Four years of grief and still no justice

Four years of grief and still no justice
Mohab Hassan was 19 when he was shot dead on the Friday Day of Rage in Egypt's 2011 revolution. His father, Abu Mohab, speaks to al-Araby al-Jadeed about the years since his death.
7 min read
22 January, 2015
Abu Mohab (left) holds a picture of his son during a protest [al-Araby]

Mohab Hassan was 19 when he was killed in Cairo on Friday 28 January, 2011, the "Day of Rage", against the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Today, amost four years later, his father Abu Mohab talks to al-Araby al-Jadeed about how a revolution fed by blood grew only to nettles.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed: Tell us what part Mohab played in the revolution and how he came to be killed.

Mohab was my eldest son. We were close friends. He was a third-year student at the Faculty of Computer Science. He had a Tunisian friend called Ahmad who he talked to online following the Tunisian revolution. Ahmad updated Mohab on Tunisia, including how they used soda and vinegar to counter the effects of tear-gas. We argued a lot about participating in the 25 January protests, but we eventually went to Tahrir Square.

On 28 January, we agreed to go to the protests right after Friday prayers. Mohab brought a bottle of vinegar and his phone, as he was interested in documenting events.

We live in Shubra. There were two State Security armoured vehicles and a group of police officers at the beginning of our road. We passed them but saw others being stopped from joining the protests. We would tell police that we worked in a shoe shop in the city centre near Tahrir. And right before we reached the square, we saw the heavy presence of senior security officers with armoured vehicles, and we could see the tear gas from a distance.

We joined a mass rally at al-Galaa Street where several clashes took place, with people throwing stones at the security forces, who were firing tear gas. Young men set tyres on fire to stop the security forces advancing into Abdul Moneim Riyad Square. Mohab was filming all of this.

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We then headed to Maspero (the TV & radio headquarters), and stayed for a while before setting off home to check on my daughters. Mohab wanted to meet his friend to upload his videos, so we parted ways near our home.

An hour later, Mohab's friends knocked on my door, telling me that he was injured. I quickly went to al-Islah Islamic Hospital, where I learned that they had joined a rally in Shubra Street which turned violent. His friend, Muhammad Fahim, had been killed by a bullet to the head.

I found Mohab in the intensive care unit. He had been shot in the shoulder and the heart. The doctor told me he was dead. I collapsed on hearing the news.

AAAJ: How did his sisters receive the news?

Rahma, who was two years younger than Mohab, followed me to the hospital where she heard. Nuhayla, who was 12 at the time, was told by relatives. I didn't wake up until the next day, having lost consciousness due to the shock.

Egypt's prosecutor general did not approve Mohab's burial. The doctor told me I would have to sign a forensic report saying that the cause of death was a sharp drop in blood pressure. We went to the Rawd al-Farag prosecution office to get a burial permit, but the deputy prosecutor told us: "I cannot do anything now without the prosecutor general's approval. Wait." I kept insisting until I got the permit.

The next day, 29 January, the bodies of Mohab and his friend were released. But something strange happened - we found that we were carrying Fahim's body by mistake. So I called his father, and he told me they had already finished the burial prayer. Then he brought back Mohab's body for the exchange. And so, Mohab had two burial prayers.

     I found Mohab in the intensive care unit. He had been shot in the shoulder and the heart. The doctor told me he was dead. I collapsed on hearing the news.

Since then, I have not visited his grave, because I promised myself I would have justice before I did. That can only be done by achieving the goals of the revolution that he died for. Retribution is definitely at the core of these goals, and I will not visit him until I keep my promise, even if death stops me.

AAAJ: How did you engage in politics after Mohab’s death?

After Mohab’s death, I sank into severe depression. My treatment lasted for months, until I started getting well enough to work on achieving the goals of the revolution.

I joined al-Dustur [the constitution] party, and I am currently a founding member of the Revolutionary Path Front, which seeks to unite all currents, including the Islamic current. I have also founded an association for those killed in the revolution called Azab al-Dam wa al-Ham [the pain of blood and grief].

AAAJ: What do you think of the protests of 30 June 2013 against Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent events that have changed the course of the revolution?

I have many reservations regarding the 30 June protests, even though I was one of their advocates and I collected 5,000 petitions for Tamarod (an anti-Morsi movement) in the name of victims' families at the beginning of the campaign.

I joined Tamarod at the very beginning, but withdrew two weeks later because I found that 30 June was a fake movement, and I called it "the coalition of demons and angels". It was clear from the beginning that it was a military coup. I was later accused of being part of the "fifth column".

If I could go back in time, and if the Muslim Brotherhood was still in power making the same mistakes, we would have confronted them in a different way. I am beginning to feel that there is hostility towards Islam itself, not just against Islamist politics.

AAAJ: How do you see the political scene after Morsi was deposed on 3 July?

I see a process of militarisation. I have discovered that the aim behind 30 June was not noble, because the so-called democratic means, ie the Tamarrud petitions, were funded in every way possible by different state apparatuses, and they were the main driver of the protests.

     If I could go back in time, and if the Brotherhood was still in power making the same mistakes, we would have confronted them in a different way.

I was sure about Mubarak's acquittal because Egypt's judiciary is politicised, and it has been working as a political actor since his removal in 2011 and right up to Morsi’s overthrow in 2013.

This is evident in the mass death sentences issued against those who opposed 3 July, and cases of girls who have been sentenced to prison because of a badge or a balloon. Thus, I was certain that the judiciary was going to fail the revolution and acquit Mubarak.

AAAJ: How do you see Egypt’s future after 3 July and under the rule of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi?

I see an ever darker future. The revolution is not facing corruption or state institutions now; it is facing international alliances. This is much bigger than internal disputes. However, the situation in Egypt is now clear to all Egyptians - they know who their real enemies are. Everyone talks about politics today, and about current affairs. I think the military authority will fail to achieve the minimum aspirations of Egyptian citizens and so must eventually fall.

Sisi has never sought to solve any problems, he only came to eliminate the revolution and restore corruption and oppression.

People will only act if they are motivated. And today, if 200,000 Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square, I am telling you, the entire Egyptian people will join them to protest against Sisi's regime, because the first economic decision he took when he became Egypt’s president was to lift fuel subsidies, leading to a price rises for all commodities.

All these decisions will bring Sisi down, along with his anti-Islam discourse, the billions he received without benefiting the Egyptian people, the way the Interior Ministry deals with citizens, oppressing and violating them, becoming even worse than it was before the revolution, not to mention the government's continual lies, the spreading crises and diseases, and the low education standards.

This will all lead to Sisi's fall because he has never sought to solve any problems, he only came to eliminate the revolution and restore corruption and oppression.

AAAJ: What is your message to the Egyptian youth as we approach 25 January 2015?

Justice can suffer from oppression for years, but in the end it will prevail. This will only happen if we unite and return to the battlefield.

This is a translation of an interview conducted in Arabic.