Omar Khairy Ezz Kharma Interview 1/6
Story Corp (Egyptian Revolution)
Interviewer: Omar Khairy
Interviewee: Ezz Kharma
Place: AUC Campus, New Cairo
College: American University in Cairo
Prof.: Dr. Kim Fox
Date Completed: 7 Mar. 2011
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Today I’m interviewing Ezz Kharma, an AUC student activist in his early 20’s, living in
Zamalek. Kharma took part in the protests of the Egyptian revolution every day with his best
friend, Taymour Emam (Timmy), who, on the 28th of January, got shot in the eye with a rubber
bullet, causing him to lose sight in his left eye; an incident that turned Kharma and Taymour’s
motives to protest from shared reasons to personal ones. Taymour could not make it due to the
fact that he is in Germany for a check-up, but Kharma willingly agreed to share their bleak story
and personal experience of the revolution with us.
1. Khairy: To what extent were you involved in the protests that started on January 25th,
Kharma: (coughing) I was there every day till February 11. The curfew didn’t stop me us
from staying in Tahrir Square (which translates to “liberation or “freedom”), and fighting
to overthrow Mubarak and his regime. We set up tents and made it clear to our parents
that we’re not leaving. The BBC interviewed my cousin, Nazly Hussein, a former
AUCian. She talked on our behalf and pointed out: “I either leave here free or dead”. The
only time I left the area was when I needed to shower and get food. So yeah, basically I
was there the whole time from January 25th till February 11th.
2. Khairy: What were your personal reasons for protesting in Tahrir?
Kharma: (coughs) I started off protesting for the general public and the less fortunate who
used to go to bed hungry everyday; for all the people and journalists who were
imprisoned and tortured for expressing their opinions and criticizing our flawed and
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unfair government. That was on the 25th, but three days later, on the 28th, my best friend,
who I also consider as an older brother got shot with a rubber bullet in the eye. We stood
there in shock not knowing what to do, and the person who shot him just looked at us and
started shooting others in their legs, as if what he did was normal. My friend was
screaming hysterically, and we actually saw the hole in his eyelid. We had no car and had
to walk him to a hospital. People helped us and two strangers made sure he found a
doctor before they left. Luckily, the hospital wasn’t too far away, but still, it was a
horrifying experience, and I would never want anyone to go through what we went
through. I’ve never witnessed anything so brutal in my life. For me, personally, the
protests turned bleak and stirred anger. From that moment on, this anger was my weapon
for change. Till this day on my friend still can’t see from his left eye and walks around
with a patch on his face. The doctor here in Cairo said it’s too soon to find out whether or
not he’ll ever see from it again, but it doesn’t look good, which saddens me because he
still has his whole life ahead of him. He’s only 27!
3. Khairy: Some foreign media outlets branded the revolution as “peaceful”. Do you agree
with that term?
Kharma: (laughs) I actually don’t. It started off peaceful, like a celebration for change
and freedom, but things did turn ugly. It’s not just about the violence that the government
brought or the weapons used or the deaths that occurred because if it was just that I might
have agreed with calling the revolution peaceful, but that wasn’t the case. After Mubarak
announced that he won’t rerun for presidency in September, pro-Mubarak people got so
angry and went down to the streets the following day to fight with anti-Mubarak’s. Yes,
some of them were hired, but not all. My relatives actually went down to support
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Mubarak and some even got injured in the process. Once conflict rises between civilians,
you just know for a fact that it’s not peaceful anymore. It’s funny cause freedom of
speech is actually one of the things we were fighting for, yet people threw rocks at each
other for having opposing political views.
4. Khairy: I was going ask you more about Timmy, but since you already told us what
happened to him that day, could you share with us whether or not this incident stopped
him from protesting more?
Kharma: It actually motivated him to fight more for our rights and for this government to
step down. Like I mentioned before, this “anger” within us forced us to stay and refuse to
leave the square without putting an end to this corruption. Of course he had surgery
performed on him and had to stay home for a few days, but as soon as he got better, he
came back to Tahrir and joined us once again.
5. Khairy: So for you this whole thing was a dark experience rather than a celebration?
Kharma: (laughs) Actually, no, of course bad things happened to us and I doubt no one
went through obstacles of their own, but everyday brought hope. First Mubarak got rid of
the government then the police left the streets, but as unsafe as it was, it made us believe
that change after thirty years is possible, and that with each passing day, more and more
of our demands were being met. We knew that we weren’t going to leave until all of them
6. Khairy: What about February 11? That must have been a celebration.
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Kharma: February 11 was more than a celebration. I was never happier than I was that
day. Still, I would describe this day as bittersweet. Seeing people holding up pictures of
martyrs with “you can smile” written on their foreheads made me tear up. It’s actually
funny because I was standing there crying, and Timmy was with me. Everyone else was
screaming and celebrating. They must’ve thought I was a pro-Mubarak. Timmy’s eye
doctor advised him against any efforts that have to do with his eyes so I had to snap out
of it in order not to make him feel all emotional. I felt bad as it is because it was my idea
to go down that day. I woke him and forced him to come with me the day he got shot, but
he told me he would’ve joined me anyway.
7. Khairy: So do you still protest these days?
Kharma: Definitely not. It’s enough and more protesting will only do harm to our
country. We got almost, if not everything we asked for and Mubarak and the NDP were
both our main concerns, and now they’re gone. Now everyone will protest when anything
goes wrong, and that’s definitely not for our country’s best interest, It’s simply a reason
to stay in Tahrir and ask for more. Ahmed Shafick wasn’t given a fair chance, but now
everyone wants change right away. They’re too impatient. It’s actually sad because Cairo
now is in chaos. Reports of assaults and robberies, even rumors about rape and kidnaps
have circulated. I just hope people can distinguish between what’s good for us and what
isn’t. Otherwise, everything we fought for is worthless. We certainly wouldn’t want to be
blamed for this chaos when the whole point of the revolution was to get rid of it.
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Thank you for your time, and for sharing this with us. I can’t imagine how hard it might
have been and I hope things get better with Taymour.