Khaled Naga is an Egyptian actor, TV host, producer and director. He is a human rights and children’s rights activist and has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2007.
I was getting a lot of calls saying there would be protests on January 25th. At first I thought it very strange to have a scheduled revolution! It became a sort of joke for getting out of previous plans – “I’m sorry I can’t come, I have a scheduled revolution!” I didn’t think it would really materalise.
On the first day I spoke to several people and they said something big was happening. I went home, grabbed my camera and decided to go and see for myself. It was like watching a war movie. I started taking photos when I noticed plain-clothed police officers hunting down certain protestors – they were calling them the Facebook Kids. A street kid selling tissues turned to me and said, “This is it. This is the end of the regime.”
Shutting down the internet and cutting mobile phone communication was the stupidest thing the government could have done. It proved the system was fragile. It was clear the people who ran the country weren’t even capable of running a coffee shop. Egyptians deserve so much better.
On the Friday of Rage at around noon thousands of people began marching down Salah Salem from Heliopolis heading towards Tahrir. Everywhere I went, they were shooting tear gas and rubber bullets. It was always the young kids on the front lines of the protests, just holding Egyptian flags and pushing forward.
Getting into Tahrir that day was a nightmare and I couldn’t understand why the authorities were making it difficult for us. If they had just let people in, I don’t think things would have escalated as they did. That night, making my way into Tahrir, I found Khalid Abdallah, Fathy Abdel Wahab and Amr Waked. I was standing right next to Khalid Abdalla when a tear gas bomb fell right between us and he actually picked it up and threw it back. When we eventually made our way in, I saw dead people on the ground, in pools of blood. It was horrifying. It was like a real war.
I felt responsible as an artist to fight for liberties. Freedom of expression is our trade. You can’t be an artist and remove yourself from what’s going on. We stand for what we believe is right. I’m one of the millions who signed Mohamed ElBaradei’s list of demands, but this was different, we were marching with anybody and everybody who wanted change. It was clear corruption was coming from the top down and the chaos and instability of this country came from the system, not from the people. Look at what happened when they cut off communication and took away the police forces? People made stability. The government was trying to create chaos.
Breaking the barrier of fear was the biggest achievement of the revolution. It’s beautiful. People have gotten their power back. I’m almost glad Mubarak didn’t step down immediately because he united the people!
Egypt before January 25th wasn’t the same country Egypt is now. Every day that passes we learn more of the corruption and now we’re motivated to do more. The old regime was getting in more and more trouble every day. I don’t think I will ever be more proud of anything in my life than the 18 days I spent at Tahrir; being one of the millions of Egyptians rising up and standing up peacefully in the face of propaganda, tear gas bombs, rubber bullets, actual bullets, kidnapping, repression, torture, detention and murder. All of us were determined to change Egypt once and for all, to change it to what it really deserves to be, where it really belongs, have it join the human civilisation once again, to be present, heard, and free. We’re well on our way. The people knew better. I love how smart Egyptians are, and proud of Egyptians for their guts to break the barriers of fear once and for all.
Love will prevail.