Living in Freedom


I recently had the privilege of attending a talk entitled “Living in Freedom,” by Brahma Kumaris’ Sister Jayanti. The talk, organized by Lotus House, a no profit organization that offers self development and training, was very much focused on the I AM, also known as the inner being, sixth sense, intuition, memories and personality. The inner being is a personal journey. We must listen, go into silence and allow the mind to be still.

Teacher and mentor for the past 40 years, Sister Jayanti talked about meditation and shared a great meditation technique with us. She suggested that we observe the space between our thoughts. Hold on to the space and wait for the next thought. Being in this space is a great to connect with your inner peace and channel messages. We can find hidden treasures within, rather than looking to external things such as possessions, relationships, and addictions. When we lose touch with ourselves, we have a gap and we try to fill that gap with more and more external possessions and relationships.
There are great treasures hidden within our inner world. When we focus on the external, we lose sight of these hidden treasures.

Jayanti went on to say that losing touch with ourselves also has a knock on effect on society. This can be seen in the breakdown of the environment. The problems in the world are caused by our disconnection with spirit. When we become peaceful, we create peace in the world. What would the world be like if everyone had inner peace? When we have deep-seated peace, it has a ripple effect on those around us; our family, friends, colleagues, the world, and even the stars.

There are two things we can trust and those are God and our inner being. Therefore we need to deepen our faith in God, and learn how to access these hidden treasures.

Jayanti concluded her talk by talking about self-esteem and its relationship to our inner being. One of the biggest consequences of being disconnected to our inner being is a lack of self esteem. Our self-esteem often depends on our job, relationship, or possessions.

Women’s identity often depends on pleasing the men in their life. Salaries for women in Britain are still less than those of their male counterparts.

We need to learn who I am and the value of me. The value I give myself is the value others see. When we respect ourselves, we are more likely to respect others and the world around us.
One reason for our lack of self-esteem is that we don’t know who we are because our behavior conflicts with our values. We don’t behave in line with our values and that leads to a lack of dignity and self-respect.

Another reason is our dependency on external things. When we learn that we don’t need any of these things we become free.

I had the honor of meeting and interviewing Sister Jayanti after the talk. She was clearly hungry, eating a nutritious lunch of fresh fruit while we talked. No wonder she is so slim! Sister Jayanti, appears to have high self esteem, emanating an aura of tranquility and inner peace, whilst being completely free of ego.

Sister Jayanti Bio
For the last 40 years, BK Jayanti has been a teacher, mentor, international speaker and emissary for peace. She is an author and broadcaster, and travels the world addressing issues relating to social and women’s affairs, the environment, intercultural and interfaith relationships and movements for world peace, amongst others. She places importance and emphasis on the spiritual and human dimensions that are so often missing in world matters today.

Jayanti is the European Director for the BKWSU (Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University: http://www.bkwsu.org), and their Non-Governmental Representative at the United Nations in Geneva.

Lotus House
Lotus House provides an opportunity for people from all religious and cultural backgrounds to explore their own personal ethics, values and spirituality, and learn skills of self-management, self-reflection and meditation for the purpose of a better society and a better Egypt.

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Expat House Hunting in Cairo: Dos and Don’ts


Being a seasoned, expat house hunter, turned realtor living in Cairo, I’m in a great position to supply advice on house hunting. There are many great agents in Cairo, but unfortunately there are also many that are not so good.  Follow our dos and don’ts guide  to house hunting in Cairo.

DO

Find an agent you can trust. Unfortunately, I have had a number of problems with agents. One guy, let’s call him Agent Ahmed,  told me that I should be careful about trusting Egyptian agents, but that he was different and he dealt with
foreigners all the time. This same guy lied to me about a number of things. I viewed a property and he lied to me about the price.

I found a property with another agent, Mohamed, and signed the contract. The next day he called me and told me the
owner (who happened to be his brother) had changed his mind and wished to renege on the deal. I contacted the owner and it turns out that he had had a dispute with his brother over commission and his brother had told him that I had reneged on the deal.

