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Egypt: Mohamed Mahmoud Won't Be Forgotten

Back in November 2011, violent clashes erupted in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, in downtown Cairo. The violence took place outside the Interior Ministry headquarters, as Egypt was preparing for its first parliamentary elections after Hosni Mubarak stepped down and while the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ruled the country. The clashes ended with tens of deaths and thousands injured. The 2012 commemoration occurred under now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood backed president Mohamed Morsi, and was marked by other clashes. This year's anniversary is set to unfold in a tense situation as both military and Muslim Brotherhood supporters have announced marches today [19 November 2013].

In order to avoid possible violent encounters with either pro-army or pro-Muslim Brotherhood rallies and to distance themselves from groups pursuing own political agendas, individuals organized a march yesterday [18 November 2013]. The decision was taken for those who identify with neither of the opposing factions to march at 5pm Cairo time from Mohamed Street to one of the martyr's home in nearby Abdeen Palace. In the early evening, more than a thousand were marching in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square.

There are many reasons why protesters are unwilling to join marches with pro-military and Muslim Brotherhood figures and supporters. Blogger Zeinobia reminds us of one of them:

I did not forget what the MB politicians and opportunists did back then, I did not forget either what the media, honorable citizens, SCAF and Police used to said and do !! Yes what they did !!

Under now-deposed president Morsi's rule, the first anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes left three dead adding to more than 45 martyrs from 2011.

Zeinobia's reminder is echoed by Twitter user Maher Hamoud, who recalls reactions from Muslim Brotherhood officials calling the protesters under attack ‘thugs’:

The rally was thus a genuine remembrance of friends, relatives and all those who have lost their lives in clashes – with both the police and military:

The entrance of Mohamed Mahmoud had the very explicit banner, reading “Revolutionaries only: entry prohibited for Muslim Brotherhood, Army and Felool” (‘felool’ are the remnants of Mubarak's era):

Banner at the entry of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, 18 Nov 2013. Image by @justicentric, used with permission.

Banner at the entry of Mohamed Mahmoud Street, 18 Nov 2013. Image by @justicentric, used with permission.

Many vividly remember the uncontrolled violence then-ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) unleashed on protesters:

Amro Ali digs up tweets from 2011:

The Mohamed Mahmoud clashes (video, Ar) are (un)famous with the use of allegedly stronger-than-usual tear gaz which caused epileptic fails, coughing blood and collapsing in multiple cases. Amro Ali recalls:

Another feature of these shocking times was the ferocity of the army and police: noticeably, eye snipers came to the forefront leaving many injured or blind. In turn, a number of monuments, including iconic Um Kolthoum statue in Cairo and various Graeco-Roman statues in the coastal city of Alexandria, wore eye patches. Dr. Ahmed Harara is a particularly iconic figure of this targetted violence: Harara lost one eye on 28 January 2011 and was known around Tahrir Square for wearing an eye patch which carried that date; the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes and eye snipers claimed Harara's second eye:

Two years after, he was present at the rally calling for a complete reform of the police:

Others having lost their sight also remember:

Egyptian independent collective Mosireen released a powerful video juxtaposing then-spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior speech calling “for the glory of the martyrs” while police and army were beating and killing protestors prior to dragging their dead bodies into trash:

The video was screened during the 18 November rally gathering explicit reactions:

Mosireen's video, entitled ‘Never Forget. Always Remember’ is especially important as doublespeak continues: in a statement released on 16 November 2013 (Ar), the Ministry of Interior prepares the commemoration of Mohamed Mahmoud blaming “third party” for deaths having occurred during the 2011 clashes and (now-deposed president) Morsi for deaths during the commemoration back in 2012. The CIA and NGO Freedom House are also among the guilty, and the Ministry of Interior keeps on presenting itself as the people's “first protector” keeping “a watchful eye [on] this country and [on] its citizens.”

The violence has produced an incredible amount of street art, now forever disappeared but captured by Ahram Online's photographer Mai Shaheen. New graffitis have found a place to live and blossom for this year's anniversary.

Motorbikes — improvised ambulances back in 2011 — mark their glorious return: independent videojournalist Simon Hanna released an incredible video (Ar, En subtitles) where he speaks to car electrician Ezzat Hamed who had to close his shop on Mohamed Mahmoud Street due to clashes, and who “began building models from scrap metal, spent tear gas canisters and bullet cartridges”:

A Memorial built in Tahrir Square caught the attention: the monument, claimed to be a memorial for the martyrs having died during the Revolution, was built up by the army and inaugurated on 18 November 2013. Many saw this as offense, and decried it as a masquerade of justice as ‘no transitional justice starts by building a memorial’.
 

Hours after the Memorial was inaugurated, it was first defaced and then protesters started (Ar) attempts to destroy it (video, Ar):

Egypt braces for an even tenser week: activists have already been arrested for distributing flyers calling for an anniversary rally. November 19 is not just the first day of the week-long 2011 clashes but also marks today's army strongman, General El-Sissi's birthday. Later this week, Cairo will also host the Ghana vs. Egypt football game and the Constitutional Committee will finish voting on the new constitiution's draft.

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