Martyrs’ stories lie in the belongings they left behind

In their earthly possessions lie the shadows of their souls, like avatars of their bodies that now rest in the ground. Their books, papers, clothes, walls and furniture carry their secrets. Some belongings remain as they left them before their departure while others have been changed to ward off the unbearable grief their deaths have caused in the hearts of their loved ones.

Some of their belongings cause tears to fall while others trigger laughter. A few are just ordinary while others carry tales worth telling — or perhaps they are unworthy — but in the end, they all bear witness to these people who once lived among us.

Ahmed leaves behind an anonymous letter to a girl

Nothing in Ahmed Abdel Latif’s bedroom remains as it was when he was alive, as his family completely changed the features of his room after he passed away nearly a year ago. His bed and the couch in his room were rearranged, while his computer table, cassette player, bookcase and the rest of his personal belongings were all taken out of his room. Even his clothes were given away.

“We changed everything because his mother sees him in the room all the time, and sees him in his things and his clothes, so we had to give his clothes away … so she can go on with her life,” whispers his eldest sister.

But when you ask their mother, for whom all these changes were made, if any piece of Ahmed’s clothing remains at home, she will show you Ahmed’s undershirt, which she wears under her galabeya, and say, “This is Ahmed’s.”

His mother says she never forgets his smiling face. She explains he was her only son of five children. She says she will never forget the day Ahmed left his home in Mahatat al-Raml, Alexandria, on the evening of 28 January last year, better known as the Friday of Anger. She goes on to say she was home alone waiting for (now-ousted) President Hosni Mubarak’s televised speech and heard Ahmed asking her if she wanted him to bring home milk on his way back. She says that after Mubarak’s speech, Ahmed’s friends came, shouting that Ahmed had been shot. Ahmed’s father and a number of his neighbors then went out to search for him, only to find him at the morgue.

Nearly a year has passed since Ahmed’s death. He was born on 15 March 1989, and he worked at a tire workshop owned by his uncle for seven years. But work didn’t hinder his studies, and in January 2011 he had just finished his first-term exams for his fourth year at the Higher Institute for Computer Maintenance. However, Ahmed was killed before he ever had a chance to see his exam results.

Since Ahmed was never a big talker, after his passing, his family looked through his papers and books in search of any notes or the like, only to find a short letter in one of his drawers addressed to an unknown girl. In the letter Ahmed proposes marriage to the girl. The family tried to find her but their efforts were in vain.

Islam’s dream of going pro

Islam Abdel Wahab lived alone in his late grandmother’s apartment on Marasena Street in Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo. He had asked his mother if he could live there after his grandmother had passed away so he could study in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. His mother gave him the key to the apartment and transferred his bed, closet and desk there. Nothing was moved after his death and everything remains just as Islam left it; even the sheets haven’t been changed for nearly a year now.

Islam was killed on 28 January and ever since, the apartment has been encompassed in deadly silence. The apartment consists of a tiny living area with one couch on the right and a bookcase and TV set on the left. Islam loved watching the sports talk shows discussing his favorite sport — football.

Entering the adjacent room, you will see Islam’s desk on which lay his notes from the Faculty of Law at Cairo University where he attended his second year of university. His small bed, which lies on the other side of the room facing his desk, is neat because his eldest sister Dina always came to make it for him. The curtains which he rarely opened cover the balcony door, and his clothes, including his soccer outfits, remain in his closet. A colorful rug depicting a number of horses galloping hangs on one wall, while one showing an image of the Kaaba hangs on another.

Nothing in the apartment had changed since his grandmother’s passing except for the addition of his bedroom furniture, which his mother bought him five years ago. His eldest sister had given him her old desk which she no longer needed since she finished her studies, and he kept his modest dreams hidden in its drawers.

Islam, who was born on 8 June 1992, had one dream in particular that dominated his mind — becoming a professional soccer player. For years, Islam played soccer for fun, ever since he was a child, at the Arab Contractors Club. We he grew up he refused many an offer to join professionally after he had promised his mother he would finish his studies at the university.

Islam’s mother became the head of their household after her husband passed away and left her to take care of three kids and all she wanted in life was to raise her children in the best way possible. Therefore, Islam reluctantly studied hard, but his dream never died.

This is evident on examining the doodles he made on his university notes, which include his nickname, “Islam Meteb,” after his favorite soccer player, Emad Meteb.

Islam’s favorite soccer team was Ahly, but he dreamed of playing for any of the soccer clubs. His closet is full of shirts for different teams, including Barcelona. He won a number of medals and cups during the matches he played, and these are now hidden away by his sister to avoid causing any more grief to their mother.

Mohamed was buried in his blood-soaked clothes 

To Mohamed Ahmed Youssef, his bedroom, although small, was his big world. His family tried to give Mohamed and his younger brother, nicknamed “the Prince,” enough space in their tiny apartment in Suez, but he had little privacy. His bedroom consists of a large bed and a huge table with a TV and computer on top and his work equipment stored below. Mohamed had several jobs — during the day, he worked at an oil company and in the evening, he worked at an upholstery business. During holidays, he worked as a freelance butcher.

On the evening of 28 January, Mohamed joined a group of angry protesters only to end up what seemed like moments later in the public morgue.

