Mother of Killed Coptic Activist: My Son Was Fighting for Freedom
By: Mohammad Khawly
Published Thursday, October 20, 2011
Nadia Beshara recounts to al-Akhbar the harrowing experience of her son’s death at the Maspero massacre, her disillusionment with the armed forces and renewed faith in the need for change.
Nadia Beshara, like most southern Egyptians, believes it is wrong to accept condolences for her son’s murder before his soul is avenged. Beshara is the mother of Mina Daniel, the Egyptian blogger and activist who was killed on October 9 in front of the Egyptian television building. In his will, he requested that his body be wrapped in the Egyptian flag and carried through Tahrir Square.
The martyr’s mother, as she prefers to be called, is from Upper Egypt. There, under a merciless sun and in the midst of severe poverty, she came to the early realization that life is cruel. But her harsh environment shaped her character into one of love and charity, strength and freedom.
Upper Egypt suffers from neglect and marginalization, and many of its people migrate to the north. Nadia was no exception. She too made the journey to Cairo, but couldn’t handle life in the capital city. After 10 years, she relocated to Sanbo, a village in the southern province of Assiut.
One day, she was sitting on her humble couch as usual, watching Al-Tarek, an Egyptian Coptic TV channel. As she stared at the screen, watching the live broadcast of the Copts’ march from Shubra district, she heard the cry of her youngest daughter Cherie on TV. Cherie’s screams, broadcast live, were what first alerted Nadia to the death of her son.
“My son is dead, my son is dead! My heart is telling me he’s dead!” repeated Nadia to her husband Ibrahim. Three of Nadia’s children, Mary, Cherie, and Mina, lived in Azbit al-Nakheel, a poor neighborhood in eastern Cairo. Building the property in al-Nakheel was a real test of character for Nadia. Her husband had been away, working in Kuwait for the previous 15 years. He, like many Egyptians, migrated to the Gulf for work opportunities. “I used to supervise the workers as they were building the house, just like a man would!” Nadia says.
With Ibrahim in the Gulf, Nadia had to raise their children on her own. She had no choice but to become the “man of the house.” She says that “when a man from Upper Egypt travels abroad, he gets caught up in the moment; all that matters to him is making and saving money for the time of need.” Yet she insists that she was “up to the challenge, as I had an early taste of the hard life.” Nadia was orphaned at a young age and she maintains that “whether a father is dead or away for business for a long time, it’s all the same when you are a child.”
Mina’s mother weeps then pulls herself together. She laments the loss of her son, then reassures herself that he’s “in the arms of Christ.” She talks with an enchanting simplicity that makes you feel as if he was lying in his bed asleep in the next room.
“I asked him, since when do we stay out at night, Mina? He said, ‘the people I hang out with are good people; they’re journalists, lawyers, and doctors.’ I replied saying, ‘good then, this makes me happy, son.’ Then I ran to his father to tell him about the good company Mina had,” Nadia says, remembering one of the last conversations she had with her son.
Before Sunday October 9, Nadia had great faith in the armed forces. “I knew that Mina would take part in the demonstration with Mary and Cherie. I had even told my son Isaac to take his wife and join them. I told him, ‘don’t be scared, we’re under the army’s protection.’” Soon, reality shattered Nadia’s illusions.
Things took a turn for the worse when 27 demonstrators were killed as the Copt march approached the Maspero state television building. “It’s the army who killed my boy, not the Salafis, not the Muslim Brothers, they’re innocent, it was the army!” cries Mina’s mother.
“I don’t regret the death of my son. He was fighting for freedom,” Nadia insists. She now fears for the lives of Mina’s friends in the Movement for Justice and Freedom, who vowed to avenge Mina’s death. “He who kills once kills a thousand times,” Nadia declares, justifying her concern that the army may shed more blood.
Mina’s friends from the Movement for Justice and Freedom are not the only ones who pledged to avenge his death. Nadia received a lot of phone calls from people who promised her that they will seek revenge themselves no matter the cost. Although many have accused religious groups like the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood in participating in the attack on the Copts, Mina’s mother swears that they had nothing to do with the incident. “A young Salafi man called me and reassured me that Mina’s blood will not be shed in vain!” she insists.
“If my children want to go down and demonstrate again, I won’t stand in their way,” Nadia says with an unshakable determination and inner strength “Nothing will ever change and no one will ever be held accountable if we do not persevere.” Mina was wounded twice at protests before and after the revolution. “I didn’t stop him from demonstrating, not even after he was wounded,” she remembers, “he was simply fighting for what is right!” Nadia has come to believe that Christians have every right to protest inside and outside the church to demand justice.
Nadia demonstrated commendable strength at the Coptic Hospital, where most of the attack victims were taken. There were rumors that day about parents refusing to let their children’s bodies undergo autopsy. But that wasn’t the case with Nadia: “The body will be buried in dirt eventually. I told them that both my husband and I approve of the autopsy. I had to know how my son died!”
If you ask Nadia whether there’s hope for Copts in Egypt, she just stares at the heavens and says, “Only He is capable of it all.” It is with this same unwavering faith that Nadia bid her son farewell on the day he died. “Angels took his soul, and his friends carried him through Tahrir Square, wrapped in the Egyptian flag, just as he had requested. It was a tour worthy of a groom. In the hospital...I said to him: Good morning oh handsome groom.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.