Three years ago the Tahrir Square in Cairo changed the life of Ahmed Hassan and many other Egyptians. In January 2011, here started the uprising that took thousands to the street and led to the overthrow of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. ‘I suddenly heard people screaming outside,’ Hassan recalls. ‘I saw lots of policemen and a crowd. Someone cried that Mubarak’s regime should fall. I ran outside to join.’
It took Hassan 24 years to come to the conclusion that change had to come in Egypt. He grew up in the poorer Shubra neighborhood. Young Ahmed started working at the age of six after his father died and he had to support his family. ‘All my life I had lived under the reign of Mubarak. There was never enough money but nobody complained or dared to criticise the government. The leaders were on top, and the people at the bottom quietly suffered and died. There was corruption, no dignity and no hope for the future. I dreamed of going abroad.’
But during the demonstrations at Tahrir Square Hassan changed his mind. ‘I demonstrated side by side with men and women from different political backgrounds. I knew I could never leave Cairo,’ he says.
The mainly non violent protests were met by policemen with helmets, shields, guns and tear gas. Hassan: ‘I saw how the police shot people. Protesters had been attacked by police before but the difference was that people just kept on coming in bigger numbers. We fought for the end of Mubarak, corruption, economic injustice and human rights violations. Revolution is an emotion, which unites us. We took over the square.’
Ten months after Mubarak was overthrown and the army had taken over, which had promised to meet the people’s demands but arrested and put them on military trials instead, the protesters took back to the street and demanded civilian rule. Then tanks and armored patrol cars arrived. The retaliation was harsh and hundreds of people died. Ahmed Hassan was injured.
But he and his fellow protesters have a weapon which the army and the regime couldn’t suppress. Through citizen journalism, social media and modern technology they brought their struggle to the world.
Hassan: ‘We shot scenes with our cell phones. I filmed an officer shooting a protester from short distance and sent it to a news station. We exposed the abuse of human rights to all Egyptians.’
Much has changed the last three years, but much has also remained the same. After the army governed the country for a year, the elected president Mohammed Morsi took over. One year later he was overthrown by the army, being accused of expanding his powers by decree and favoring his own party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The army took over again. Hassan joined ongoing demonstrations on Tahrir Square. In clashes with the army since then, at least thousand people were killed.
But Hassan remains hopeful and idealistic. ‘Our voice entered every Egyptian household,’ he says. ‘Although the army is in charge of the government no matter who will be elected, our struggle for human rights and justice is fuelled by their mistakes and will only grow. We will continue fighting for our ideals.’
By Simone Korkus