Reda Abdelaziz Mohamed, 19, is seen before and after his injuries. He is seen a few months after earning his diploma in Tourism and Hotel Management, when he was 17, and a week after he lost sight in both eyes.
photograph by LAURA EL-TANTAWY
Reda Abdelaziz Mohamed is not crying.
His left eye constantly weeps, his right, blinded forever.
Nineteen-year-old Reda (Arabic word meaning ‘contentment’) was shot in his eyes on November 19, 2011. He was in Mohamed Mahmoud Street in central Cairo to support protesters in an ongoing battle against security forces off Tahrir Square. Reda was not throwing rocks at police — he was kneeling down to pick up a protester’s dead body when he was shot. “I don’t remember feeling anything. I ran and knelt down to pick up a dead body. Next to me stood a police officer. Suddenly I was thrust backwards and I have not seen anything since.”
As the story of a new Egypt continues, it’s extremely hard not to tell the story of people like Reda and hundreds others who have suffered the life changing consequences of fighting for freedom and dignity. Last month alone almost 50 people died in violent clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and at least 1,000 others were injured. Most suffered pellet wounds to the head and eyes, some died of suffocation from excessive tear gas. The Ministry of Interior denies using live ammunition and tear gas against protesters on Mohamed Mahmoud and claim a “third party” is responsible. No one has been punished for killing and injuring protesters.
Almost 10 months have passed since I stood in Tahrir Square to celebrate Mubarak’s resignation — the best day in my life. It is hard for me to see a new Egypt given nothing seems to have changed.
Egypt post January 25 looks and feels exactly the same as Egypt now: corruption, failed policies and mistreatment of the general population remain standard procedure. This is the reason for a constant upheaval of emotions and anger among protesters who founded the January 25 movement that ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak. On Saturday (December 10), Tahrir Square was reopened to traffic after nearly three weeks of a sit-in demanding an end to military rule and introducing an elected civilian government. Many of the protesters have moved camp to a sit-in outside Parliament, but everyday their numbers are dwindling.
Pro-democracy activists say they are being slowly exterminated in the same way as they were during Mubarak’s rule. Some have been secretly kidnapped and tortured and others are being put in jail to undergo military trials.
The consequence has been resilience and determination to finish what started on January 25.
Reda says if he ever manages to see again, he would return straight to Tahrir. His parents, who never took part in politics, say they will join him, so does his uncle and aunt.
One casualty of Egypt’s unfinished revolution has given birth to at atleast 10 activists — revolutionaries — who are ready and willing to join the frontline.
I left Reda smiling, talking to his fiancé on the telephone, but I walked out, I noticed his left eye softly weeping.
I wondered if he was crying.