If possible find an English speaking agent, or even better, a native English agent. One good thing about Agent Ahmed was that he spoke fluent English. Unfortunately that was the only good thing about him.
Be clear on your needs and communicate them to your agent. A good agent will only show you properties that
meet your requirements. Agent Ahmed had a habit of showing me apartments that did not meet my requirements and were way overpriced.

Close the deal quickly if you like the property. Properties can go very quickly, especially in high season and in popular expat areas such as Maadi.

Ensure both you and the landlord sign the rental contract and have a copy. This will prevent any disputes in the future. The contract should state which bills are included in the rent. It’s also advisable to ask to see copies of the bills.

DON’T

Don’t believe an agent when s/he tells you that you have to pay a broker fee equivalent to one month’s rent, but s/he can give you a “special price”. Foreigners are not obliged to pay brokerage fees. Agent Ahmed told me that it was usual to pay the agent a brokerage fee of one month’s rent and as he knew me to be a nice, honest lady, with a white heart, he was sure I would do the right thing.

Agent Mohamed told me the same thing and when I refused to pay a broker fee he threatened to call the police.
Don’t pay more than one month’s rent as a security deposit, as it may be difficult to get it back.

Be afraid to negotiate on the rent. Most owners are willing to be flexible.

As you can see, renting property in Egypt can be somewhat of a minefield. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance.

What if we all stood together?


 

Saturday 11th June 2011 marks a truly epic event, to be held by people of all ages and races across the Globe. Created by Ryan Mathie, the Standing together. With everyone. For everyone. event aims for people to spend five minutes connecting with each other, all over the world, seeing the true greatness in themselves and others.

Mathie was inspired by the events of the Egyptian revolution. He told me,

“In April this year I was attending a workshop looking at the amazing movement in Egypt, when a Facebook Page was created as a place where the whole country could unite and use its collective power to do something so extraordinary and so big as to overthrow a corrupt dictatorship. I was totally inspired in a way that I have never been before. I looked at the possibilities beyond politics – humanity. I said to myself: ‘if it can work for Egypt, it can work for the world’. The next day I created the community What if we all stood together?”

Mathie went on to create the Standing together. With everyone. For everyone. event?

“The idea is simple; if we all stood together, with everyone, for everyone, then there would be no war, hunger, poverty etc. We would be too busy being together in unity, peace and love. The event is about taking a step in this direction and calling all who attend it to taking on an action to actually make it happen – big or small – in their own homes and communities.”

Nearly 150,000 people have been invited to the event on Facebook, with nearly 20,000 attending and over 105,000 maybe attending. Each invitee is encouraged to invite their contacts in turn.

Consider this, what if we DID all stand together in connection for five minutes across the globe? What if we did this for more than five minutes, or on a regular basis? Could there really be an impact on society, world peace, hunger, poverty, and alike?

A meditation experiment in Washington D.C. in June and July of 1993, saw a 23% drop in violent crime during an 8-week period. AllTM – Transcendental Meditation states “Researchers predicted in advance that the calming influence of group meditation practice could reduce violent crime by over 20 percent.”

Dr. David Edwards, University of Texas- Austin, says,

“This work and theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policy makers alike.”

This is in line with the concept of the law of attraction, what you focus on is what you get, or thoughts become things, as made popular by books and films such as The Secret and What the beep do we know?. The idea is that our words and thoughts send out vibrations that have an impact, not only on our world, but on the world at large.

David Orme Johnson, lead investigator and former chair of the psychology department at M.U.M., says,

“When the mind quiets down to this field level of consciousness, qualities inherent in this underlying field become enlivened in individual consciousness, such as perfect order, balance, harmony, and infinite correlation. As a result, the individual becomes as if a transmitter of orderliness and peace in society, analogous to the way that a television or radio transmitter enlivens the electromagnetic field in a specific manner and then transmits waves through the field that can be picked up at a distance.”

So I urge everyone across the globe to stand together and connect at this historic event on Saturday and take note of the impact. In the words of Ghandi, Be the change you want to see in the world.” Details of the event can be found at the Standing Together. With everyone. For everyone. Facebook event page or join the global community to keep up to date with future events.

