It has been almost five days since Mohanad Ehab passed away, yet that is just the tip of a mountain founded upon numerous piled up misfortunes we are compelled to helplessly stare at in misery.
Living in Egypt is like being situated between an abyss with a strong pulling force on one side and a black hole on the other; despite the physical impossibility of what I’m describing, you are constantly tossed around and sucked into both with each single unfortunate event taking place – and of those, there are plenty.
Shortly before Mohanad’s tragic death, there were those unlucky ones who spent their life savings to leave Egypt or send their children away for better opportunities using the most risky and exploitative, yet promising, scheme: migrant boats. These infamous boats are known to be overcrowded with people hoping to be delivered to the shores of Italy, Greece, Cyprus, etc…In a tragic turn of events, these boats drowned; it was actually quite common for that to happen, however this time it was widely discussed because of the media’s and government’s outrageous responses. The two entities had claimed this to be “illegal migration”, and so the rhetoric surrounding the tragic incidents turned into open hatred against those who died in pursuit of escaping the place between the abyss and black hole which they were caught in. In fact, in an embarrassingly staged show our glorious leader attempted to convince us that Egypt’s in great condition and there is no reason to leave; he had unexpectedly passed by a random “poor” household to join the family members for a wonderfully lavish breakfast.
Meanwhile, the “honorable citizens” believed that those who died committed suicide and were responsible for their own death; they further claimed that if they had that money why could they not open up their own business or undertake a prolific project…These kinds of accusations, though horrifying from an outsider’s perspective, are no longer shocking to those of us who live here and have become desensitized after witnessing the excessive cruelty, selfishness, and emotional abuse of those “honorable citizens”. As many of the unidentified drowned bodies rot, the government had to bury them – also burying along any hope for people who wholeheartedly believed in the migrant boats’ scheme as a last resort.
Mohanad’s is another case; he was a young photographer interested in documenting the events of the Revolution and had been sent to jail twice. The second time he had suffered from a severe illness while incarcerated, and when he was let go he belatedly discovered it was an advanced stage of leukemia. Prisons in Egypt are known to have horrible/non-existent healthcare; many organizations are keen to document such incompetence as well as transgressions. Mohanad was sent to the US for treatment, and despite the vigorous treatment he had underwent he passed away on the 3rd of October, 2016. Sorry, he did not pass away; he was murdered. Deliberately denying a prisoner adequate healthcare is murder.
Why is Mohanad’s death so pivotal? His death killed us all while we were alive; Mohanad’s death symbolized the death of youth and young people in this country. We are at an age where our lives are supposedly just starting; we’re supposed to receive our degrees and throw our graduation caps in the air, not receive beatings from thugs and censure words from police officers. We’re supposed to attend our friends’ weddings and dance with them, not bury them in the ground and cry at their funerals. We’re supposed to attend street festivals and mingle with the crowds, not wait ages for security permits to host such events only to have them canceled at the last minute. We’re supposed to be doing whatever we can to help rebuild our country after the turbulence it has gone through, not be questioned by officials and security forces whenever we try to do our jobs in public spaces.
Once again, the “honorable citizens” did not fail to taint Mohanad’s image, claiming he was a thug, terrorist, drunkard, etc…All kinds of insults were hurled at him while his funeral was taking place. It was a competition to see who would have the most dirt on him, yet all those who participated did not know him at all. Scrolling through Mohanad’s profile, I found myself tearing up whenever I read his statuses, comments to his friends, his friends’ replies to him…I could see Mohanad in me and in all of my friends and all other young people. It hurt so much and after I made that realization, I could never look at any of his pictures, view any of his videos, or like or share anything about him because it hurt my soul. Accidentally, I followed his account; perhaps it was a sign and I was supposed to be strong and stop avoiding Mohanad’s elusive memory. All the posts from his friends which flooded his timeline endeavored to counteract the damage made by the “honorable citizens”.
But it didn’t matter…we’re still in mourning and so we cannot reduce ourselves to their level. We have been in mourning for a very long time; it has become a perpetual mourning of sorts which is a state that has proven impossible to get rid of. We could simply remember Mohanad with good memories, despite how difficult it is to get out of our mourning habit. I did not personally know Mohanad, but I dreamed of him the night after he died. I was reassured that he would be fine now. Indeed he would, Mohanad is in a much better place than we all are now; Mohanad is now far away from that hopeless place which is situated between the abyss and the black hole.
So on World Smile Day (as Facebook claims it is) I find myself unable to smile. But Mohanad can smile on my behalf.