Mohamed’s mother changed nothing about his small room after he was killed. The bed faces the doorway and sits under a large window overlooking their small street, which branches off Sidi Ghareib Square.

Each morning, 25-year-old Mohamed got out of bed, got dressed and went off to the oil company he had worked at since receiving his bachelor’s degree at a private computer institute. Mohamed helped with the family’s expenses as his father was retired, and he was also helping his sister Amira buy some of the household appliances she needed for marriage.

Mohamed bought his sister an electric oven, which can still be found in his room, as well as a large plastic doll for Ramadan. He also bought his mother a mobile phone on Mother’s Day.

A hollowed-out ceramic duck sits inside Mohamed’s closet. Inside the duck, Mohamed kept a souvenir from the early days of the revolution in Suez, an eagle that police wear on their epaulets. He also kept a bracelet he had bought for his sister that was now too small for her, as well as a black mobile phone cover, a key ring carrying his and his brother’s nicknames on it and a silver ring. His sunglasses and cigarette lighter still lie inside the closet as well.

Inside a cardboard carton under the table in his room, Mohamed stored some of his belongings, including the side-view mirror of the motorcycle he bought with his own earnings that his father used to transfer injured protesters to the hospital during the early days of the revolution. After Mohamed was killed, his motorcycle remained parked outside their building until it was stolen three months ago.

Despite being extremely busy, Mohamed joined the protests in his city on 25 January, his mother says, and remained on the streets with the other protesters even as violence escalated.

Mohamed hadn’t joined the protests to demand the right to employment, as he was already employed, but he went out to demand the rights of all Egyptians to “bread, freedom and social justice.”

Mohamed left his home for the last time on 28 January. He and a number of other protesters were shot that evening and, in accordance with Sheikh Hafez Salama’s fatwa, he was buried in his blood-soaked clothes.

Mina Daniel’s room awaits his return

Mina Daniel’s room on the second floor of his family home in Ezbat al-Nakhl, Cairo, looks like he just left it yesterday. The window in Mina’s room overlooks one of the neighborhood’s main streets, and he always kept his window open because he hated closed areas.

Mina, the youngest of his siblings, was born on 1 August 1991, and he received his diploma from the Industrial School in Restoration of Monuments in 2008.

His bedroom consists of a wooden bed with an adjacent side table on which several books sit. Mina’s closet and his desk, on which his personal computer can still be found, lie on the opposite side of the room.

Mina left his room for the last time on the evening of 9 October, when he joined the Coptic march protesting the demolition of the Marinab Church in Aswan.

Mina’s tidy bed is covered with a pillow and a blanket, and his clothes are neatly folded in his closet. His toothbrush, shaving cream, deodorant and sunglasses still lie on one of his shelves as if waiting for the young man with long hair to come home.

In his room you can find Mina’s papers everywhere, in his closet and desk drawers and between the pages of his books. The papers include school work, political leaflets and revolutionary statements. Mina was an avid supporter of the revolution.

In a TV interview with media personality Wael al-Ibrashy, Mina had said he joined the protests on 25 January to protest the overwhelming unemployment rate and to demand improvement of the education system, which he described as corrupt. He went on to denounce political corruption in Egypt and the lack of justice or equality for its citizens.

In one of his desk drawers, Mina kept a large paper on which he wrote “the revolution’s demands.” He summarized these demands as “public trials for corrupt individuals” and the “dissolution of the National Democratic Party.” On another sheet of paper, Mina wrote down the phone numbers of detainees and on another, the number of detainees whose families he failed to contact. He had also jotted down his thoughts on the various “million-man” protests he had participated in.

Mina’s leftist inclinations are apparent from the books he kept by his bedside. These books include “Dead Sea” by George Amado, a poem titled “The Poor Always Lose When It Comes to Love” by Ali Mansour, and “Dawn of Conscience” by James H. Breasted.

He also owned a copy of the Arab Studies Journal entitled “Gaza Prisoner Magdi Ahmed Hussein” and a copy of “Henri Curiel: The Legend and the Other Face,” part of the complete works of Salah Abdel Sabour, “History by Ibn Khaldun,” “Sheikhs Without Daggers: The Transformation of Political Islam in Egypt” by Abdel Aty Mohamed, and finally, Abdel Rahman al-Jabarti’s “The Wonders of the Effects of Translations and News,” which Mina’s sister says he bought a few days before he died and never had the chance to read.

Appreciation of Mina’s role in the revolution and the million-man protests is evident in the certificates of appreciation he received from various sources. Inside one of his books, one by Tawfiq al-Hakim titled “The Youth’s Revolution,” someone named Abdu wrote him the following note: “To my dear brother Mina, who represents an icon of the 25 January revolution, to which we owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation.”

Mina was shot dead during the Coptic-led march to Maspero on 9 October. He left pictures of his family in a small plastic bag inside one of his desk drawers, while not a single picture of him can be found. The love Mina’s family has for him is apparent from the writing on his wall. In one of the writings, dated 1 November 2010, Mina’s younger sister Sherri urges him to eat the sandwich she left him by his bed. In another, she tells him she left him some dessert in the refrigerator. Mina himself only wrote down three words in his room, on his bedroom door — the words “God is love.”

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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