 

Insha Allah – God Is Willing and So Am I


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When I first came to Egypt, I quickly got used to hearing the words “Insha Allah” used on a regular basis. “Insha Allah” means “God willing” or “by the grace of God.” As I consider myself to be a somewhat spiritual person, I like this sentiment. I feel comforted by the sense that everything is in God’s hands and that He has everything under control.

The term Insha Allah is based on teachings from the Qu’ran. Surat 18: Al Kahf (23, 24) says, “Therefore do not say, ‘I am doing something tomorrow,’ Except if it be the will of Allah.”’

“Devout Muslims say “Insha Allah” whenever they make a statement about a plan to do something, as a way of requesting God to bless the activity. The phrase also acknowledges submission to God, with the speaker putting him or herself into God’s hands, and accepting the fact that God sometimes works in inscrutable ways.” – Wisegeek.com.

The Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him), tells the story of a man who said, “Tonight I will go to all my wives, so that each one will have a son who can fight in the name of Allah.” An angel reminded him to say, “If Allah wills.” The man ignored the angel and only one of his seventy wives gave birth, and that was to a half-formed child. The Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him), said, “By the One in Whose Hands is my soul, had he said, ‘If Allah wills,’ he would not have broken his oath, and that would have helped him to attain what he wanted.” [Saheeh Muslim (vol. 3,
no. 1275)]

In Egypt, both Muslims and Christians use the term Insha Allah. Wikipedia states, “In Arabic speaking countries the term is used by members of all religions; meaning the term in and of itself does not denote a religion, but simply means ‘God willing.’”

Christians also believe in the concept of ‘God willing’. James 4: 13-17 reads, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

An Egyptian friend of mine learned the wisdom of using the term Insha Allah at an early age. He took a social studies exam that all children have to take at the age of 15. My friend found it easy, so when his father asked him how it went, he told him that he had passed. His father said, “Say I passed, Insha Allah.” To which my friend replied, “Why do I need to say Insha Allah? I know I passed.” Guess what? He didn’t pass.

This also reminds me of the story of Goha and the donkey. Goha met some people on his way to the market. They greeted him, “Hello Goha, where are you going?” Goha replied “I’m going to the market to buy a donkey.” The people said, “Why don’t you say ‘Insha Allah, I’m going to the market to buy a donkey?’”Goha said, “I have money in my pocket, the donkey’s at the market, why do I need to say Insha Allah?”

When Goha arrived at the market, he found a donkey that satisfied his needs and agreed on a price with the seller. As he reached to take the money from his pocket, he discovered it missing. As Goha had been walking through the crowded market, a pickpocket had taken his money.
The seller asked him if he was going to buy the donkey and he said, “Insha Allah, I will buy it next week.”

Later that day Goha returned without a donkey. The people said to him, “Goha, where is your donkey?” To which Goha replied, “Insha Allah, I wanted to buy a donkey. Insha Allah, I lost my money. Insha Allah, I will buy it next week.”

Both of these stories illustrate the wisdom of using the term Insha Allah. But once I had been here in Egypt for a short while I discovered that the term Insha Allah can be misused and I became increasingly frustrated by it. I realised that a lot of people use it as an excuse or another way of saying “maybe”. When someone says Insha Allah my heart sinks, as I think the chances of my request being fulfilled are slim. I think that if they say, “Ok, I’ll meet you in the morning at nine am, Insha Allah,” then what they actually mean is “I’ll meet you in the morning at nine am, if I
can get out of bed in time,” or “I’ll meet you in the morning at nine am, if I don’t have anything better to do.”

Wisegeek.com says this about the term Insha Allah.“Visitors to the Middle East often hear Insha‘Allah used as a euphemism for ‘we’ll see,’
which can be a source of frustration for some people. It can help to remember that most people are too polite to say that something simply will not happen, so adding Insha Allah to a statement can express the idea that something is, in a sense, up to God, whether it be catching a train
at the right time or completing a deal to sell a house.”

We are probably all aware of the Egyptian ‘IBM’ syndrome. IBM stands for Insha Allah, Bukra, Malesh, which translates to “maybe
tomorrow, if God wills, and if not, never mind, I’m sorry.” Incidentally, bukra means tomorrow in the loosest possible sense, and don’t even get me started on “bada bukra”, meaning after tomorrow. The Egyptians give a whole new meaning to “manyana, manyana.” In some ways this laid back attitude can be a refreshing change in contrast to the hectic pace of the UK and other Western countries, but when it goes too far, it can become rather tedious.

