Thursday, January 27, 2011

Amr Salama's Testimony on What Happened to Him on Jan25

Amr Salama is a young Egyptian director and blogger who joined the "Day of Revolution" on 25th of January when tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protests police brutality, political oppression and unemployment, demanding an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

After being heftily beaten and hit by the police forces, he decided to write what happened exactly this day, his conversations with several police officers and soldiers which have some realy deeper meanings behind them.

This was translated by Jailan El-Rafie, I found this note on facebook:

This is the article written by Amr Salama here:
I took the time to translate it since I wanted more people to read it:

"I feel that it is my duty right now to get the word out about all what has happened during the historic Anger Day demonstrations, to prevent false and untrue statements and also to prevent people from getting the wrong message off what happened to me or to other protesters.
And it is a duty for anyone who has been subjected to violence, insult, torture or unfair arrest to tell his/her story in total transparency for the people to understand the hardship of the experience.

Not only to expose the violations done by the Egyptian riot police, but also to expose the little positive things that occurred in between, to give hope to the people, and to make them understand why the current events are taking place.
 I will tell my story briefly, for those who don’t know it.

We were leading the demonstration in front of Dar Al Hekma in Al Qasr Al Ainy St., and there was a cordon of riot police surrounding us. We really wanted to break through so we can join the bigger protest in Tahrir Sq.

At around 2 or 3 pm, we decided to try to break through, no matter what it took.
Strongly motivated, I was one of the first-liners as we pushed through lines of soldiers and we finally broke through and on to the street. We ran to the streets leading to the square.

The street was totally vacant of people, and in the horizon I could see a mass of people. At first I thought they were protesters but then I noticed that they all were dressed in black, coming in our direction and holding black sticks. I remembered the scenes from old war movies, like Braveheart and Gladiator, and I had the exact feeling of old battle grounds, and I found myself one of the first people to run towards the approaching lines of police. Also, there were some people trying to escape through side streets but they were easily cornered. A moment later, we were under attack.

I had my dear iPhone in hand, and I was trying to take photos or record videos, until I got surrounded by a large enough amount of soldiers who started beating me ferociously with their sticks, delivering painful blows on my head, face, stomach and legs.

Then, came in from between them the respectable commando officer whose face I will never, ever forget, and he started beating me in the face in a way I never imagined a human body could survive. Then he grabbed my dear iPhone, threw it to the ground, and started hitting it hard with his feet, until it was smashed to pieces. Then he seemed to get back to his normal state of mind, and he said “Let go, stop hitting him” to the soldiers. In a glimpse of hope I thanked God, thinking the man has finally heard the voice of the goodness inside of him.  Then he continued, “...there are cameras around.” Then, he dragged me to a side street and as we walked we saw a young man lying on the ground, and a terrifying amount of blood coming from a wound in his head.  The officer said, “Here, another ****** is dead. I swear to God I will kill you just like him, you son of a ******.” Then we entered a building, the nice soldiers escorting, he locked the entrance, tripped my legs and got me on the ground, then started the painful episode of vicious beating.

 He delivered blows to my head and stomach, and the soldiers hit me with their sticks, too. One of them broke a wooden subject that I couldn’t recognize and started hitting me with it in every inch of my body.  A mixture of insults were thrown around, like “you son of a *****”, “We’ve been in the streets since last night because of you *****”. I started trying to tell them “Do you even realize why you’re trying to stop us now? “ He replied, “You’re trying to show me how educated you are, *****?” I obviously taunted and teased him more, so he started hitting me even harder.

Through my screams I tried to say how I was doing all this for them, how I am an Egyptian citizen just like him. Of course my words weren’t clear through all the noise and while he was delivering his verbal and physical blows, my words weren’t of any significance whatsoever.

A while later, he started to get exhausted. He told the soldiers, “I want him dead, like that guy we saw in the gutter. If he’s not dead when I get back I will kill you. If you’re hungry, eat him up.” Then he left, and for another 10 minutes I was brutally beaten up. I was puzzled at how I was still alive.

And now, 36 hours later, I swear to God I can still feel the pain in every centimeter of my body.
The funny thing is, at that time, I reached a state where I was absolutely numb, not feeling a glimpse of pain. I said my prayers, and started getting visions. Visions about my family, how this was going to affect them, about the movie that I hadn’t finished directing yet, about the page that would be created about me on Facebook, and I wondered if it would have the title “We all are Amr Salama”. I also thought about the statement the Ministry of Interior would issue, saying that I must have died after accidently swallowing my iPhone.

Then I started to scream. I screamed as loud as I could. I told the soldiers how I was protesting for THEIR sake, that I had a mobile, a car, and money, how I didn’t at all suffer in my daily life.

