t tell everyone. “Bazuka right here.” [Laughs]
The one thing I am afraid of… If they put me in jail, my family… they are gonna get hurt. I live with my mom. I am in charge, I support her, I take care of her.