Another friend (half-Egyptian and half-British), who works in a predominately ex-pat company recently overheard a European colleague say, “Let’s leave God out of it shall we? Is the answer yes or no?” when his request for a much needed report was met with the answer, “Insha Allah”. This may seem controversial, but I know both ex-pats and Egyptians who are bothered by misuse of the term.

A different friend (Egyptian), let’s call him Magdi, works at a big oil company. He was recently working on a project with a client, one of the biggest multi-national oil companies. The head of the project was a man from Iran. Every day he would hold a meeting with the team and ask them if their tasks would be completed that day. As he went around the room, everyone, except Magdi, answered with the term “Insha Allah.” Every day as the head of the project became more and more exasperated by this response, he began to say, “Tell me one of the three,
will your tasks be completed today, yes, no or Insha Allah?” Everyone other than Magdi still insisted on saying, “Insha Allah”, while Magdi said either yes or no. One day the head of the project couldn’t take it any longer and he said, “Don’t tell me Insha Allah,
just tell me yes or no!” He went around the room until he came to a particularly devout Muslim; the man in question looked very uncomfortable and was sweating profusely. “Yes,” he said, “Insha Allah.”

Incidentally, the head of the project turned and pointed at my friend Magdi. “I like you,” he said. “I always get a direct
answer from you. It’s either yes or no.”

In the paper “The Contexts of Insha Allah in Alexandria,” by Stanford W. Gregory, Jr. of Kent State University and Kessem M. Shafie Wehba of Alexandria University, the authors note that “foreigners’ theories concerning the use of the expression are often deprecatory,” and “the use of the expression is a mechanism of social interaction rather than a simple means of shirking responsibility.” The paper goes on to say “the expression is
uttered appropriately when one makes any plan for the future…only God has control of knowledge concerning future affairs; therefore when any kind of human design for the future is made, the expression Insha Allah must be uttered to show one’s deference to God.” The paper continues “‘I
will have my car tomorrow Insha Allah,’ means that I will do all I can to get my car tomorrow, but only God know if this will be the case,’ thus indicating that we have to meet God halfway.”

Dr Wayne Dyer says in his book Your Sacred Self that instead of saying “God willing”, we should instead say, “God is always willing and so am I.” He puts forward the idea that we should remove phrases that mirror doubt and instead use phrases that reflect knowledge and faith. It’s the difference between believing something and knowing something.

When we use words that mirror doubt such as “God willing” or “hopefully,” we behave accordingly. Just as when we use phrases that indicate our certainty, such as “God is willing and so am I” or “I know I can do it,” we act correspondingly. According to the law of attraction, what we say and think, even if we don’t believe it yet, becomes our reality. We are giving messages to our unconscious mind and consequently we take physical
action. It’s so important to be alert to our thoughts and speech and when we speak we should do so with confidence and trust in the Divine.

When Dr. Wayne Dyer was writing the aforementioned book, his family had a lot of doubts about his ability to do so since he had not written for many years. He says, “I simply responded with sentences like ‘I trust that I am able to do it. I am not alone and I will be given the guidance and the assistance I need to create this book.’”

Using expressions that indicate our certainty, such as “God is willing and so am I,” gives us some power over our destiny, meaning
that we meet God halfway and that we are prepared to put in some hard work ourselves.

According to A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, “Muslims believe in Al-Qadar, which is Divine Predestination, but this belief
in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have freewill. Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill. This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.”

To illustrate this point I use the example of a person searching for a job. Someone could be without work and say “Insha Allah, I will get a job” and then sit back and wait for God to send him a job but not actually make any effort to find a job for himself.

There’s a joke about a woman that was drowning in a tsunami. Her house was filling up with water and the water was rising so she climbed up to the roof and prayed to God to save her.

