About Hisham Rizk and the socialistic meal
By Ahmed Gamal Ziada
I can’t remember the exact dates, but I do remember all the details.
We were in Ahmed Al-Masry’s funeral ;a member of April 6 movement; when I couldn’t stop sobbing. Memories flash before my eyes, I don’t hear any voices .. the vision is blurry .. I wake up on the cries of one of our friends cursing the police, at that moment we have just finished burying Al-Masry. Hisham Rizk ( a political activist and a cartoonist ) came and patted on my back, “Come On” he said, “ I don’t want to see you like this again, you have a nice smile and everybody loves it.” He was demanding me of smiling while I clearly remember that he was crying as well. After burying Al-Masry, we went to his house to arrange for his funeral. Hisham sat on the ground; he looked so pale and tired.
“Are you hungry” I asked him. “so what? Hundreds of people are hungry and nobody cares about them” “ok then, let’s be among the few fortunate ones who will eat, let’s go find something to eat” Hisham had always loved the poor and loved to live like them, just as he has always hated the rich and despised living like them. “We will have Koshary ;an Egyptian popular dish; “it is the cheapest meal you can find in bolak Eldakroor region” I exclaimed. “yes, let’s buy two pieces of bread as well” he said. Today I don’t remember which one of us was so broke that we had to buy one meal, or was it both of us?! Al-Masry loved to walk in Mohammed Mahmoud street, so am I, and so does Hisham. Hisham particularly loved to draw graffiti on this street. “How do you draw portraits that good?” “All you do my friend is to draw them from the inside .. I mean look at them, what is so special about them? Even if it was bad or ugly, make it control you and you will find yourself drawing them exactly the way they are.” *** We decided to draw Al-Masry in Mohammed Mahmoud street, in a specific spot we used to sit it. We used to spend the nights singing till morning .. we kept strong affections for this street. It is at the entrance of Tahrir Square, in it, the blood of our companions was shed, in it, we first realized that something against the revolution was being set, and so we decided to hang on till the end.
We marched the protests side by side, man by man. We stayed for days, got tired in the mornings .. people left and we were few and exhausted, the noon always came with hope .. crowds of students joined us after schools .. they came with loud cheers and high spirits and the street is alive again. The rebels got angrier .. the teargas got thicker.. bullets were everywhere .. ambulances .. motorcycles .. Ahmed Hararrah lost his eyes .. truce .. fight. A man is down and they say he is dead .. A man is being rushed out, and they say he is injured .. look out .. walkaway .. help .. and the cheers get louder and louder in the background. Those scenes flash before my eyes every time I passed by this street. I was exhausted in the day we decided to go draw Al-Masry.
I called Hisham, he rejected the call and switched off his cellphone. I got angry “what a childish behavior!” Hisham called me in the evening of that day, I went on scolding him “ you done?” he said. “ enough already and tell me when shall we go this time?” I said. “ you go there whenever you liked and let me know what you think about the drawing .. I thought you were too tired to come draw with me” Hisham knew that Al-Masry’s death affected me deeply, it was the end of life as I know it. I was depressed and tired, and he was trying to cheer me. I got really happy back then, and I admired Hisham even more. *** The socialistic meal We used to meet: Al-Masry and Hisham ( may mercy be upon their souls ), Zizo Abdo ( may he be released soon ), Mamdouh Gamal ( former detainee and Hisham’s best friend) , Ola the inthusiastic girl who believes Al-Ahly football team is worth dying for, and me. When we meet, we always had the “socialistic meal” ;aka “koshary”; as Zizo Abdo called it, Hisham particularly loved the name, and Mamdouh always insisted on suggesting it whenever we were to eat. “ you pay two pounds, and you get a big meal consists of potatoes, beans, hot vegan oil, and many other bad ingredients that will keep you full for the rest of the week, yet it will ruin your stomach” this is how Hisham described it; whenever someone asked about the meaning of this “socialistic meal.” ***
Now am not sure if it was a farewell or just a coincidence .
I was sitting In Abo zaabal’s prison yard with my white uniform waiting for my visitors ;while I was kept in arbitrary detention for a year and a half; when Hisham was the first to enter the yard. He came running and managed to find me even before my brother, he was happy as a kid during Eids. Hisham sat in the ground in front of me, he kept looking at me and smiling the whole visit. It wasn’t the first visit, he had visited me once before, but I don’t remember anything about it. The last one, however, is marked in my memory. “ you will get out soon Ziada, and we will have a socialistic meal again” he said, “ I will come visit you soon by the way.” He didn’t keep his promise, though, we didn’t have another socialistic meal, and I never saw him again. *** I was sitting in my cell with my companion Ahmed Mostafa when he brought me a cell phone and told me that one of the prisoners managed to sneak it in. He asked me if I wanted to browse the internet before the prison’s authorities finds out about it. At that time I have been offline for over a year; so I took the phone immediately. I logged in with my facebook account, and the first thing I saw, was a post by my friend Nada Al-Hariry declaring that Hisham Rizk was missing for over a week, and that they have just found him dead! I knew about Hisham’s death the same moment everybody else did, but I didn’t know he was missing.
My brother didn’t say anything about Hisham’s disappearance, and he was planning not to tell me about his death as well, he knew I was too tired to handle it. I dropped the cell phone after my tears were all over its cover, Ahmed Mostafa ;my cellmate; was shocked by this scene; he was expecting a different reaction from me, a happier one. “what happened?” “Hisham died.” *** After I was released, I viewed his facebook account, read his posts, our chats, I end up with one conclusion: He knew he won’t be with us for a long time.
“I will keep on drawing, and if my colors ever ran out; then I will draw with my blood. I had the honor to be part of the working class in our Egyptian society. I am not ashamed of living in a poor neighborhood or from being ‘ economically’ poor, I am morally rich; because my heart is ever filled with the love of my country” “I will always be the guy with the long hair, tat clothes, and torn shoe; till all who cares about my appearances leave, and all who cares about my essence approach. I don’t think about immortalizing myself, I care and think about immortalizing the revolution and its lofty goals. The revolution of January twenty-fifth” May mercy be upon Hisham Rizk’s soul, and ours.
Hisham Rizk’s body was picked up from the Nile after a week of his disappearance, July 2014 .