On July 3, the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page posted a transcription of Colonel General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decree removing former President Mohamed Morsi from power.
After that, the page went dead silent. But while the posts stopped, comments continue to flood on that last post every day.
The page, made iconic in 2011, has over 3.6 million followers, who now plead with the page’s administrators to break their silence.
“How long are you going to keep silent?” one asked, while another angrily shouted into the cyber world, “You betrayed the revolution, you betrayed Khaled.”
A few days before the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, three years and seven months after 28-year-old Khaled Saeed was tortured to death by police officers in Alexandria, and six months into the hibernation of the Facebook page carrying his name and largely credited for sparking the revolution, one follower finally wrote: “Khaled Saeed has died.”
After three years of political turbulence and attacks on the figures of the revolution, both dead and alive, the case of Khaled Saeed no longer unites and mobilizes.
On June 6 2010, two policemen attacked Khaled Saeed as he was entering an Internet café near his house in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber area. They then dragged him out of the café and beat him to death in the entrance of a nearby building.
Khaled Saeed’s case was lurid evidence of police brutality and the ruthless corruption of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. His name became known worldwide after the “We are all Khaled Saeed” page called for protests on January 25 2011, leading to a nationwide revolt that ended Mubarak’s 30 year-rule.
Zahra Saeed, Khaled’s sister, says that she stopped following the “We are all Khaled Saeed” page a long time ago.
“Everyone who wanted to use the name of Khaled Saeed for their own cause has done that. But we are saying it’s enough,” she says.
Zahra says she has grown tired of the protests in front of the courthouse where Khaled’s killers are being tried, protests against issues that have nothing to do with the trial, such as the controversial Protest Law or the military trials of civilians.
The creators of the Facebook page carrying Khaled’s name have never coordinated with the family, and are now using the pages to advance their own political agendas, Zahra says.
Created shortly after Khaled’s death in 2010, the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Arabic and English language pages began by focusing on raising awareness of Khaled’s case and posting relevant updates.
However, as January 2011 approached, the pages started to widen their scope and call for nationwide movements.
The Arabic page was handled by Google engineer Wael Ghoneim, whose identity was famously revealed days after the eruption of protests on January 25, and activist Abdel Rahman Mansour, whose identity was revealed later.
Zahra said that the English page is handled by a third person unknown even to Khaled’s family.
Initially, the posts indicated coordination between the two pages, as they referred to each other and mentioned collaborative efforts. From 2012, however, each page started to explicitly point out in several posts that the two were separate entities and managed by different people.
Noticing the increased politicization of both pages after former President Mohamed Morsi came to power, Khaled Saeed’s family started repeatedly posting on their own personal social media accounts that they were not linked to the pages and that the pages did not represent them.
But now, both pages are defined by their silence.
After celebrating Morsi’s election, the English language page stayed silent throughout the months of November and December 2012, when Morsi made the gravest mistakes of his presidency. In November, Morsi issued a constitutional decree giving himself unprecedented powers, sparking mass protests against his administration. In December, Morsi’s supporters attacked protesters outside the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace, starting a battle that led to at least eight deaths and hundreds of injuries.
The English language page described Morsi’s removal as a coup, and after his ouster focused on reporting violations of the current military-backed government.
The page even created and promoted a new Facebook page called “Middle East views.” The new page has the four-finger sign that has come to represent the Brotherhood and its supporters as its profile picture.
As for the Arabic page, while it was extremely vocal in denouncing Morsi’s missteps, its silence started the day that he was replaced by a military-backed government.
As different groups announce their plans for protests to revive the original demands of the January 25 revolution on its third anniversary, the page that was widely celebrated for starting it all is completely out of the picture.
A source close to the page administrators who did not want to be named says that page’s silence was a choice they made after they felt that there was “no place for a voice of reason” amid the political polarization between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. The source said that the page admins decided to stay out of the picture temporarily “in order to avoid being dragged into an uneven battle.”
The source adds that another reason is that there is a feeling that the page’s role may be coming to an end.
“There was a conversation between the administrators of the page which concluded that the page has achieved what it had hoped for which is to revolutionize the ordinary citizen and light the spark for a revolution that is still ongoing, maybe it’s time for a new page or a new initiative to continue the way,” the source says.
The waning power of Khaled Saeed as a symbol and mobilizing icon is reflected in the fate of the criminal case against Khaled’s killers.
The two police officers accused of torturing Khaled Saeed to death were each sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011. While Khaled Saeed supporters slammed the verdict as too lenient, the officers appealed.
During the appeal sessions, which started in June 2013 and are still ongoing, the defense lawyer — emboldened by the fading popular hype around the case and the rehabilitation of the police in the public imagination — attempted to rewrite the facts not only of the case, but also of the revolution it contributed to.
The attorney argued that Khaled Saeed’s torture was fabricated with the help of his “American Jewish brother” as part of a “Zionist conspiracy” to destabilize the Egyptian regime.
The lawyer brought up tattoos that he claimed Khaled Saeed had on his body as proof that he had a criminal past, and reiterated the argument made in 2010 that Khaled died due to asphyxiation after he swallowed a piece of hash.
Mansour Hamdy, an Alexandrian activist who focuses on torture, says that the tarnishing of Khaled Saeed as a symbol comes in the context of a wider systematic effort by the state to tarnish the revolution itself.
Many of the main activist figures that became famous for their role in the January 25 protests, such as April 6 Youth Movement co-founder Ahmed Maher and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, are currently behind bars on charges relating to their participation in protests.
“The regime wants to destroy everything that reminds us of the revolution and of why the revolution started,” Hamdy asserts.
Predicting that Khaled’s killers would be acquitted, Hamdy says that the young man’s death was a symbol for uncovering the torture practices of the Ministry of Interior, and set a precedent for standing up to a corrupt state.
Hamdy says that destroying this symbol is essential for the state to go back to its old ways, and is detrimental to the revolution.
“They want to kill the idea of Khaled Saeed, the idea that we can stand up to the Ministry of Interior. They want to tarnish the case, and as a result all the cases that will follow it,” Hamdy says.
“Now, every person assaulted by the police will be labeled as a bad person who deserves it, and every person killed by the police will be considered to have committed suicide.”