“I prefer to live blind but with my head held high.” says Ahmed.
CAIRO, November 28, 2011 (AFP) – Ahmed Harara lost one eye in the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, only to lose the other during protests to oust the military rulers who took power after the fall of the veteran strongman.
Photos of Harara’s chiselled face — a patch on each eye — were quickly circulated on social networking sites, galvanising opinion against security forces’ brutal methods to quell the mass protests that left 42 people dead.
In spite of himself, Harara has become the latest hero of Egypt’s revolution.
“I don’t want to be a symbol. The real symbol is Tahrir Square and the protesters there,” said the 31-year-old dentist.
Surrounded by friends, an emotional Harara carved a path through the thick crowd of Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of rallies that ousted Mubarak — which he can no longer see.
Everywhere he goes, he is applauded, congratulated, cheered, kissed. Behind him, a banner reads “We are all your eyes, Ahmed Harara.”
On January 25, Harara joined hundreds of thousands of Egyptians calling for political and economic reforms in efforts to end Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.
Three days later, during fierce clashes between protesters and security forces, a police shot claimed his eye.
“I was hit by birdshot in the head, the neck and the right eye. Shrapnel damaged my retina,” Harara said.
He was also hit in the chest, causing internal bleeding which plunged him into a three-day coma.
“I was treated at the Cairo International Eye hospital. Then I stayed home for two months,” he said.
But even after losing his eye — and his job — Harara insisted on joining protesters 10 months later, this time in a bid to bring down the military council that took over when Mubarak was chased from power in February.
On November 19, when the latest round of clashes erupted between protesters and police, Harara headed into Mohammed Mahmud, the flashpoint street leading from Tahrir to the heavily fortified interior ministry.
This time, a rubber bullet took out his second eye.
Harara is by no means the only one to suffer eye injuries during the protest.
Officer in video shooting protesters in eye “Wanted” by Egypt activists, reward offered
Egypt’s Tahrir Square protesters have put a 5000 Egyptian pound reward for anyone who leads them to the police officer who was featured in a video shooting protesters in the eye.
The officer, identified as Mahmoud Sobhy al-Shenawy, 24, a 2009 graduate from the police academy, was featured in a shocking video that was circulated by online activists and in it he aims a rifle and shoots at protesters, only feet away, hitting one in the eye and then being applauded by the surrounding soldiers.
“You did great Basha, you nailed his eye,” said a soldier in the video.
We are all “the hero Ahmed Harara”
Having lost an eye in both revolutionary waves, Harara has become “a living martyr” of the revolution that led to the elections that begin on Monday, says his friend, artist Mohamed al-Jbeili.
“I did much less than others during this revolution,” insisted Harara.
“They are all heroes, the protesters in Suez, Mansura, Assiut, Damietta… they all want the ouster of the military,” he said.
Pages in his honour were set up on Facebook: “We are all the hero Ahmed Harara” and “Let’s rename Mohammed Mahmud to Ahmed Harara Street.”
Harara says he has no regrets about joining the protests.
“I prefer to live blind but with my head held high.”