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Egypt bids farewell to young victims of recent political violence

Two funerals are held on Monday for two young men on opposite sides of political spectrum laid low by latest outbreak of political violence

Ekram Ibrahim from Cairo and Yasmine Fathy from Damanhour, Monday 26 Nov 2012
Egypt
Egyptians march in the funeral of 16 years old Gaber Salah, known as "Jika" in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo on Monday. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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As Egypt's ongoing political battle heats up, Egypt bid farewell on Monday to two new 'martyrs,' aged 15 and 16, in two emotional and painful funerals – one on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Cairo's Tahrir Square and the other in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour.

"If I fail to come back, I ask the people to continue with the revolution and claim our rights," wrote Gaber Salah – known to his friends as 'Jika' – on his Facebook page shortly before his death.

Many Egyptians answered his call and marched in the funeral of 16-year-old Jika on Monday in Tahrir Square and to Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Jika lost his life while taking part in the first anniversary of last year's Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes. Jika died after being shot in his head and chest by a rubber bullet.

"I am not here to pursue the revolution's demands, but for retribution for the murderers of Egyptians. I can't forget my friend who was killed in this area," Mohab Selim, one of Jika's friends, told Ahram Online.

The people stood hand-in-hand on both sides of Mohamed Mahmoud Street – since dubbed 'Eyes of Freedom Street' – creating a path for the coffin to pass through. The walls of the street remain covered in graffiti, telling the stories of those who fell during and after Egypt's January 25 Revolution.

"The revolution has turned into coffins," Rasha Azab, activist and member of the 'No to Military Trials' campaign, who marched in the funeral, told Ahram Online.

Jika was like a son to many of the Egyptians who came to the funeral. "Jika was the same age as my grandson; I could not stay at home while my heart is in pain," Soaad Fouad, who participated in the march in her wheelchair, told Ahram Online.

No political banners or chants were allowed at the funeral. Each time someone began a political chant, other people quickly silenced them. Women, as well as men, were in tears; both young and old were also in pain.

Jika, who died in Qasr El-Aini Hospital on Sunday, took part in last year's Mohamed Mahmoud clashes.

"I am going for the sake of the blood of our brothers and sisters; I am going to Mohamed Mahmoud for the sake of the revolution; I, am also going because I carried with my own hands my friend, Ahmed Osama, after being killed; I am going to regain my country," Salah posted on his Facebook page before taking part in the first anniversary of last year's Mohamed Mahmoud protests.

Different faces from Egypt's political opposition were also present at the funeral, including former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabahi, head of Egypt's Popular Current, and Amr Hamzawi, prominent member of the Free Egypt Party.

In response, President Mohamed Morsi's official Facebook page posted an entry announcing his condolences for the death of both Gaber and 15-year-old Islam Masoud, who was killed in an attack Sunday night on an office of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

The president said he was awaiting results of investigations into both deaths, stressing that whoever was responsible would not escape punishment.

An Ahram Online reporter reported that thousands of people also marched in Masoud's funeral in Damanhour. The Muslim Brotherhood claims Masoud was a member of the group, although this remains unconfirmed.

"Islam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was killed after being hit in the head by a stone. They killed him to create conflict in the country," Brotherhood member Ahmed Nassar told Ahram Online.

The funeral kicked off from Al-Hedaia Mosque in Damanhour around 2:30pm, after which participants marched around the governorate chanting slogans. "Go, Islam, and wait for us at heaven's door," they chanted. Most attendees were moved to tears – even those who didn’t take part in the funeral were visibly emotional.

"Whether or not he is a brotherhood member, it's enough that there is a mother who has lost her 15-year-old son," Amal Ali, who attended the funeral, told Ahram Online.

Leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, along with members of the Salafist movement, were also present at the funeral as well.

Clashes between Brotherhood and anti-Brotherhood forces in Damanhour broke out on Saturday evening and left 26 injured. They re-erupted on Sunday evening in the city's Saea Square, leading to Masoud's death.

Protests and clashes erupted in various governorates of Egypt after Morsi released a constitutional decree augmenting his powers. More protests – both for and against Morsi's decree – are planned for Tuesday. Many fear more violence between the two rival political camps.

All political parties, both Islamist and non-Islamist, have denounced the latest bloodshed and issued appeals for calm. 

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