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© 2011 Rising from Tahrir All Rights Reserved
© 2011 Rising from Tahrir All Rights Reserved

Book Excerpt

© 2011 Rising from Tahrir All Rights Reserved



Mohamed Shawky

Muslim Brotherhood/"6th of April" Activist




There was an intricate system for every “wanna be” member of the Brotherhood. First, you get educated. There were levels akin to a K through 12 system that you had to go through, before being allowed further access to participatory activities.


With the completion of each curriculum level, you were moved up a notch until you could move up the ranks to an actual position. Positions were divided from micro to macro, by area, town, governorate etc… you could be active in improving Egypt at any “level” you earned the right to commit yourself to, in the field that you were best skilled in.


By putting all this effort in, you brought yourself closer to God’s purpose for your existence. You were his ambassador on earth and your time a gift from the almighty to you for the purpose of the advancement of all those around you. Nothing was considered too small a task or of “lesser value” than anything else.


And so I stood proud in my college campus in 2005 with my Brotherhood-related flyers in hand willing to risk my reputation as a bright, energetic and accomplished student. I had already had a presence in the Student Union and was head of what we called a “Student Family” on campus. I helped put together student-led art galleries and set-up recreational and educational field trips for the different faculties in my college. . I wasn’t one to just sit there and focus solely on the academics of the college experience. You could say I stood to lose my standing with the faculty and the students on many levels by my insistence on taking my “active” nature to a different level.



The Muslim Brotherhood has three axes of involvement: the spiritual and prayer axis, the moral and behavioral axis and the political movement axis.


My college days were divided between attending my classes and then catching a Brotherhood meeting. Between the three axes, I was attending close to a meeting a day and hence was getting a parallel degree in activism “Brotherhood” style.


It started to become obvious to me that even within university walls, the administrators started to catch up on the identities of “Brotherhood” students and made sure that they were slowly left out of activities and events. That seemed to motivate me further. The resistance was proof that the system was built to be biased against a certain faction. That was unacceptable to me.


Just completely unacceptable.


Any individual who worked hard to achieve something he/she believed in, that benefitted others and harmed no one, should not be ousted or silenced just because he/she chose to do things differently and dared to be vocal about it.


This driving force led me straight into my first arrest. I had been promoted up the “Brotherhood” ranks to a security officer within my faculty. That meant that I was responsible for the safety of other “Brotherhood” members within my faculty.


One day when we were trying to market a fundraiser for the Brotherhood, I noticed that another member was being careless. We had been trained not to stand alone while distributing flyers, or stand in the same area for a long period of time. This particular member had been doing just that.


As I approached him to tell him he was being watched and he should get rid of the flyers he had on him, two university security guards approached, grabbed us and escorted us off campus where a police truck was waiting. Campus Security Guards in Universities across Egypt were known to play this role. They shamelessly acted as the government’s informants and enjoyed the power of their positions.


I remember thinking to myself; they did it all too quick…no one saw us get arrested. Now the “Brotherhood” had no knowledge of the arrest and wouldn’t jump in to attempt to get us out. At that point my parents were not aware of my affiliation to the group or the potentially dangerous activities I participated in. Even if they had known, I spent weekdays in the college dormitory and it would take them a few days to find out that I never made it back to my room.


As they aggressively pushed us into the truck, my heart was beating hard in my throat and my knees were literally knocking together. It was only 4:00 O’clock in the evening.


The truck stopped in front of a large ominous building downtown. We were partly pushed and partly dragged up the steps to a reception area where they quickly separated us. I was taken to a room that resembled interrogation rooms one saw in the movies. It had a table in the middle and a large mirror in the wall.


I was left in that room for at least three hours.


During that period I had enough time to talk myself through what I would say. I reminded myself that I was an “A” student who had never been caught doing anything wrong before. All I had to do was stick with the story that this was my first time and that I didn’t realize the implication of giving out those flyers they caught us with.


I remembered that my wallet was full of business cards of Brotherhood members and my cell phone was full of their numbers. I even had some pictures saved to the phone that could get me in trouble. I requested to go to the bathroom. It was about three hours into my detainment so it didn’t look too suspicious.


In the bathroom I quickly deleted all numbers and pictures from my phone and cut up the business cards and flushed them down the toilet. I did it in record speed. So fast in fact that I realized that now my phone appeared conspicuously empty…I started to save whatever numbers I had committed to memory, so I could at least claim I had a new phone and I didn’t have my complete contact list saved up yet.


Back in the room, I figured that I was probably being watched through the mirror. I quickly decided that instead of just sitting there I should take out my books and work on my assignments. I figured it would help calm me down and it would support my image as a hard working student. An officer quickly came in and shouted “What the hell do you think you are doing?” to which I answered, “Studying till I am allowed to go. When do you think that will be?” I asked. The officer laughed and said something to the effect of “When it’s cold in hell”.


The first officer to enter the room after the yelling one was a serious but non-threatening man. His requests were simple; he wanted names and locations of meetings and any information about future “Brotherhood” plans.


“The Muslim Brotherhood has a presence on campus?” I asked in a shrill voice, “Is that what you thought I was doing? Working for them?” I looked at him in a panicked desperate manner and added, “I…I am a student in the faculty of Social Services…you will ruin my reputation with these allegations…you will ruin me!”


The officer was surprised by my reaction and appeared to believe me. His eyes showed he had no reason not to believe my account of being involved in the fund-raiser as a first-timer. His tone became noticeably calmer, but he kept me in the room till 3:00 am nonetheless and repeated the same questions across the 10 hours I spent in the holding room. I stuck to my story.


When I was finally released in the early hours of dawn, I met with my friend who I was arrested with at the front steps of the “Amn El Dawla” building. He was standing with his parents who were in tears. They had been looking for us all night after they had heard from someone at school that we were seen with University Security.


Assuming the worst, they came to the “Amn El Dawla” building and were told that we were not inside. Not knowing where else to search, they desperately sat on the steps till the wee hours of the morning when we finally walked out.


When I walked into my dorm room, I fell into bed without changing my clothes and with my book bag still on my shoulder. The last thought to cross my mind was that I really should tell my parents what I was doing.