After a short time someone came past with a boat. He called to the woman, “Quick, get on the boat, and I will save you.” The woman replied, “No I’m fine thank you. God will save me.” Then someone came past on a raft. He called to the woman, “Quick, get on the raft, and I will save you.” The woman replied, “No I’m fine thank you. I trust in God that He will save me.” Finally a man flew over in a helicopter. He called to the woman, “Quick, get in the helicopter, and I will save you.” The woman replied, “No I’m fine thank you. God will save me.”

Shortly afterwards the woman died and went to paradise. When she arrived, she met God and she said to Him, “God, I have been a devout follower of you all my life. I was a good person. I trusted in you and I prayed every day. Why did you let me drown?” To which God replied, “I sent you a raft, a boat and helicopter. What more did you want?”

The moral of this story is that we have to make an effort ourselves. We have the power over our destinies. We create our own lives and our own luck.

This is similar to the concept that “God helps he who helps himself,” which is part of Greek mythology, as told by Aesop in one of his famous fables. The story goes that a farmer was driving his wagon down a muddy track, when the wagon got stuck in the mud. The farmer stood there feebly and kept calling to Hercules for aid. After a while Hercules appeared to the farmer and told him to make some effort himself and that he could not expect anyone to help him if he weren’t prepared to take action himself.

I agree with the sentiments of the Qu’ran and the Bible when they advise, do not say you will do something tomorrow, except
if it is by God’s will, but I would like to propose that we change the way we use this phrase. Let’s replace “Insha Allah, Bukra, Malesh,” with “Insha
Allah
, God is willing and so am I.” I have a mission to remind Egyptians of the original meaning of the term Insha Allah. I want people to say it and intend to do their utmost to follow through and make the effort to meet God halfway. How much would things in Egypt
change if this were the case? My goal is for all Egyptians to say “God is willing and so am I”, after they say, “Insha Allah.” Please join me in my campaign.

Things turn nasty in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as the Army turns on protestors


Wednesday 9th March

Eye-witness, Mohamed Magdy aka Snoopy told me his story of what he witnessed in Tahrir Square on Wednesday 9th March.

He recounts that he headed down to the square at about 4.30pm. There was nothing much going on at first. The protesters were in the middle of the square and had built a fence and checkpoints around them, to deter people that were trying to force them to leave.

Snoopy joined fellow protesters behind the fence and they updated him on recent events. Suddenly, someone said “Quick, they’re coming,” and Snoopy looked up to see it was the army. Snoopy and the others thought that the army was coming to protect them but they soon realized that the army was attacking. There were a few officers with automatic machine guns but they were just for show. Most officers were armed with sticks and there were also civilians with sticks. To begin with they were just using the sticks to destroy the tents. The civilians were chanting “The people and the army are one hand.”

The protesters started running away but the civilians were catching them and handing them over to the army. Snoopy was filming the whole thing on his camera and he started retreating away from the square as the army started confiscating cameras.

Snoopy did not witness the army hurting anyone but he did see and film a young man who had obviously been hit and there are reports of people being arrested and tortured.

Rami Essam, singer of the Egyptian Revolution, tells how he was arrested and tortured by the army. His testimony and videos are featured on website, Alive in Egypt. He says “Please help us spread the facts, if you are with freedom of speech and the freedom to protest, regardless of whether you are with the resistance revolution or against it.”

Snoopy told me of his disappointment in the army.

“It’s bullshit. People have the right to be there. It’s wrong to make the people leave. Also there’s no need for violence. It’s f*cked up…I don’t trust the people of this country. Things won’t change until the people change. What happened over the last couple of days proves that the people are too easily manipulated.”

At this point Snoopy’s sister, Eman, chipped in,

“All the people need to calm down. This is the time to rebuild our country. If we keep revolting there’s no chance to rebuild. When horses gallop there is a lot of dust and you can’t see. We need a clear vision.”

Snoopy’s response?

“The Army should know that they are not above the law, and there are consequences for misusing their power.”

There is an ongoing debate between protesters, who are insisting on a complete regime change and those who say it’s time to get back to normal and rebuild the country and it’s economy. As my friend Doaa Elsabhy, Sales Manager, said recently on her Facebook status, “To all revolutionists: protest hard, WORK HARDER.”

