Khaled Said, a young man from Alexandria, was beaten to death by local police this summer —well before rumblings of the country’s current unrest. But a Facebook page that bears his name has been one of the driving forces behind the upheaval that started last week. This facebook site in his name has been instrumental in organising the demontrations. The interesting thing is that nobody, not even the activists themselves, know who is behind the handle ” El Shaheed”, which means “the Martyr”.
“El Shaheed is a dead man who everyone is rallying around,” said a U.S.-based activist in close contact with Egypt’s protesters. “But who’s doing this? There is no gender. There is no name. There is no leader. It is purely about the thought.”
El Shaheed’s Facebook page, simply named “”We are all Khaled Said” began as a campaign against torture and police brutality. But this month, shortly after the Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was brought down following weeks of grassroots protests inspired by Bouazizi’s self-immolation, a post appeared on the Facebook page, announcing a day of protest in Egypt—Tuesday, Jan. 25.
This is a living example of the power of thought, intention, energy and transparency. Nothing remains hidden, all will come to the light, and tools that connect people have an instrumental role in terms of taking time out of the equation and giving power and momentum to those who are not afraid to act.
On the Facebook page, El Shaheeed took pains to avoid political and religious language in the posts, wanting to bring together groups that had otherwise often competed. Stripped of ideological overtones, the page became a draw for longtime activists as well as regular people. The language was emotional but conversational and filled with slang. “It’s not someone talking to the people,” said Khalil. “It’s someone talking with the people.”
Protesters hadn’t brought political banners to the demonstrations but instead carried the Egyptian flag; men and women, rich and poor, Christians and Muslims, were suddenly marching together. “I can’t believe it,” El Shaheeed said in a message a day after the protests.