Rania Zaki '97 tells her 7-year-old son what it felt like to be part of the
historic change in Egypt
The Day Your Dad Joined the
Protest on "The Day of Wrath"
Being 7 years old right now, you are witnessing a piece of
history that you may forget about when you are older. I am
writing to you today about what you and I have seen and
been through on January 28, 2011, the day your dad decided
to join "The Day of Wrath" protest.
Your dad [Waleed Nassar '96] and I had a "moment of
wrath" when he came to me after the Friday prayer, sat
beside me on the couch and told me in his ever-so-calm
manner, "Rania, I'm going to the protest." I flew off the
handle. I told him that a day named "Day of Wrath" meant it
was certainly not going to be peaceful, that his primary duty
was to protect his wife and children, that some people go to a
protest and end up in the morgue, that he can support the
protest in any other way, that thousands of people were going
to be there and the demonstration didn't depend on him.
I said all sorts of things, anything to keep him from going. He
told me that he was going to do his duty as a father, and that
meant speaking up to provide a better country for his
children to live in. I shouted at him as he closed the door,
"It is clear that your priority is not your family!"
He left. You called to me from my room and said, "Mama, baba left a note on your bed." It was a piece of paper that
contained cash, an ATM card, and your dad's bank account
number and password written down neatly. I felt extreme
sadness, anger, anxiety. I was paralyzed for a moment, before
deciding to pray.You joined me too, and when we finished, I
told you to make a wish to God. With our foreheads pressed
to the ground, I heard soft footsteps behind me and turned
around to find your dad kneeling down beside me. "I didn't
want to leave without telling you that I love you," he said,
with tears welling up in his eyes. I gave him the biggest hug
my arms could muster, and in the middle of my sobbing, he told me calmly about all sorts of technological things such as
how to track down his phone by GPS so that I could know
where he was when the phone lines were activated again.
And so, he left again. I was left in the hands of Al Jazeera
live news coverage and my imagination. At first, I saw the
water cannons being sprayed on the protesters on top of
the 6th of October Bridge. The water cannons were
followed by tear gas. The tear gas was followed by rubber
bullets. The rubber bullets were followed by firebombs. Five
people had lost their lives, the news reported. I was crying
so hard I had to sit a few inches away from the television to
be able to see through my tears. When bloody images came
up, I would scream to you, "Seif, go draw me something!
Draw me anything –– a dinosaur –– ANYTHING!" I
didn't want to appear hysterical, but I was, and you knew it.
You sat beside me, patted my hair and said, "Mama, it's okay.
Salamtek ya mama, salamtek ya mama." It was you who was
comforting me. [Your sister] Lara was marching up and
down the TV room chanting, "Baaatel! Baaatel!" and I
thought to myself, "I hope that one day, I can look back at
this moment and laugh."
I saw someone who looked like your dad,
even dressed in the same clothes as your dad,
stretched out lifeless inside a car. I felt myself
becoming light-headed, and my speech became
a little slurred. I wanted to call your dad to
make sure he was safe, but the phone lines
were purposefully cut. I sat even closer to the
TV, waiting for the clip to come again to verify
if it was your dad or not. All other clips came
except for that one. My hysterical sobbing
made you lose your cool, as you kept asking
me, "Mama, are you worried about baba? Is baba going to be okay?"
Hours later, 9:15 pm to be precise, the
doorbell rang. You and I ran toward the door.
I opened it, and as soon as I saw your father,
I flung my arms around him and cried like
I never cried in my life before.
To get to us, your dad walked many, many
kilometers on foot. He walked so much, the
soles of his feet were covered in blisters. He
managed toward the end of his walk to hitch a
ride in several different taxis, and the drivers refused to
charge any fare. Your father had been in the midst of all the
tear gas, rubber bullets and firebombs we had seen on TV.
The next day, despite being exhausted, your dad
unscrewed the metal rods of his camera tripod and went to
the street at night to protect us while we slept. Gun shots
were being fired all over the place, but thankfully, you were
What I want to conclude is: Although I disagreed with
your dad about going to the protest, I know that he did it for
you, he did it for Lara and he did it for the future of his
country. Dad made it back from the protest, but others did
not. Most of them were youth, Seif. Remember this
revolution; remember the people who fought and died trying
to achieve a better life; and remember that your dad was a
part of it, despite your mother's famous wrath!
Be proud and dream big.
Your hysterical mother, Rania
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