Zeyad Salem
Last updated: 5 March, 2013

Qorasaya Island – fighting for the right of being

Will the children who woke up one day to find their own army attacking their home ever be able to forgive a regime that terrorized them, asks Egyptian writer Zeyad Salem.

Qorsaya Island, located near the west bank of the Nile around 10 kilometers from central Cairo, is a community of some 1,000 fishermen and 4,000 farmers that have been living there for generations. A self-sufficient community, its inhabitants were used to a basic rural way of life in the midst an overcrowded, congested city until their first encounter with the Mubarak regime in 2007 when the Cairo2050 plan outlined development components for the island that had nothing to do with its people and was just based on corporate interests aiming to transform the country into an ATM for a network of few businessmen but without positive effect on the society or its needs.

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Old fishing and construction licenses as well as over 20,000 documents issued by various official bodies acknowledged the presence of the people on El-Qorsaya and refuted the government claim back then that they do not have the right to be on the land and may therefore legitimately be stripped of it.

In November 2012, a few months after the election of the first civil president for Egypt, military and security forces stormed the island during the early hours of November 18. Fields were burnt and at least two farmers were killed defending themselves while tens were injured and many arrested. At least 24 of them faced military trial for defending their land against those who wanted to confiscate it and turn it from a productive self sufficient community into a an exclusive tourist resort.

On January 19, 2013, a day was held on the island in solidarity with its residents. Children were allowed to engage in activities like painting, playing, singing or just run around getting random hugs from people they don’t know, but were willing to show them that they are not alone, that their fight is part of bigger battle against the army who went from its job to protect Egyptians to protecting private interests. This has gone on for much longer than most Egyptians realize and it is only becoming more evident in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Mahmoud – one of the Qorsaya children – portrayed this perfectly with a painting where he drew an army soldier pointing a gun to a farmer’s back and wrote “Have mercy”, a simple powerful genuine message that sums up the future of this country, a country who wanted freedom and fought for it.

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Every day more people are getting behind the fight and for what it is worth, it is yet another proof that we, the Egyptian people, have zero tolerance for being randomly shot, killed, injured, beaten, tortured or detained, we are one against any entity that violates our rights. Talking with the kids on that day proved one thing; the days of unquestioned figures of authority is gone and children as young as Mahmoud are there to question and demand, and won’t give up until justice is served.

On February 27, the military court sentenced one defendant to five years in prison in absentia, 11 people to three months in prison and ordered the release of the other defendants. However, the 11 sentenced to three months will be released, as they have already spent three months in custody pending sentencing. But will the children who woke up one day to find their own army attacking their home ever forget this day, will they ever be able for forgive a regime who terrorized them. This is a question only the future holds the answer to.

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