Jan 25, 5 years on: Dancing at the intersection of Geziret Badran

The year 2010 was the most miserable and desperate of my life. I had lost hope in everything. When 2011 started with the tragic bombing of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, I was convinced it would be even worse than the year before.

At the time, the inspiring Tunisian revolution was taking place. I started to follow its news obsessively. I oscillated between hoping for any change in the monotonous reality in which we lived and bemoaning our condition, which I believed was unlikely to change in a way similar to Tunisia. When Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted, I joined a protest in solidarity with the Tunisian revolution on the stairs of the Journalists Syndicate. At the time, I got so angry at the old, repetitive slogans we were chanting that I left the protest. I left having decided that I would never again take part in a demonstration.

A few days later, the calls for January 25 began. At first, I viewed these invitations with extreme cynicism. But upon my friends’ insistence, I decided to join them on January 25, just to let the authorities know that there are people who say no. To tell the truth, I had no expectation that any good would come of it. However, in the few days between my decision to participate and the day of January 25 itself, I got more excited, and in fact, I joined my friends in mobilizing for the protests.

On this day five years ago, I joined the demonstration in Shubra, the one that started with only 10 people. At the intersection of Geziret Badran, I lived a moment that I consider the happiest of my life. There were massive demonstrations coming from all four directions. When they merged and we became thousands, I stood there and danced in the street, while hysterically screaming, “Freedom, freedom, freedom.” At this moment I felt a huge amount of hope and that all the dreams I’ve had in my life might be possible. I might have even felt that my dreams had already been realized.

We moved after that to Tahrir Square. Everyone knows to some extent how the rest of the story unfolded. Five years after that day, I want to say that it was the best day of my life and I am most proud of having participated in the mobilization for January 25 and of participating in the revolution since it began, for not having been late in joining its path.

I want to say, as well, that I forgive anyone still riding the wave of revolution for their various stances. We all make mistakes. And because we all make mistakes, I ask my partners in the dream to forgive me my faults. However, I do not forgive those who joined us on the trip and later chose to leave us. I do not forgive those who supported the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, those who supported the Muslim Brotherhood when they were in power, or those who supported the June 30 regime.

Finally, all I hope for is to remain for the rest of my life on the path of the January 25 revolution, to continue to work for bread, freedom and social justice, to do all I can to support political prisoners and the forcibly disappeared, to seek the rights of the martyrs, the injured, victims of torture and sexual violence and those facing unjust trials, and to hold accountable those who wronged these people.  

Mahmoud Belal 

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