Kamal Khalil: Memoirs of 40 years of political struggle in Egypt

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 20 Jan 2013

Days before the 2-year anniversary of Egypt's revolution, Kamal Khalil releases his memoires of political struggle since the 70's - and calls for action even today

Kamal Khalil
Kamal Khalil (m) during a press conference announcing Democratic Revolutionary Coalition in summer 2012 (Photo: Randa Ali)

A stone’s throw from Tahrir Square, which has seen his struggles and protests over 40 years, Egyptian leftist figure and activist, Kamal Khalil, stood to recount his long, rich political history that he wrote in new memoire, Hekayat Min Zaman Fat (Tales of a Past Time). Tens of fans and friends raced to get his signature on their copies at the book signing held at Cairo Atelier on Saturday, 19 January.

The 320-page memoires narrates Khalil’s political life since the early 70’s including the1977 uprising, in which he played a major role. In fact, he was arrested for nearly a year along with another 175 people. He gets arrested another 15 times throughout the next few years. He also participates in the January 25 Revolution in 2011, but comments that the demands haven’t been fulfilled yet and therefore he calls on Egyptians to take to the streets again on the revolution’s second anniversary – coming up in just a few days - to topple President Morsi and oust the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

A number of Egyptian writers, such as Ibrahim Abdel Maguied, Mohammed Salmawy and Kamal Moghith attended the book signing, in addition to political and human rights activist Gamal Eid and others.

Writer and the publisher of Khalik’s book, Ibrahim Abdel-Maguied, expressed his deep appreciation to what he called humane history, included among the lines of Khalil’s political history. “What’s really taking in these memoires is not only this great, struggling history but the way he narrates it from a humane perspective, paying tribute to the men and women, who shared with him this history. He wrote about every human that he met in his journey in jail or in a protest or even while being beaten and tortured.” Ibrahim Explained.

What’s remarkable according to Ibrahim, who is an established novelist, is the language Khalil used. He praises Khalil for succeeding to illustrate the scenes before the reader’s eyes, as if he’s witnessing it himself.

“I’ve known Khalil for a long time; he used to improvise iconic slogans while in the protests but I never thought that he had this rich imaginative language,” he said.

Kamal Khalil started to narrate the story of the book quoting Che Guevara’s famous saying: “The past is lost, the present is a time of struggle; the future is ours,” Khalil said that he started to write the book one year before the January 25 Revolution, as he wanted to tell the tales of the past but simultaneously he started to write a book titled Tales of a Coming Day, where he predicted an uprising but in 2014, not 2011.

Khalil recounted the events of 1977 uprising, which he considers the milestone of the leftist struggle during the 70’s against President Sadat. He describes the 1977 uprising, however, as the incomplete uprising as it ended only two days after breaking out, as well as the fact that the demands were limited to chanting against the price of basic needs and did not develop to call for the downfall of the regime.

The 1977 uprising in Egypt broke out on 18 and 19 January, due to governmental decisions to raise the prices of a basic foodstuff like bread and oil. Security forces could not repress the masses, who took to the streets suddenly. By nightfall on 18 January, the army deployed its forces in Cairo, repressing the movement. President Sadat retreated from the decisions. One hundred seventy six persons were arrested and charged in the events. An Egyptian court acquitted them although president Sadat had vowed in a press conference to “smash them.”

“In 1977 we did not complete what we took out to the streets for, the avant-garde of the student movement and the leftist current paid a high price for that in jail or in the torturing rooms. We do not have to repeat this. The demands of the January 25 Revolution haven’t been fulfilled yet and we have to continue our road. Ousting President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power in the past few months is a must or the revolution will be beaten and the country will be lost,” he said.

Khalil called on Egyptians to “occupy the parliament, state TV and cabinet headquarters and form a revolutionary government.”

“When we go out to the streets next Friday, we shall not demand any reforms because they will never listen. We shall chant for the downfall of the regime. We will win; do not be depressed, the future is ours even if we die. We will make the future with our blood,” he said.

Khalil went on to tell different stories of his life. He told some funny accidents that happened to him, especially when he was wanted by the police in 2003 for calling for mass protests against the American invasion of Iraq.

“In 2005 the police was looking for me and some of my friends advised me to hide - and I did. After few days I got a call from a friend of mine telling me that I was arrested. I told him that I was not and I’m safe but he insisted that I was arrested. In the end we discovered that they arrested my brother, who looks like me.”

The leftist struggler ended his speech with a greeting to his fellows, who he left in his previous house at Dayer AlNahyaa, somewhere in Cairo, where new struggling stories are being born.


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