--- The Cairo Dispatches ---

Reflection: The Activists

January 27th, 2013

In the past several days I have spoken with dozens of young protesters and activists, and one common thread among them all, regardless of which movement or party they associate with, is their unwavering dedication to the revolution. Nearly every single one I talk with is ready to die at the drop of a hat in the name of the revolution, and the goals and ideals it represents and seeks to achieve. For the activists around the country, this uprising is everything. I ask them, "Are you not afraid to be killed?" They reply, "There are many more to continue the fight." 

I was talking with a group of activists last night, they had just been gassed out of the square, and one had been shot in the leg with a teargas canister. Bleeding and limping, his 3 friends had to force him to sit down and take a rest, while all he wanted to do was help retake the square with the rest of the activists. It is incredibly inspiring to witness their passion and courage, but it also has an aspect of tragedy. These young activists have so much to offer their country, and the world, it is terrible to witness them being injured and killed in the streets. It has truly been a privilege to brush shoulders with them over the past week.

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The Egyptian

January 29th, 2013

In a recent conversation with an activist, who would only identified himself as "The Egyptian" out of concern for his safety, I got a very good sense of the frustration and anger among a large segment of the Egyptian population. They're angry and frustrated for a lot of reasons, but the biggest issue weighing on them now is Morsi's presidential decree a few months ago. They see Morsi as a sort of Neo-Mubarak. The activists around the country bore the brunt of the casualties in the original uprising, but have since been side stepped by Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and the new constitution. 

Morsi has worked very hard since coming to power to consolidate all levers of power under the firm control of the Muslim Brotherhood. For the Brotherhood then, it has become clear that their true intent was consolidating their hold on power rather than any true reform. A big part of why protests are continuing and intensifying, is the opposition has no where else to express their concerns. They have been shoved out by the Brotherhood virtually everywhere else. So then, it is to the streets and squares of Egypt the activists and protesters go to vent their frustrations and anger with the current state of Egypt.

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Draz sits outside his tent in Tahrir Square with a bandage over his head from being struck with a teargas canister the night before during a protest near the Presidential Palace.

February 3rd, 2013
Draz is a 38-year-old Egyptian activist and proud member of the Egyptian Communist Party. In 2011, Draz was shot 5 times by Egyptian security forces during a protest; twice in the leg, once in the arm and twice through his abdomen. He spent nearly two months in a coma and nearly died from his wounds. Since then, he's been fully committed to the revolution in Egypt and has been living in a tent in Tahrir Square for the past 3 months. As is the case with the majority of Egyptian activists, he is staunchly anti-Morsi and MuslimBrotherhood. The following is a conversation I had with Draz on January 24th and a second on February 3rd, 2013.

Q: How long have you been a member of the Communist Party and why did you chose to join that specific political party?

Draz: 6years. I feel it is my nature. I like to help poor people and the workers. They work so hard and still never have enough. It is no way to live. I want to protect their rights and for them to live well.

Q: Do you think the revolution will be successful?

Draz: Eventually Egyptians will see what the Muslim Brotherhood will do and they will return to the squares, but this time it wont be peaceful. The Muslim Brotherhood has thugs with weapons and they will use them against the people ofEgypt.

Q: Are you afraid of what might happen?

Draz: No. I have seen it many times, so it makes no difference. A man only dies once. I've been close many times.

Q: You had told me that you fought in Libya for a while, what can you tell me about your time there?

 Draz: Yes, I went to Libya to fight. I was there for 3 weeks. About 10 days in Benghazi and the rest in Ajdabiya. Ajdabiya was very bad, we were under attack from tanks and rockets every half hour. We had very little supplies and many casualties. The doctors worked for money, they were not volunteers like we were. They were very expensive. I went there to help, but it came to a point where I knew I would die, but it wouldn't help Libya. I would die and it would do nothing. So I came back to Egypt to live.

Draz poses for a picture in his riot gear before heading towards a barrier to join in on a small clash with the Central Security Forces.

Q: Has life been difficult for you as a gay man in Egypt? 

Draz: Yes, it is very hard. People here do not accept homosexuals because of what they read in the Quran, but I was born this way, I didn't choose it. This is who I am. 

Q: Have you told many of your friends in the square?
Draz: No, maybe only 2 know in the square. Only a few of my closest friends know this about me. 

Q: What do you think might happen if people in the square found out?
Draz: They would not accept me. They would drive me out of the square and refuse to know me.

Draz cocks an unloaded pistol while sitting inside his tent in Tahrir Square. 

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