Adonis Diaries

The little revolution soldiers: Egypt’s street kids by Soraya Sarhaddi NELSON

Posted on: January 8, 2012

The little revolution soldiers: Egypt’s street kids by SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON

SORAYA Sarhaddi NELSON posted on January 4, 2012 this article on “Egypt’s Street Kids Are Revolution’s Smallest Soldiers”

A demonstrator in Cairo runs with an injured child during clashes with security forces last month. A growing number of children are participating in anti-government protests, and their numbers are rising among the casualties.

Enlarge Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images
A demonstrator in Cairo runs with an injured child during clashes with security forces last month. A growing number of children are participating in anti-government protests, and their numbers are rising among the casualties.

“In Egypt, a disturbing trend has emerged in recent clashes between protesters and security forces: children placing themselves on the front lines. Activists say several have been killed or wounded in recent months by gunfire and tear gas. One out of every 4 protesters thrown in jail following clashes in December was a child.

Their advocates say these kids live on Cairo’s streets, and that they see the revolution as a way to escape their isolation from society. For example, every Friday, crowds of Egyptians gather in Cairo to chant slogans against their military rulers. But recently, a small group tried to bring attention the plight of street children who take part in demonstrations, a problem few protesters like to talk about.

This group is shouting that the ruling generals should be ashamed for killing and jailing the children. Rally organizer Amira Abdelhamid hands the children who show up helium-filled balloons.  Eleven-year-old Ahmed Adel says he likes going to protests to check out what’s going on. Ahmed admits he throws stones at the soldiers and then runs away.

Egypt Kids are Partners In The Revolution

Abdelhamid lauds children like Ahmed for braving bullets, beatings and tear gas on the front lines with other protesters.

A protester shows a picture of his son, who was killed at a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Dec. 23. Soldiers at the rally were taped beating female protesters, sparking international outrage. Advocates say there has not been similar anger over the deaths of children.

Enlarge Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.
A protester shows a picture of his son, who was killed at a rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Dec. 23.
Soldiers at the rally were taped beating female protesters, sparking international outrage. Advocates say there has not been similar anger over the deaths of children. The 20 year-old university student Amira Abdelhamid says:  “the children are valuable partners in the Egyptian revolution given their speed, agility and small size, which make it harder for security forces to stop them.  It is important to recognize their contribution. I wasn’t communicating the message of whether it was good or bad because I don’t know. It’s bad for them, but it’s good, it helps us as well, it helps us in the front lines. I was just saying thank you to Egypt’s kids”

Abdelhamid is frustrated that only a few dozen people showed up at the rally. Many more demonstrated nearby against Egyptian troops for attacking female protesters last month.  The photo of one veiled woman stripped down to her blue bra and being dragged by soldiers who kicked and beat her drew worldwide condemnation.

Teenage Abdelhamid says:  “”The story of an Egyptian boy who was shot by soldiers during the same series of protests drew far less attention.  In a YouTube video of the incident, rescue workers try to stop the frightened teen from bleeding to death from a bullet wound to his chest.

Abdelhamid resumes: “A lot of controversy happened about the women’s march and about that girl who was stripped. And people asked: ‘Why … was she there?’ But I don’t think anyone would say, ‘Why were the children there?'”

Kids Finding Comfort Among Protesters

At a recent news conference, Gen. Adel Emara accused activists  of paying children and teens to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces.  The general also showed a poor-quality video of a boy named Sami confessing to his interrogator that he received the equivalent of $33 to attack buildings.

Many children’s rights activists in Egypt suspect the confession was coerced. They accuse the generals of using the kids to try to discredit the pro-democracy movement and justify soldiers’ use of deadly force. Lawyer Tarek El Awady is representing 82 children arrested for taking part in last month’s violent demonstrations outside the Cabinet and parliament buildings.

Awady said:  “These street children sought shelter, food and companionship from protesters encamped downtown”.

Amira said:  “The children tell me and other protesters that they are the only Egyptians who make them feel they are important”.

Note 1: In Chile (Latin America),‎ students have taken over schools and city streets in the largest protests the country has seen in decades. The students are demanding free education, and an end to the privatisation of their schools and universities. The free-market based approach to education was implemented by the military dictator Augusto Pinochet in his last days in power.

Note 2:  Kids and children in the developing States are receiving few coverage of their plight: Famine, sweat-shop factories, homeless kids, orphans wandering in cold streets, ramaging through garbage bins for scraps to eat, kids who have never been inside a classroom, kids soldiers snatched from their families and forced to kill “enemies of the civil revolution”, sex substitute…What future is left to hope for?

Note 3: In the 90’s, over two million of the outcast kids in the streets of major cities in Latin America disappeared: They were used to harvest their vital organs to the rich classes, sold to sweat-shop factories, or adoptive slaves…

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