Today marks the first anniversary of the murder of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian man who was allegedly beaten to death at the hands of the Egyptian police on 6 June 2010, and whose plight helped inspire a generation of young Egyptians to rise up against their government.
What made Khaled’s death so poignant, however, was not the brutality and cruelty exhibited by the Egyptian police force, who reportedly hit him and smashed his head against objects as they dragged him from the internet café where he was arrested — such cases were only too common in a country where police brutality was considered almost the norm.
Rather, it was the way that the death of this young man became a rallying point for Egypt’s disillusioned youth that secured him a place in the country’s history. Through the power of the internet, and facilitated by gruseome autopsy photos of Khaled’s bruised and battered body posted online by his brother, he was transformed from an ordinary victim into a potent symbol of an oppressed society. Wael Ghonim, Google marketing excecutive and one of the key individuals involved in the protests of 25 January 2011, created a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Said” that quickly reached notoriety status and helped raise international awareness of the growing discontent in Egypt.
One year on, and the mangled corpse of a young man has arguably resulted in the overthrow of an entire governmental system in Egypt, and a wave of civil unrest rippling out from North Africa across the Middle East. Much has happened in the twelve months since Khaled was killed, but for the people of his country and across the Arab world as a whole, many questions still remain about the future of their nations and their place within them. One year may be long enough to change the world, but only time will tell whether this change will be for the better.
For the moment, however, we should take a moment to remember Khaled Said — the man who, through his death, became “The Face That Launched a Revolution”.
Emanuelle Degli Esposti is a freelance journalist currently living and working in London. She has written for the Sunday Express, the Daily Telegraph and the Economist online.