Khalid’s Death

June 20, 2010

Dear P,

I woke up this morning to bittersweet memories of Egypt. Names like Stanley Beach in Alexandria and Corniche el Nil in Cairo bring sweet memories of lemon slushies on hot days, lattes and carrot cake on long cool evenings overlooking the water, dust and din, laughter and quiet, squinting eyes tracing the contours of the landscape, or fixed on space in inward gaze; watermelon with white cheese, qasab juice, writing.

But today Stanley Beach and Corniche el Nil bring news of death, impunity and a people brought together in grief.

Police brutality in Egypt has never been news to anyone, but when 28-year-old Khalid from Alexandria died as a consequence of savage beating by the police earlier this month, a strong wave of outrage was felt across the country and abroad. ‘We are all Khalid’ Facebook group sprouted out of nowhere, attracting thousands of adherents in only a couple of days.Today, one of these has reached around 120,000 supporters, and it has become a hub for youth activism.

While the right to assembly in Egypt was suspended by the Emergency Law, active in Egypt since in 1967, Egyptians  cyberassemble and cyberdiscuss politics in blogs, online forums, and facebook groups.  Of course, these are not completely safe. Khalid’s family says he was killed after posting a video “of officers sharing the spoils from a drug bust among themselves.” Several bloggers have gotten in trouble before for similar reasons.

But they shirk the tyrannical Emergency Law, and people are willing to take a risk. The facebook Group We are Khalid Said organized a silent protest in Alexandria and Cairo, where people were asked to wear black and stand silently by the beach in Alexandria, and by the Nile in Cairo. It’s been reported that the protest in Cairo did not work. Apparently, policemen told protesters that standing by the Nile wearing black was not allowed. But in Alexandria the protest went ahead.

Below you can see a youtube video about it.It starts with a picture of Khalid, shocking by its sheer familiarity. He looks like anyone’s boy next door, her friend’s brother, their classmate, my friend. The video continues with images of streets in Cairo and Alexandria, Stanley Beach and Corniche  el-Nil. No regular dust and din today. Only Qur’an reading, prayers, and people of all ages dressed in black, quietly mourning Khalid’s death and the protracted life of an authoritarian regime long wished gone.

J.

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