Perhaps it’s a coincidence that popular uprisings take place in winter while military ones happen in summer, as the massive popular revolution of 1919 took place in March, later the big popular uprising in January 1977 took place, and then came the massive revolution of January 2011. On the other side, all military units centralized in Cairo led by Ahmed Orabi moved towards Abdeen Palace in September 9, 1881, and then we had the army movement in July 1952, and later what our armed forces did in July 2013.
January has a significant standing in the collective conscience and to some people including me, as it’s the month when Jesus was born and baptized; Epiphany. Also, it’s the month when the Egyptian police forces stood against the British occupation forces in Ismailia when the British army supported by an armed force of seven thousand soldiers backed by heavy tanks, armored vehicles and field guns besieged the police station and municipality buildings in Ismailia while the Egyptian police force, not exceeding eight hundreds in the barracks and eighty in the municipality building, was armed with the low-efficiency “Lee-Enfield” rifles.
The Egyptians fought for two hours until they ran out of bullets. Sixty five men martyred and eighty wounded in that battle from the Egyptian police, and when there was no other way before the Egyptian heroes but to negotiate, police officer Mustafa Ref’at, may he rest in peace, set conditions and directed them to general Matius; chief of occupation forces. In those conditions, Mustafa Ref’at asked for Egypt’s flag not to be lowered and for the Egyptian soldiers not to raise their hands up when they go out, and to come out in a dignified military form, and for the wounded to be transported to hospitals, and that the soldiers leave their arms inside the building and not surrender them to the occupation forces…
Higher in rank than general Exham; the British military leader besieging the police and municipality buildings, Matius agreed to the conditions. Along with Mustafa Ref’at was his colleague captain Abdel-Massieh who read Al-Fatiha chapter with everyone else in an expression of making their pledge to continue resisting and fighting until death!
Also, January was the month when the legendary leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser was born as we celebrated his birth centenary few days ago. Further, it’s the month when building the High Dam; the greatest engineering project in the world in the twentieth century, began. Moreover, it’s the month that witnessed the massive popular uprising in 1977 called the Bread revolution and which Sadat called uprising of the thieves.
Here, I have to say that this public event has a personal significance to me, as I was one of those accused of inciting those events, calling for toppling the regime and disrespecting then-president Sadat. The referral order in case no. 100 inventoried under supreme state security included my name in addition to others. Despite forty years have passed since that time, a final verdict was not issued in that case as the sessions were adjourned indefinitely.
In January 17, 1977, the late hero, fighter and honest opposer Kamal ed-Din Ref’at; member of the first group of the Free Officers’ movement, leader of resistance in Suez canal area during negotiations for evacuating the British troops from Egypt, later in charge of many ministries, and then Egypt’s ambassador in London, and I were invited to a lecture in Mansoura University talking about democracy. I came back to Cairo at the evening. That was when people started to protest in the streets, as there were groups throwing stones at the trains in the area from Shubra el-Khaima to Cairo train station. Also in Ramses Square, masses of people were gathering. I knew that my home was searched and that I’m wanted. From Jan. 18 until I surrendered myself in Jan. 28, I spent that time moving between several places. I recall the very noble role of my friend engineer Ref’at Bayoumi who was keen to accompany me during my undercover transfers not caring about any dangers!
In the time from January to September 1977, I was detained in the preventive custody pending further investigation in that case. Despite cruel living conditions, the prison cells were residence to tens of thinkers, intellectuals, young men and other professionals and laborers burdened with their country’s problems. They established a decent common life in those prisons and later those people were never hesitant to continue struggling in a different way for what they believe is for the good of Egypt!
I wish I can finish writing my memories about that long life journey, including my imprisonment time in January 1977, before I die.
And since one cannot change his habits in this old age, when the popular uprising that turned into a massive revolution in January 25, 2011 took place, I found myself among the huge masses and my office, only 200 meters away from Tahrir Square, was residence for many people including those I don’t know and who used to come to rest for a little time. This time I was not alone; however, my three children were also participating in all that including their eldest who was born five days after I was detained in the appeal prison. In a fine and elegant style, the big writer Mr. Muhammed Salmawi narrated this in his memoires, as we were mates in cell no. 27 in the second floor of the appeal prison.
I wonder what is the connection between January 1952, January 1977 and that of 2011 and what lies in the conscience of the broad masses and keeps accumulating until it turns into a great power that if not well employed and properly guided, will turn into a destructive one. I believe an academic effort is needed from scholars of sociology, socio-psychology, history and politics in order to study the connection between those phases of the Egyptian patriotic struggle no matter who is in the front; Egypt’s army, police or people since they are all one here.
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Al Ahram newspaper on January 25, 2018.
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