Eye-witness tells of massacre at Abo Zabul prison was covered up by the Egyptian Government


I met Ahmed*during the demonstrations on the final day of the Egyptian Revolution. He told me that this was the first day he’d come to the protests and he’d come Tahrir Square in the hope of finding someone with whom he could share his story. He had lived with the guilt for many years and he was seeking to unburden himself. He gave me a brief summary of his tale and I took his number and arranged to call him to arrange a meeting.

We met the next day at a coffee shop in Borsa. He showed me photographs of himself in his uniform, from when he worked as special operations police, and his completion of service papers. He was adamant that I would not mention his real name and he would not allow us to take photographs of his documents. He was terrified of the repercussions. His hands shook as he sipped his sweet, black tea and began his story.

It was March or April of 1993. State newspaper, Al Ahram reported one death and three injuries, but Ahmed told me the death toll was 48. Ahmed received a call at 8am and was told to stand by to go to Abo Zabul prison immediately. At 12 noon they took the order to move. When he and his men arrived at the prison, they waited outside and could hear shouting and screaming coming from within. After about 20 minutes they entered the prison through the main door into a wide, open area. There were two groups of police with batons only. Ahmed’s group consisted of six soldiers and one officer. In his group four soldiers had R762 machine guns, one had tear gas and one had a shotgun.  They waited in the yard for around 45 minutes. Behind them were six starving dogs; they had been purposely deprived of food so they would attack.

A fancy civilian car pulled up. The passenger was an assistant to the Minister of Interior Affairs and was in charge of prisons. He went inside and stayed for less than 30 minutes. The shouting and cheering continued as the Minister’s assistant went back to the car and left with two members of the prison staff, who were wearing civilian clothes.

The officers gave orders to get ready to attack. There were five groups from his (central) sector; all consisting of one officer and six soldiers. There were three groups from the airport sector and three groups from El Deweaa.

The groups with batons only were ineffective and were replaced with other groups, including Ahmed’s group. The soldiers came out nursing injuries.

Ahmed and his group went up to the second floor. There were groups of 3 cells, each holding more than 30 prisoners. Each cell was separated by a brick wall, which had been demolished by the prisoners. They had sharpened spoons to use as weapons and were using water pipes as sticks. They were fighting amongst themselves over a prisoner who had been killed during a fight.

The soldiers entered into a narrow corridor, barely 1m wide, which ran along the side of the cells and were under the control of the prisoners. The soldiers used heavy teargas to drive the prisoners out of the cells. Two others groups of soldiers joined them with dogs. The dogs bit the prisoners on the neck and dragged them to the soldiers. The soldiers were shooting at the prisoners, who became angrier and charged at the soldiers. All the soldiers were scared and withdrew from the corridor. One high ranking soldier locked the door to the second floor and shut the soldiers in. The soldiers withdrew to the other side of the second floor and started shooting at the prisoners in panic.

At that time Ahmed had already spent two years with his group and he was a top marksman and second in command to the officer. He was really scared and he was shaking so much that his officer took his weapon from him and started shooting at the prisoners. Ahmed fled towards the locked door in terror. He stumbled, covering his face with his shirt because he was being choked by the tear gas.

After five minutes the door was unlocked and they took out the injured soldiers but there were some still hiding. Most of the prisoners were covered in blood and the soldiers dragged them down the stairs by the feet and into a room outside of the main building. Most of them were already dead.

Ahmed stopped to rest just inside the main door. He joined his friend outside a room and lay with his back to the door. Screams and barks could be heard coming from the room.

“What’s happening inside?” Ahmed asked his friend. His friend told him there were two prisoners and dogs inside the room. Ahmed heard the sound of death and then an eerie silence. He staggered away from the door and started to vomit.

Ahmed went back upstairs as the riot persisted. He and the other soldiers continued to drag the prisoners down the stairs by their feet, banging their heads on the steps as they went. They were dragging them in groups of 10 and out of those ten, usually one was still alive and rolling his eyes. The prisoners that weren’t already dead were killed as their heads hit the stairs on the way down.

Riots continued on the other floors, so the soldiers started shooting at the windows with teargas and shotguns.

The total number of bodies came to 48 and they were laid on top of each other in the room outside the main building.

The prisoners that were still on the second floor were moved to the first floor for about one hour before a vehicle came to take them to another prison.