And for reasons unknown they finally heard me, and stopped. One of them was greatly touched and he started getting them away from me. He got me a chair and asked me if I could walk. After a moment of silence, I said “I’ll try.” He told me that I should run fast before the officer returns and that if he returns now he’s going to murder me. I got up and tried to run but unfortunately the officer did return, and he thought I was trying to escape. The soldiers pretended to be stopping me, so I took another round of beating that made the first one seem like a Walt Disney cartoon from the 1940’s.

A while later someone else got the officer’s attention. Another officer showed up, asked me about my name and occupation, saw my ID then told me to run fast before the other officer gets back to me.

I ran for a while before the pains started manifesting throughout my body, followed by headaches and dizziness. My eyes started tearing uncontrollably, I wasn’t crying but I totally lost control over my nerves.

I arrived at a friend’s workplace in downtown, where he agreed to have me. I sat down and he got me something to drink.  He left me alone, and then I found myself crying as I never cried before.

I wasn’t crying because of pain, humiliation or terror. I cried for one reason: I found myself starting to hate Egypt.  I found myself starting to feel that the soldiers who were supposed to protect it made me hate it, that its oppressing and unfair government made me hate it. Its negative people, insisted on being negative and never stood with us protesters. It all overwhelmed me, the corruption, unfairness, oppression, and all other things. How dare I make another human being rule this country? How could I get him to love it, fight for it, and belong to it? I started thinking; why not leave it when I get a chance? I remembered when a dear friend once said, “Egypt’s only future is immigration to Canada.”

A couple of minutes later, the voice of reason became once more audible – it’s not the voice of reason, for sure, but it always has put me in trouble – then I reminded myself of my beliefs, for which I’m writing this article, to share them with the world.

I remembered that my belonging to Egypt isn’t obligatory, it’s my own choice, I chose it because it’s important for me, not for Egypt. It’s important for me to know where I’m from, where I belong, where my house is, where my bed is, where I feel that I have arrived, not waiting to go anywhere else.

I remembered that I should always stay positive of wherever I have chosen to belong to, and be optimistic, whatsoever, that this place will be better because of me and those around me.

I honestly would rather not live, if life’s without hope or sincerity. If I live without these two things I will only turn into an animal, an insignificant being only wanting to eat, sleep and enjoy temporary delights that will never feed my soul. My choice is final and I have no intention to re-think it, whatsoever.

Even if the world sees me as a hopeless romantic or a dreamer, I really don’t care. I will always be happy and satisfied with my choice, regardless of the consequences.
I discovered that the most important thing is that I realized these things, that I know why I was beaten, why I protested, and that I know that without signs and complex political demands I understood why I endured all this. I endured all this because I want a better Egypt, a better Egypt without absolute ongoing power to anyone of its governors, and a better Egypt without a large gap in social structure.  The poor stays poor but at least has the basic human rights of dignity and properly satisfied human survival needs.

I want my future son to get proper education and medical treatment. I want him/her to have hopes or ambitions of any kind even if he/she wants to reach presidency. I want a better Egypt where police protects the people rather than doing what was done to me and many other protesters in every police department and street, rather than what was done to martyrs like Khaled Saeed and Sayyed Belaal. I want a better Egypt where anyone who has a right can go to a police department to demand it without any fear of being ignored; he/she will find the officer ready and willing to help them rather than being stationed elsewhere, doing nothing but watching black cars and bodyguards passing by since morning, rather than being nothing but a blind follower and protector of a system that already has failed to give him his own rights of proper payment and life, a system that left him standing to take all the hate that was originally directed to the system.

When I got beaten and tortured, I realized that my fear has lessened and that I will protest again and again. I also realized that if I die, I shall be a martyr and I shall be in a better place.
I realized that the soldiers who hit me had no idea why they were doing it, and they felt they had unreasonable motives, even if they stayed up all night trying to make sense out of it. The soldiers had sympathy for me and were probably more afraid than I was, afraid of punishment or worse.

I most importantly realized that there IS hope, hope to see Egypt not only as liberated as Tunis but also in a place better than I could ever imagine. A place I would want to have kids at so they would live a good life full of dignity, and make it even better.

I am not calling myself a hero, and I have indeed seen people who were more brutally hit and arrested. Those who died at the protests are of course labeled as martyrs. If you ever get to talk to these people, they’re all proud of themselves. They’re all with less fear, more will, and a feeling of self-righteousness. They all got out stronger, more motivated and hopeful than ever. They believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed there, no matter how long it takes to reach it.

The most important thing is that I realized that a lot of quotes are exceptionally true and are not just words, like “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”."

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