On the anniversary of the October victory, I salute Egypt’s martyrs who lost their lives liberating the country’s occupied land, and —alongside the courageous troops of the Egyptian Armed Forces —transformed the 1967 defeat into the 1973 victory. We must also remember that the October martyrs join the ranks of those who sacrificed their lives over thousands of years in order to achieve and maintain the unity of this great country, Egypt and the Egyptian nation. Also, for the independence of Egypt and resistance against invaders, restoring and strengthening the unity of the state when it was weakened by revolutions or invasions. And finally, achieving and protecting social justice.
Honouring those who lost their lives for the sake of Egypt’s independence is appropriate on this day; the country remained independent for nearly 70 per cent of its history —a record that no other nation in the world has achieved. Even when the invaders were in control, the people and soldiers of Egypt fought them off, making invasion a difficult and expensive mission, and established national control over some parts of the territories until they were able to liberate every inch. They also created empires that primarily served as defence frontlines.
The martyrs who lost their lives to liberate their homeland join ranks with those who died for social justice. They too deserve acknowledgment, starting with the martyrs of the first social revolution in history that raised the banner “Justice, Truth, Honesty” in Ancient Egypt, followed by the martyrs in revolutions against injustice, pilfering, oppression and tyranny in following eras until today. And concluding with the martyrs of the ongoing popular revolution of 25 January that raised the banners of justice, freedom, dignity, and co-citizenship.
We will begin the tale of Egypt’s martyrs at the dawn of history, when Egypt was born as a nation and state that was already mature, as noted by Egyptologists who have been fascinated by it since its inception. The first tribute goes to those who died in order to establish “a united Egyptian state” within the borders that have been in place since the beginning of history, from Rafah to Halfa. They maintained this unity and the country was never divided in any way, even when the central government collapsed and it was occupied, the goal of those who occupied and ripped the country apart was to rule a united Egypt, not dividing it into smaller Egypts.
The second tribute goes to those who died for the sake of “one Egyptian nation” and protected it against conspiracies to divide it, and so it remained a united close-knit entity, a model for all of humanity on how to co-exist despite multiple systems of belief. They raised the banner, “Religion for God; Nation for All” since its creation and formation until today, despite ongoing incitement since Akhneton’s revolution to today’s strife.
Egypt’s martyrs gave their lives to unite the country and establish a state. They created civilisation and embedded consciousness. In his famous book The Dawn of Consciousness, prominent American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted wrote: “The local groups that composed the country gradually united until it became the first great society of several million ruled by one king. In this way, the first civilised nation was created at a time when Europe and most of East Asia were still inhabited by disjointed groups of Ice Age hunters.It is likely that the first grouping of one nation occurred not more than 4,000 years ago, and the country remained united for several centuries in the ‘First Union’. It resulted in the establishment of a strong central government believed to be the first known man-made system that included millions of people.
“After the ‘Second Union’ was created later, began national development that took an impressive shape in the ruling system, as well as economic, social, religious, architecture, art and literature fields. In a unique period for humanity, Egypt was the first place where Man was able to progress beyond barbarism and into a more sophisticated social model, without the Egyptians having any heritage culture. This occurred at a time when Europe was still living in a barbaric Stone Age.”
Selim Hassan writes in the Ancient Egyptian Encyclopaedia that Egypt’s unity as a state and nation was built by the blood of courageous martyrs among the founding fathers of Egypt. Hassan states: “There is evidence that there were ongoing wars among the inhabitants of Egypt, especially between Upper Egypt and the Delta before the dynasties. On the ancient tablets of the kings of the South, we see depictions of them destroying cities in the Delta. King Narmar, whose name is connected with King Mena, is seen in a famous scene wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, beating the rebellious inhabitants of the Delta. Victory is undeniably definitive, as we see him carry the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, red and white, as unity is finally accomplished at around 3,200 BC under one of the greatest rulers in the land, King Mena.”
After its birth, Egypt remained protected and independent thanks to the heroic acts and sacrifices of its courageous soldiers. Hassan said that in order to ensure Egypt’s independence under the leadership of King Mena and his successors, the Egyptian army repelled attacks by the Libyans in the West of Egypt who were encroaching on the Delta, and they succumbed to a disgraceful defeat. It also battled in the Sinai Peninsula to repel “Asian” invasions. King Tsor Ra of the 5th Dynasty left us a portrait in Cave Valley depicting himself beating the Asians, with the following inscription: “The vanquisher of Asians from every land.”
Egypt’s liberation and unity only became permanent after the central government brought Nubia until Halfa under control. Egypt’s kings continued to closely monitor rebellion and tribal movements, confronting invasions that threatened the periphery of Egypt from time to time.
Hassan says that we do not have enough evidence that there was a national army when Egypt became united, but instead recruits from various regions across Egypt. The soldiers from each region were led by their governor to assist the king during war. When King Zoser became king, Egypt began creating an organised permanent army that was responsible for suppressing internal rebellions or revolutions that threatened the unity of the state, until the 3rd Dynasty eliminated any domestic resistance to a united central state.
What remained for Egyptian kings was the more pertinent task of protecting the country against foreign invasions. The borders that were prone to attack were divided into zones called “Gates of the Kingdom” and at each were built trenches and barricades. Wani tells us that during a defence campaign under his command at the end of the 6th Dynasty, when the Egyptian state was fractured and disunited, supplies for the army remained in very good order. Therefore, not one single soldier took by force bread or shoes from anyone on the way.
Despite the problems of the “ancient central state”, Egypt’s army demonstrated its superiority in combat and defended the country’s sovereignty in the East until Palestine and the South until Sudan.