The operation took around four hours and the electricity and water were shut off. Afterwards the soldiers waited outside and were brought meat sandwiches. They watched the prison officers milling around a barnyard area beside the outside room. They asked the officers what they would do with the bodies and were told they would bury them.

Ahmed and his group went back the next day with two other groups. The outside room had been closed and there were signs of freshly dug graves in the barnyard. The prison felt calm, as if nothing had happened, but there was an unmistakable smell of death that the prison officers had tried to disguise with animal dung.

They asked what had been done with the bodies and were told not to ask and to forget about it. Ahmed and his group returned to the base where they were all given reward of 10EGP.

The names of the officers in charge, that Ahmed can remember: are Captain Ahmed Saleh, Captain Ashraf Taha and 1st Lieutenant Tarek Ezzat.

 Ahmed told me that he had seen one of his friends inside the prison. It was a neighbor of his who had previously been arrested for belonging to an Islamic group. I asked him how he felt when he had looked into the eyes of his friend. He looked at me, his big, brown eyes full of emotion, and told me that he felt nothing, he was in shock and he just turned his head away. As his friend passed him, he whispered to Ahmed to say hello to his family.

A few years ago the story was investigated on a show called “The Truth” hosted by Wael Elnokrashy. The disappearance of all these prisoners was investigated.  A lawsuit was filed but it never came to fruition.

Ahmed told me that he was emotionally affected for around six months, but I could see that he was still affected, nearly 18 years later. He wanted me to know that he and the other soldiers were just doing their job and following the orders of the Minister’s assistant and that if he hadn’t have followed orders he would have been jailed himself.

I am telling Ahmed’s story as he and I both hope that justice can be done. The people responsible must be held accountable.

 *not his real name

Euphoria in Cairo as Mubarak steps down after 17 days of protests


I was just leaving Tahrir Square with my friend Eman, when we heard a roar of elation rising from the square. We looked at each other excitedly.

“What happened?” Eman asked.

We rushed to the nearest shop, a bakery, to look at the TV. The owner told us that Mubarak had stepped down. We ran out to the street and joined in the celebrations, jumping up and down and cheering. We joined the crowds running to the square.

Tahrir square was heaving with a writhing mass of celebrants and a sea of Egyptian flags. People were cheering, “Allah Akbar,” “God is the Greatest.” There was singing and dancing, praying and fireworks, and of course drums. A party wouldn’t be a party in Egypt without the obligatory drums. The atmosphere was akin to a rock festival or football match, only better.

Someone had music blaring from speakers and his son of around two years danced to the music. A local youth danced in an Egyptian style on a table outside a fatir* shop. A young girl of around five years danced on the bonnet of a car.

Many of the people I spoke to told me how Mubarak had left the Egyptian citizens without dignity and how before the revolution they wanted to move to Europe or America and become citizens of another country.

“There was no dignity in my country,” Wael, a merchandiser for Tesco Egypt, 28 told me. “The police could stop me at anytime and I was unable to speak. Foreigners get more respect than me in my own country.”

Chartered Accountant, Mohamed Kassem, has been at Tahrir since January 25th with his wife and two sons, ages 11 and 8. Every night he has slept in his car, close to the square, while his wife and children come and go.

“Tonight I am very, very happy. Before I didn’t want to be Egyptian, now I’m proud to be Egyptian. Mubarak left the Egyptian people without dignity. Other countries don’t respect the Egyptian people.”

Angie Balata, who is normally an Outreach Officer, 32, has been demonstrating since 26th January. She told me that she was inspired by the mass uprising and that the youth have given hope to all the people in Egypt, “Tonight I feel euphoric pride….Egypt has just gone down in history. We have regained our glory. It feels good to be Egyptian.”

Around 9.45 a spokesperson announced, “We will leave the square. Promise that if something happens you know your way back to Tahrir”.

Celebrations continued all over the country throughout the night and the next day.

As for me, I am not Egyptian but I wish I were. I am so proud of the Egyptian people and the fact that so much was achieved with predominantly peaceful protests. My heart is filled with love and pride. It’s now time to clean up and rebuild the country and the economy. Long live Egypt. I flipping love you.