Mother of the Revolution

The protests that started in Alexandria spread and soon the anonymous young man's name became known around the country, and the Middle East and then the world.

    On a sun baked hill in a quiet corner of noisy Alexandria, Khaled Said's grave is unremarkable.

    Perhaps the flowers on top are more watered than the others, but the tombstone simply states his name next to a short verse from the Koran. It also has the date of his death, the 6th of June, 2010, the day many here say marked the beginning of Egypt's revolution.

    Khaled was 28.  He'd gone out to use an internet cafe in the coastal city.  It was a Sunday night.

    According to one man who says he was there, two policemen walked in and there was some sort of row with them and Khalid. The police started to beat him.  Khalid tried to fight back or escape. In the confusion, it was hard to tell. In the scuffle, the young man's head hit a marble table with a sickening thud and blood began to pour from his head.

    The police then pulled him out of the cafe.

    A few hours later, Khalid Said was dead. The police say he tried to swallow a bag of drugs he was carrying and choked. The pictures of his body show a face that was bashed and bruised. It is difficult to look at.

    News of the death spread quickly through the internet. Facebook pages in his honour were created and protests called in his name.

    For many in Egypt, the incident on a warm summer's night summed up all that was wrong with Egypt.

    The protests that started in Alexandria spread and soon the anonymous young man's name became known around the country, and the Middle East and then the world. His death became the spark that lit the fires of indignation and anger which erupted into revolution.

    It was a death that changed a country, and pained a family.

    Leyla Qasim comes regularly to speak with her son at his grave in Alexandria. She wears black in his memory. A pendant with a picture hangs from her neck and she constantly plays with her worry beads.

    She comes to tell her son about the changes in the country and the role he played.

    She shares the latest developments in the court case of the two policemen charged with killing him.

    They've been in court eight times now.  

    As she sits by the grave Leyla Qasim tells me: "I will get my justice when Khaled gets his, and when Khaled gets his justice then so will Egypt.'

    She is in no doubt of the verdict she wants, no sympathy for those who robbed her of her son. "Those who killed Khaled must also die.  The policemen who killed him are not human, they are wild animals. They want to put my son on trial, fine – put him on trial. Put him on trial, and then release him. But they shouldn't have killed him – they don't have that right – so these policemen are animals."

    The authorities know how charged this whole case is, how much the people across Egypt are invested in the verdict. The courthouse in Alexandria looks out over the Mediterranean. It's tired and worn, but on the day the police officers appear in court again, it is ringed by armoured personnel carriers. There are dozens of soldiers and military policemen. They stand idly chatting but are dressed for trouble.

    Throughout the day, a crowd gathers, some with banners, some just to stand and watch. Most are young – like Khaled. One woman tells us: "This is a human being. Two men ganged up on him and beat him up and it is obvious from the pictures before and after what happened to him."  While a man is animated and passionate: "We've lived under oppression for the last 30 years and now we won't let any wrongdoing or the death of Kahlid Said pass easily. We now have nothing to be afraid of."

    The judges handed the case have heard enough. The arguments, the evidence have been presented, and now they will deliver their verdict on June 30th. The crowds will be back, the world will watch. And Lelya Qasim will go once more to her son's grave and tell him what the court has decided and how much he's missed.


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