The Story behind the London Demo...
Just before I start telling you about the day and how it changed lots of the perceptions I had about us (us means Egyptians in the UK or London specifically) I just want to share with you the feeling i had upon seeing 2 situations that summarised a lot of what was giong through my mind:
1. This young fellow in the photo above is the son of Osama Roshdy who is one of the active people around here and he really helped a lot in setting the day, I found him giong to the police officers (who were dispatched by the local government to set up the place where we should stand, protect us, and see if there is anything we need) and he started talking to them, i did not really understand what was giong on until i realised that the blue banner he is holding is the one that has all the torture pictures of last Thursday. He was trying to tell the police officers about why we are here and about what is happening in Cairo, he was trying to tell him how the word "Police" has a totally different meaning where he comes from than here in the UK. Upon seeing that I realised that this is what we are really trying to do.. we want to get the message across to Europe, we want them to know about our Judges, our cause, our government, our suffering.
2. Mr. Kamal Bayoumi was one of the "Fedayeen" working against the English occupation of Egypt before the revolution, he then lived and experienced the 1952 revolution, the 1956 war, then he participated in the buliding of the High Dam in Asswan, afterwards he saw the 1967 defeat and the 1973 war. "Beat the Judges... Arrest the Journalists... WE will Previal" is the sign that Mr. Kamal held up high in front of the embassy, it suddenly came to me how it is a very true represetation of what he went through and of the stamina that stands behind his ever calm ever refreshing face. He fought the Imperialists, the Zionists, and now Dictatorship... he participated in building the High Dam and now he is supporting us to build our High Pride. It is so fascinating to have those kind of people who bind all your history together around you, it is so fascinating to always feed on their support, passion, encouragement, and stories... to always feel that you are a continuation of a strive for a dream that seemed so many times very close to be fulfilled but then suddenly disappeared. Those people teach us the meaning of how to "pursue" what you believe in no matter how many times you get disappointed, they teach us how to grow and tame a resilient "stamina" that would carry us forward and help us defy what might be impossible obstacles... and so Kamal Bayoumi carries on with his fight and we start ours.
How it all began:
We are a group of Egyptian young professionals, students, journalists, doctors, activists who are currently living permanently or temporarily in the UK. Most of us are very active participants in the cultural, political, and social scene in the UK and specifically London. We represent nearly all of the political spectrum in Egypt but it was never really reason for disagreements, rather, this diversity always exposed us to different ideas, approaches, and it really helped us in creating a very active social shpere that overlapped with other Arab and English communities in the UK. Like so many other Egyptians living abroad we are still very well connected with Egypt either on a personal level or through following up with its news and events. Still like so many other Egyptians we feel like we have a country that we are losing to somebody else who might carry the same nationality as ours but not the same values that we were taught our nation represents. Realising that there is a lot that we can add to convey the voice of the Judges and their supporters to the world we decided not to be marginalised again and to make sure we do make use of our contacts, resources, and talents. The result was "The Egyptian Committe for Support of the Egyptian Judges - London".
The intention is not a one off demo that reflects a sudden enthusiasim that would die away after a while, it is rather a sustained international campaign that engages with the different influential social and media circles in Europe that would help present the views of our Judges to Europe and specifically the UK. We aim at creating more awareness of the Egyptian cause and offering a counter argument to the official version that is usually propagated by the government abroad. We aim at making the support that the current UK government shows to the Mubarak regime a liablility and a burden through increasing the English public awareness to the consequences of that support and how it negatively affects the lives and security of Egyptian civilians who have to deal with the bruitality of the Police thugs. We aim at strengthening the point that there is a lively movement calling for freedom in Egypt that seeks to achieve democracy without the need for any intervention from the Western governments, a movement that is currently standing shoulder to shoulder with its Judges against thugs.
London Demo - May 13th 2006 - Minutes of the day
Release Our Detainees!
Hands Off our Judges!
I arrived at 11:55 with 3 banners that i prepared the night before as well as some flyers that were contributed by the Egyptian Bloggers who supported us. People started arrivying at 12 pm in front of the embassy, we were not that many in number yet however so we decided to stand on the corner untill enough people arrive, by 12:15 there were around 25 of us so we moved towards the entrance. To my surprise we found out that the police (whom we had takesn permission from previously to demonstrate in front of the embassy) had come and arranged for us the place where we will demonstrate (an instant comparison comes to mind with our honourable thugs), they put some iron barriers to identify where we should stand, some signs to re-direct the traffic and then five polic officers stayed with us for protection and help if needed.
