Something incredible happened to me today.
In my Contemporary Social Movements class, we began watching a documentary entitled “The Square”. It was directed by Jehane Noujaim; she filmed some of the members of the ongoing revolution in Egypt and the experiences which surrounded them. Beginning in early 2011, people filled up Tahrir Square and later took to the streets again to demand freedom from an oppressive regime. Ahmed Hassan, a young Egyptian, and Khalid Abdalla, a British-Egyptian actor, were two of the primary individuals portrayed in the documentary. (Here is a picture of them – Khalid on the left, Ahmed on the right.)
They were among those who wanted something better. The people who were fed up with the corruption and injustice of their government – the people who wanted freedom for themselves and their fellow Egyptians, who wanted a better world – they gathered in Tahrir Square. The built tents, they shared hope and ideas of freedom, and they raised their voices together. One of the first times I cried while watching the film was during these moments of unified expression and love and hope between the members of the revolution. There were much sadder tears to come later.
Ahmed Hassan and Khalid Abdalla were able to witness the great victory of their people when Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his position as the head of the regime. But that was not where it ended. A new, oppressive and corrupt ruler would take his place. The military would instigate violent attacks on the revolutionaries filling the square and later the streets. I cried to see people run over and killed by tanks. I cried to see Ahmed wounded and bloodied in the head after being shot by the military. I was full of fury when one of the people of the revolution picked up a tear-gas canister and noticed that it was made in the United States. I listened to the revolutionaries discussing how the media around the world was attempting to defend the actions of the military and the regime, attempting to paint the revolutionaries as ‘thugs’. These shameful actions by the media of the world are all too common. They defend the wealthy and the powerful, and not the oppressed. But the revolutionaries were able to get footage of the brutal violence they were experiencing at the hands of the military, and it spread around the world. They never stopped. They knew what they wanted, and they would not give up.
They filled me with so much emotion that I would be a bit shaky for the rest of the day.
The film ended with the millions who took to the streets of Egypt in protest in 2013. The numbers of the revolution had multiplied. People like Ahmed had inspired others to raise their voices in protest. He remarked happily that the children were playing protest games. He hoped for a better future for the people of Egypt and people all around the world.
When I finished watching this documentary, I searched Twitter and Facebook for Ahmed Hassan to see if I could learn any more about him. I quickly found him on both sites, with his profile picture from “The Square”. I friended Ahmed on Facebook.
Soon after, he friended me back.
I wrote a message to him, telling him how unwaveringly brave I thought he was and how happy I was that he had so much hope, and would do whatever he could for a better future. I told him that I was furious at the things many people in my country have done to people around the world. I told him that I hoped to work with people like him to make the world a better place.
He messaged me back.
He said that he was honored and happy to get my message and expressed his hope that what they had done and continue to do would inspire others. I told him that I would be happy to meet him someday, and that I plan to fight against injustice everywhere in the world. He mentioned how far-reaching the power of a regime can be, and encouraged me to remind others that the members of a regime do not just oppress people, they control the rest of the world as well. They encourage us to ignore or deny or even encourage that oppression.
That was one of the coolest exchanges I’ve ever had. I made a friend across the ocean, and I will never forget what he has done. We are connected, as humans in this world. And we will continue to work for a better world.
Ahmed, thank you so much for everything.
Everyone, please watch “The Square”, directed by Jehane Noujaim. It is now on Netflix. Learn more about the film at http://thesquarefilm.com/.