Back To Tahrir
During a couple of weeks in November 2011, nine months after Hosni Mubarak had been forced away as the ruler of Egypt, protestors again gathered in central Cairo. The streets leading out from Tahrir, the square where it all began, saw massive daily and nightly demonstrations; diverse, but unified in their message that the military must hand over power to civilian bodies. The first free parliamentary elections were less than two weeks away, and the revolutionary spirit of January 25 still filled Cairo’s dusty and warm air.
Almost immediately however, what began as a peaceful protest turned increasingly violent, as riot police were employed in the neighbourhoods surrounding Tahrir. Mohammed Mahmoud Street, leading up from the square alongside the American University of Cairo, became a literal war zone, at once filled with panic and ad-hoc organised protestors. The police shot rubber bullets and tear gas, killing more than 40 people and inuring thousands. The battle – because that’s what it was – lasted for nearly a week, and was the most violent since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Mohammed Mahmoud quickly acquired a significance among those fighting for their city, and the walls lining the street filled up with art works. The young people who lost their lives were portrayed as angels, and graffiti promised that they would never be forgotten. Many were painted with patches over their eyes, symbolising the injuries people acquired from getting shot in their eyes by the riot police, or from the strong tear gas used against the protestors.
Today, more than two years later, Egypt’s Tahrir generation continues their battle for a peaceful, free, civilian state. Some of the most prolific activists are in prison, as are many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military’s foremost contester to power. The graffiti on Mohammed Mahmoud has been removed and panted over several times, but the memory of the angels remains.
Karim Mostafa is a Swedish photographer based in Beirut. His work captures people and societies in transformation. He has worked in countries like Egypt, Libya, Bangladesh, India and Lebanon; photographed revolutions, inspiring people and everyday life; and published his photos in publications such as Al Jazeera, American VICE, The Caravan in India, Denmark’s Politiken, Norway’s Aftenposten, Finland’s Hufvudstadsbladet and Swedish media including Sydsvenskan, SvD, Amnesty Press and Vi Läser.