The image above was posted on Twitter at 10:26pm in Egypt on Thursday by an account named @nadoo. It was accompanied by text, which read, "The day we lost tahrir, meena daniel pointing. We really need not say more." It tagged another Twitter account, @3askarkazeboon, which means "the military are liars" in Arabic, and is the name of an activist campaign that took shape over 2011 and 2012 and whose goal was to expose human rights abuses - including the killings of protesters and thousands of military trials of civilians - that took place under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, when the military ran Egypt's affairs after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. (Omar Robert Hamilton posted a similar image on Instagram on Friday.)
The image, from Mohamed Mahmoud Street, depicts a mural on a wall surrounding the American University in Cairo, which abuts Tahrir Square. The university and the street both have deep and bloody revolutionary histories. According to multiple fact-finding investigations into the violence that occurred during the 18 days leading to Mubarak's fall in the winter of 2011, police or paramilitary troops took positions atop the AUC buildings directly behind the wall, where they observed and possibly fired into the crowds massed in Tahrir Square. That led angry crowds to ransack the buildings in a hunt for the alleged snipers, smashing windows and setting some roomes ablaze.
As the post-Mubarak transition lurched forward, Mohamed Mahmoud Street became one of the primary front lines between security forces and protesters in the Square. It was from the direction of Mohamed Mahmoud that army soldiers marched when they violently broke up a small group of protesters who remained in the Square in April 2011 - one of the first indications that the January chants of "the people and the army are one hand" might have been more aspiration than truth. And it was on Mohamed Mahmoud Street that protesters and riot police squared off in a vicious, days-long November 2011 brawl that left more than two dozen people dead, many others with severe birdshot injuries to their eyes, and became a touchstone for young revolutionaries.
The November battle came to an end when the army intervened, erecting the first of downtown Cairo's many walls of hulking concrete blocks, and Muslim Brotherhood youth - eager to press ahead with impending elections - formed a human chain to keep protesters from entering.
The mural portrays Mina Daniel, a beloved and well-known Coptic Christian activist remembered by friends and acquaintances - including typical adversaries like hardline Salafi Muslims - as uniquely charismatic and impossible to hate. Born in 1991, Daniel developed an interest in politics as a teenager, started visiting downtown Cairo's leftist circles, and came to appreciate the philosophy of Che Guevera.
In one incident that [his friend Ramez] Sobhy recalls, the residents of Cairo's working-class district Bulaq clashed with Christians who were protesting against discrimination. Mina went to talk to them.
"He told them, why are you fighting each other? Both Muslims and Christians are poor, both can’t find proper housing, both are suffering," says Sobhy. "In the end, the Muslims joined the Christians in the protest. Mina had that kind of charisma. His effect on people was monumental. When he talked, people listened."
Daniel joined the uprising against Mubarak. That October, he was shot dead by rampaging military troops outside Maspero, state media headquarters, during a large, mostly Christian demonstration to protest against security forces' attacks on previous demonstrations and the destruction of a church.
In the mural, Daniel is depicted in a plain, loose-hanging, robe. There is an aura of death and sainthood. He stretches his hand out to Sheikh Emad Effat, a prominent and beloved Sunni thinker from Al Azhar. Effat was killed during anti-military protests at the nearby parliament building the December after Daniel's death. Al Masry Al Youm reported bluntly at the time that soldiers had shot him through the heart. The two men seem to be holding up a scroll-like text that asks, "Who's after us?"
The question, @nadoo suggests, is answered in the picture, where Daniel seems to point at the military armored vehicle, and Effat is obscured by a camouflaged soldier.
The picture shows the soldiers facing down Mohamed Mahmoud Street, away from Tahrir Square. In the days when Daniel and Effat died, the sharp end of the military always seemed to be pointed in the other direction - toward the Square, toward the protesters. It was army APCs that crushed to death many of Daniel's comrades that night in October, and it was army guns that killed Effat and others when soldiers charged Tahrir Square the following December.
But the anger that fueled chants of "down, down with military rule" two years ago has, like the painting of Effat, been subsumed into love of military. Where graffiti of Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi once compared the old defense minister to Mubarak, men now hold up portraits of General Abdelfattah el-Sisi, Tantawi's successor, the man who forcibly ended Mohamed Morsi's presidency and the Muslim Brotherhood's elected role as Egypt's leaders. Safely guarded by the APC - an M113A2 most likely purchased or manufactured under license from US defense contractor United Defense before it was bought by Britain's BAE Systems in 2005 - the military's backers condemn US President Barack Obama and his ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for supposedly covertly supporting the Brotherhood.
The history of military killings not-so-past looms, literally, over the military as new killings commence. But in the public rhetoric, those killings are not these killings. Romantic portraits of the 51 Morsi supporters gunned down outside Cairo's Republican Guards Club in the pre-dawn hours of July 8 will not make it onto the walls of Mohamed Mahmoud. In the public mind, those protesters are not these protesters. Private television channels will not play loops of Rabaa el-Adaweya, the Nasr City square where tens of thousands of people committed to Morsi's return have been camped out for nearly a month. And that army, apparently, is not this army. The generals will not be pressed to appear on talk shows and explain the blood in the street; instead, journalists will applaud their spokesman.
One wonders what Mina Daniel would say, if the wall could talk.