Revolution Through Arab Eyes

Suez: Cradle of Revolt

The people of the Egyptian city of Suez are known for their fierce nationalism and spirit of resistance.

Filmmaker: Sherif Salah

“Oh Suez … my homeland … I shall die so you live on … 
Oh Suez …, Oh Suez …
Oh my friends let’s go … If our lives and homeland are at risk, we’ll fight for them and come back to our town …
For you my hometown … which has always resisted …
For you I’d die, and others would too …
To save my land and my people …”
An Egyptian poem

Egypt’s revolution began on January 25, when, inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against President Hosni Mubarak and his government.

It was in Suez, a city whose inhabitants are well known for their fierce nationalism and fighting spirit, that the protests first erupted and the first demonstrator was killed.

“When the first person was killed on January 25 … we knew this wasn’t a mere protest but a revolution,” says protester Ashraf Mohsen. “Egyptians in other governorates were talking about protests. But here in Suez … we knew it was going to be a revolution.”

Residents of the city believe their spirit of resistance was borne in large part from past struggles and look, in particular, to the events of 1973 for their inspiration.

“When the Israeli enemy tried to enter Suez on October 24, 1973, some members of the Sinai resistance group were the first to resist the Israeli attack,” explains former fighter Abdulmoneim Qenawy.

Another former fighter, Ahmed al-Oteify, believes it was the resistance the Israelis encountered in Suez that prevented them from reaching Cairo: “If they had seized Suez on October 24, they would have managed to reach Cairo. Thank God they couldn’t and we saved the country.”

But, far from being made to feel like saviours of the country, many residents of Suez believe they were overlooked and neglected by the Mubarak regime.  

“For 30 years of rule, President Hosni Mubarak visited every governorate in Egypt except Suez. Not even once,” Ahmed al-Kailany from the National Assembly for Change explains.

The frustration and anger felt in Suez had reached a peak.

“Al-Sukhna area in Suez is probably the world’s fifth richest region,” explains Mohsen. “Despite this, 35,000 people in Suez are unemployed. Those who have jobs work out of the city.”

This film tells the story of how in 2011 the people of Suez would come, once again, to play an important role in changing the fate of their country and explores the spirit of resistance and history of struggle that motivated them.

“We were all inspired by Ibrahim Suleiman who attacked the police station in 1973 to free it from Israeli occupation.

This was an occupation too but the enemy was different,” says Mohsen. “The Israelis occupied our lands, while this regime occupied our minds. We wanted to free our minds from the occupation represented by the Al-Arbaeen police officers.”