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In Cairo, memory of dead helps galvanise protest

world Updated: Feb 09, 2011 21:13 IST
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In Tahrir Square, the memory of young Egyptians killed in the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak has mobilised more opposition to his 30 year rule.

For those who saw fellow protesters die, some clubbed by men claiming loyalty to Mubarak, others shot by police, the toll of "martyrs of the revolution" has hardened their resolve. Images of the dead, printed on huge banners, hang from lamp posts around the central Cairo square that has become the epicentre of the protest movement which is locked in a standoff with Mubarak.

"The martyrs' blood will not go to waste," reads one banner next to a photo image of the bloodied face of "Martyr Mahmoud Mohammed Hassan".

Nagwan Hammad has preserved the blood of another protest casualty, Karim Banouna, in a bottle, which she handled with the veneration of a relic as she took it out of a locked suitcase. "This is the greatest proof that we are ready to make sacrifices for the sake of our country: that we are ready to die for the sake of our country and our children," said the 33 year old, who has been in the square for two weeks.

A photo of the dead man and a newspaper clipping about him were taped to the bottle: "The martyr Karim Banouna, 29 years old, an engineer, father of two children, Omar and Mariam, hit by a bullet from a sniper's rifle in Tahrir Square."

He was killed last week when men claiming loyalty to Mubarak launched an offensive to force the demonstrators out of Tahrir Square.

Mubarak's administration has promised an investigation into last week's violence.

The protesters have held mass prayers for the dead. Some Egyptians attending the protest for the first time on Tuesday cited the deaths as the reason for their participation in one of the biggest rallies there so far.

The United Nations estimates at least 300 deaths across Egypt in the unrest. "At first I was scared to come down, but when I saw that people had died to defend us, to defend our future, so that this country can become better, I decided to come," saidNazira Adel, a 19 year old law student.

"I am now proud to call myself an Egyptian. The martyrs raised our heads up high," she said as she arrived at the square on Tuesday to take part along with hundreds of thousands of other demonstrators.

Protesters who have been in the square from the start of the demonstrations on January 25 say they are willing to meet the same fate, so deep is their enmity towards the Egyptian administration and conviction that it must change. Many say they have gone too far to turn back now.

The protesters have shown their determination by sitting under army tank tracks at moments when they thought they were about to move against them and in repelling the attempt by the armed loyalists to drive them out of the square last week.

So far, the army has not mounted a serious attempt to break up the protest. "All of this has given a sense of heroism, a sense that are going to continue the path of those martyrs, a sense that we are ready to sacrifice," said Ahmed Abdel Nabi Sayyed, a 29 year old lawyer whose arm was broken in the violence.

"Our motivation is Egypt. Egypt is the flower of our life, but for this flower to be watered it must be watered with blood so that this country can come back as a civilisation," he said.