Tariq Al Aktash, the Jan 25th hero who will never be forgotten

Tariq had a job in a foreign company working in Egypt, and was preparing to travel to The United States, after he had applied for a visa, shortly before 25th of January, he had a loving wife, Rania and two little girls; Mariam, 6 years and Sara 6 months. He left all these behind and decided to join peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square. Tariq’s main concern wasn’t with “Bread”, he knew how to make a living quite well, however, he knew that many others were denied fair opportunities for making a living, in a country that didn’t offer it people “freedom” and “social justice.”

Tariq Abdul Latif Muhammad Al-Aktash, 36, was killed on 28th of January, 2011, the Friday of Anger, as a petroleum Engineer at Baker Hages, he didn’t subscribe to any political party and had no other motive to join the protests except his love of his country, Egypt.

His wife Rania says he had expected to be beaten “to a pulp”, or even to be jailed or alongside his friends, as he told her right before he left home, but he never imagined that he would be killed by his country fellowmen.

Tariq went out in response to the call for protests against the practices of the Egyptian police، on the very same day Egypt celebrated the Police Public Holiday, 25 January. His mother says he didn’t tell his family about his intention to join the demonstrations at first, Tariq was a peaceful protester like other thousands of Egyptian youths suffering under the political suppression, aspiring for democratic country, hoping for a better future, free of corruption, However, Tariq didn’t realize that he would pay his life as a price for these legitimate hopes.

Perhaps no two people would disagree with the kind remarkable person Tariq was, or over the great love he had for his family, nor on how he put all his efforts to create a better life for his daughters. However, his Rania widow said that despite the two girls losing their father, they will keep the pride for the kind of father he was. In January 2013, Rania, keeping the hope, wrote in a letter to the well-known writer Bilal Fadl that his husband’s life won’t go in vain.

“I will not let go of what my husband had believed in, his, and other people’s rights to revolt for what they believed in, these believed that he was and died for, even though he was peacefully demonstrating for these rights, as much as he was completely apolitical, even hated politics. But he thought that the revolution will bring a better future for his country and his daughters. I will not forgive nor forget. [he who works against the revolutions gaol] must has conscious, and be fully aware of the power of the prayer of a young woman lost her husband, and a father of her two daughters, crying her heart out for not only losing her husband but also losing the hope of the change the revolution could bring. A woman who can’t let go of a revolution she already paid a very high price for it to prevail.” January 2013

40 days of disappearance

Communications with Tariq were lost on the evening of the Friday of Anger, his family didn’t know about him. They started for a month and half laboriously searching for him, at a time when forcible disappearance wasn’t as familiar as it is now in Egypt. They went through a life-changing ordeal waiting and hoping he would be still alive. They hoped that he was just detailed and under investigation by some sovereign institution, but sometimes they also thought he was gone for good. They clung to hope on one hand, but let go of it, on the other hand, nothing spared them and led them to his body but chance.

On the 8th of March 2011, a man went to Tariq’s family and told them that his body was at Zeinhom Morgue and that he had confirmed his identity when he saw his identification card himself. This same man was searching for his brother and was suspicious of Tariq’s body due to the changes in his features after such a long time, but because his ID was still in his pocket the man was able to check the name and went to the address immediately.

Many days between the 28th of January and the 8th of March were spent by Tariq’s family in search of him. Tariq’s paternal cousin Ahmad says that they went back and forth between hospitals and Zeinhom Morgue and State Security headquarters, looking at registries of the dead and injured more than once, and witnessed first-hand the negligence and inaccuracy of the registries and lack of documentation. And the proof of this is that they eventually found Tariq in the morgue, a month after he spent in Qasr El-Eyni morgue which they had already checked several times during their search and found nothing.

Ahmad added that they received – a week after the martyr’s disappearance -, news of the arrival of 160 corpses to the Zeinhom morgue, which led them to head there immediately, only to witness bodies stacked on top of each other, each wrapped in plastic bags or blankets in a horrifying scene similar to traditional bakeries, and Tariq was not among them.

Ahmad explains the difficulties they faced like harassment as they repeatedly asked about Tariq, and the occasional difficulty reaching the gates of some State Security headquarters, and how their life turned to hell until chance put an end to their anxiety, and closed the black curtains on the scene that went so long as if it would never end, Tariq a martyr.

Not once was the government merciful to Tariq, not when it ordered the snipers to go out and hunt the souls of youths like birds, nor with its intentional negligence and indifference to the man and his family’s fate. Tariq’s family communicated with some officials during their search and received answers that were supposed to reassure them when they asked them not to talk about him again on the media so he wouldn’t be harmed. The situation was taken so lightly that they’d received a detailed account of Tariq’s every movement from the time he was arrested and moved to State Security until his presence in the military jail; which was of course proven to be untrue later. This long maze-like experience lived by Tariq’s family, while the man’s corpse was in the morgue, with an ID card in his pocket, shows how the government truly views its citizens, nothing.

Another year passed, it was the third when Bilal Fadl asked Rania to write him one more time, at that time the revolution had become something far away, and the persecution of suspects a thing of the imagination.

“I tried hard to write to you and express how I feel about what I see, or even about a hope I hold on to, but I couldn’t find any words that would do me justice, so forgive me for my thoughts are distorted and my emotions are confused. I remember in silence and compare a not so far away yesterday that could seem like today but it is different. I remember the pain of separation and imagine the pain of those whose children are written down as martyrs every day. Two years have passed and nothing has changed, the same scenes, same terrifying sounds, same worry and terror of a morning that might not come to be good.”