The battle of Mohamed Mahmoud, as it is called, was one of the most important battles of the January revolution, and for several reasons –
We had failed, as a people and as a revolutionary community, to defeat the military/Islamist alliance over the March referendum, a referendum that both the state and the media presented as an option between “a roadmap” or “unknown chaos”. It was based on this referendum that the forces of so-called ‘political Islam’ defined very clearly their position in relation to the revolution, by abandoning it completely, and it became clear to any who still doubted it that the Muslim Brotherhood was not an enemy of the regime, but a rival…
And along came Mohamed Mahmoud, and within days, hundreds, or rather thousands of people were wounded, and dozens were killed. Men, women, Egyptians.
Mohamed Mahmoud is dear to our hearts for several reasons –
– We had finally shaken off the crippling delusion marketed to us by the state and the media, that the revolution had ‘won’. They sold this story, and ‘celebrated’ the revolution in the hope that by presenting us with a ‘victory’, it would implicitly mean the revolution is ‘over’. After all, we had removed Mubarak. However, by this time, we had also become aware of how the Egyptian Museum had turned into a house of torture, we had found out about the so-called ‘virginity tests’, we had been exposed to the blunt force of military trials, and were all certain that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) were cutting deals with each other at our expense.
– Mohamed Mahmoud was a purifying moment and clearly distinguished the revolutionaries from everybody else. Here was a crowd of protesters who had rejected both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the crystallization of what we can now refer to, even as we are in shambles, as the ‘secular revolutionary opposition’. At this point, we were considered traitors by the state, and thugs by the Islamists.
– The Mohamed Mahmoud protesters did not just reject the players, meaning SCAF and the MB, but also the entire political machination of the regime. We rejected the elections, and we rejected the ‘legitimacy’ of SCAF, both to rule, and to be in charge during elections. The entire political structure of the state was rejected. I remember writing at the time that “The revolution lives on the streets,and dies in the ballot boxes.”
– Mohamed Mahmoud was one of the most violent confrontations between the revolution and the state. This was not a protest that had been attacked or a sit-in that had been invaded – this was an all out battle between the revolution and the police state. None of the people who went to Mohamed Mahmoud were caught unexpectedly in a battle, everybody who went knew they were going head first into a battle, and that they could be wounded or killed. We can literally say that all those who participated in Mohamed Mahmoud were actual warriors.
– The moment had gravity and was, in fact, pivotal, and everybody was keenly aware of this. For the first time since the revolution began, the notion of creating a Civil Council to which we should hand authority had become popular and was taken seriously. The protesters at the time had reached a consensus around the need for a Civil Council and had agreed on a few possible candidates for that council. If you remember, there was even a day when everybody expected Hamdeen Sabahi and Mohamed El Baradei to show up, and to declare, by fiat, a civil council that we would then back, and that would unite the secular revolutionary forces. We were close. Quite possibly the closest we had been since the revolution began, and, it could be argued, since.
It was while all this was happening that the famous chant was born; “bear witness, Mohamed Mahmoud / they were wolves and we were lions!”
And in the midst of all these events, a young man, by the name of Adel Moa’wad, was wounded while he was trying to save another protester, and he fell into a coma. He fell into a coma during the most pivotal battle of the revolution, when all masks had fallen, the players had been revealed, and the stakes were at their highest.
There’s a German movie, made back in 2003, called ‘Goodbye Lenin” – here’s the plot from IMDB: In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.
Adel Moa’wad has woken up from his coma.
What do we plan to tell him?