Day 6/16 of Activism Against Gender Violence: Mother Of The Martyr!
Mother of the martyr. I still feel the place where you used to sleep, I still hear your voice rising as you skip up the stairs quickly, "I need to have lunch quickly before I go out again,” I still feel your little fingers on my cheek…
Sister of the martyr. I called you on your mobile hundreds of times, yet you are not picking up, my little brother. I just want to ask you what to say to our father to explain why you are out so late. I am sure you are at that demonstration, so please pick up…
Wife of the martyr. I wonder if we will be able to get the children into good schools. I hope so, I am going to save for it, but you should know that we will send both son and daughter to the same school - they should always get the same thing…
Daughter of the martyr. I did not talk to him, he keeps following me after school but I never talk to him. You do not believe me? I will be upset if you don’t believe me. I tell you everything that happens in my life, all the time, so you should believe me.
And so these different scenarios play in my mind every time I see the faces of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters of the martyrs of the Egyptian revolution. And every time I think: they did not want their sons and their beloved ones to die. They wanted them to live. The mother wanted her son to chose the girl of his dreams, the sister wanted her brother to be with her through the ups and downs of his long life, the wife and the daughter wanted a husband and father with whom they could share all their dreams.
Everyone thinks of the Egyptian revolution as ‘peaceful.’ But how then do we explain the freedom fighters who have been injured and died since 28 January 2011? Some have fallen at the hands of Mubarak’s police forces. Others fell during ‘The Camel Fight’ on 2 February 2011, trying to protect rebel positions from Mubarak’s thugs in Tahrir Square. Many were taken in altercations with military forces who desperately tried to maintain military power in a state in teeming revolt, while the youth demanded freedom and social justice.
Death surprises us each time by choosing amongst these young freedom fighters.
At every martyr’s funeral, the name of another mother is added to the list. With every struggle and new battlefront the numbers arrested, detained and prosecuted rise until they exceeds the thousands.
So increases the suffering of the mothers. No form of violence can ever be compared to the act of stealing a son or a daughter from their mother’s arms. These women watch their children die under an armored army vehicle, they see them locked behind the bars of a military prison. When she finds them absent, they could be injured and in pain in a poorly equipped hospital, where the Egyptian health system fails them.
Khalid Saeed was a young man from Alexandria who was killed by security forces, and became an icon of the Egyptian revolution. His mother is like Bouazizi’s mother in Tunisia, her child a martyr who lit himself on fire in despair when denied a decent living. She is the wife of the smiling Sheikh Emad Effat, killed in clashes with security forces that ruthlessly use their weapons to kill young men and women.
She is the sister of Mina Daniel. To this date, I cannot look back at his photos, in which he was always laughing. His laugh will always remind me that Egyptian society has abandoned its Christian citizens.
She is the mother of Rania Fouad, the young female doctor who died in a tear gas attack while she was providing aid to the injured in rebel clashes with security forces. Every month since January 2011 we lose more among us, and the number of mothers who we now find lost in memories of an absent son or daughter grows and grows.
The bullets and weapons of the state harvest the lives of our youth. They die in our failing hospitals as the state continues to spend millions on the army, neglecting health and education.
Young men and women are choked by tear gas canisters, paid for by the taxes of their families. Their mothers stand for hours on their balconies praying for their sons and daughters to come back safely. She may be sick and tired but she cannot sleep. She knows very well that when her child told her she was going out, she was lying when she said that she was not headed towards the demonstrations.
So I write these lines in attempt to vent my anger and my sadness. I receive a call from a Sudanese friend who senses my anger in a reply to her message. “What’s wrong?” she asks. I tell her of my anger at the grief of these women: mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Why did they have to feel this grief – they did not choose it. How will she go on living with such terrible pain in her heart?
My friend does not reply immediately, the line has been cut. When she calls me back she says slowly, “You know, in the war with southern Sudan, Bashir’s Army killed youth in the South, and money was given for the families of the dead to set up a mourning tent. There was a celebration of martyrdom so that everyone would think that this is a normal thing, to kill young people.”
The pain of seeing the name of a beloved one in the list of dead can never be truly described. A childhood friend was on the Palestinian list of martyrs of the second intifada. The Israeli army killed her. I almost lost another in the embargo on Iraq, and every single day of the Egyptian revolution I almost lose others. A thousand times I have resisted my desire to plead with them to keep away from danger by repeating to myself the phrase, “we just have one life and we just have one Lord,” but the pain is harsher than description can encompass.
These young men and women don’t fear dying for their freedom; death is the only fixed truth in this life. What they want is dignity, but how can this give consolation to the mothers? I can tell you this: the image of their mother is the last image before their eyes before they close for the last time. And a last wish – “forgive me…I fought to make it better for both of us.”
Doaa Abdelaal, is a dedicated Egyptian activist, blogger, and WLUML Board Member.