One of the embassy staff was outside the entrance delivering some stuff to the inside of the building while we were gathering, when he saw us starting to gather he made a phone call and then two other diplomat looking guys came out (casually dressed) and took a glance at us before making some other phone calls. By the time it was 12:35 Dr. Kamal El Helbawy (Ex Ikhwan Speaker in Europe) had arrived with so many plackards that he prepared for that day. Mr Mohamed Abdel Hakam Diab (Journalist at Al Qods El Arabi) arrived while we were still gathering as well and he handed out to us the statement that would be delivered to the ambassador that we prepared the night before (he did some editing to it and removed the word "Excellency" or in Arabic "Sa'adat Al Safeer" from addressing the ambassador because he said it is against the Egyptian constitution) Sherif El Sayed arrived with some more packhards that he and some other friends prepared the night before. Some other Egyptians who we did not know from before arrived and they said they knew about the demo from the email chains that were going around.
A quick count of the numbers at around 1:00 showed that we were slightly over 50 demonstrators. At that point, Anne Alexander the representative of the Stop the War Coalition (her photo below while giving an interview to the BBC correspondant Inas Ismail)asked me if she could deliver a small message to the people from the coalition. Anne started speaking in a very clear Egyptian Accent Arabic about her time in Egypt studying Arabic at Alexandria University then she talked about the support the Coalition is going to give us over the coming period, she asked us to continue with the pressure on the government and to start thinking about contacting other NGOs and movements to build up support for the Judges. She pointed out the importance of working towards organising a demo on the coming May 25th to further support the judges.
While we were standing we noticed that at one of the balconies of the building just next to that of the embassy (it is probably the residence of the smbassy staff) there was a man shooting us with a video camera from behind a curtain. Some people from crowd started shouting "Camera.. Camera".... and then suddenly without prior coordination from those demonstrating they all picked up their video cams and their cameras and started taking photos and shooting the guy. The coward then hide himself behind the curtains and stopped shooting, the people started laughing and clapped in a celebration of their petit victory. (In the photo below it is the second window from the left in the red building next to the brown embassy building, he was gone by the time i took this photo... i was not quick enough.)
Ahmed El Azzazy
There are some rumors in London now that Captain Ahmed El Azzazy from the Central Security Force (Amn El Dawla) who was a key figure in the May 2005 demonstrations as he was one of the main torture machines of those days demos has been transfered to the smbassy in London as a reward for his efforts back in Cairo. You can find the Kefaya accusation against him and other security officers here (he is number 7 on the list). It is said he was transfered to London to heat the competition between the rest of the thugs back in Cairo (definitly all of them would prefer the luxurious life of London to the dirty job of beating up those stupid angry protestors... the more the kicking of the protestors chests the higher the chances of a transfer to London or who knows.... maybe New York). This information will still be verified and if proved true then we will see the possibility if he could be legally pursued here in the UK for his crimes.
Above are protestors from whithin the area permitted by the police and below is Mrs. Safa El Sawy the Ex President of the Arab Club in the UK.
There were some speakers at the end of the demo that ended with some cheering and the chanting of the Egyptian National Anthem, below is a brief of the speakers and what their speeches were about:
Mr. Ahmed Nasser: He talked about the current situation in Egypt and specifically about the recent events that involved the public torture of protestors in the streets of Cairo. He attacked the Mubarak regime fiercly and pointed out the panic attack that it must be going through at the moment.
Dr. Khadeeja Safwat: she is a Sudanese Ex Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University. She talked about the current political situation and its reflection on the Sudan. Dr Khadeeja stressed that the politics of both countries are strongly intermingled, and she confirmed her support for the Egyptian Judges in their cause.
Mr. Mostafa Abdel Aal: He is an Egyptian Liberal living in the UK, he talked about the importance of our efforts and about the feared Presidential Monarchy. He was synical of the fact that 70 million Egyptians were waiting for a president's son to be born, riased, and trained to be a president as if they do not have one single person who is qualified to take over.
Mr. Mohamed Abdel Hakam Diab: He is a Journalist with Al Qods Al Araby newspaper and one of the founders of the Egyptian British Cultural Forum. He talked about the importance of participation of the younger generations in the current movements. He stressed the fact that current brutality manifested by the regime is a sign of irrational decisions and confusion.
Dr. Kamal El Helbawy: he is the Ex Speaker of El Ikhwan in Europe, he talked about the importance of coordinating our efforts and making sure we inform the public in the UK about what is happening in Egypt.
One more step beyond the borders of fear, one more step towards freedom.....
Wait for us on Thursday May the 25th. (more information to follow soon).