The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

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Chat with a former Egyptian soldier

Posted by vmsalama on July 18, 2012

Had a fascinating chat with a 25-year old man who until 6 months ago, served in the Egyptian military as a tank driver. He was assigned to the Rafah post, the Egyptian border city with Gaza. Here are some excerpts from our discussion:

“I was in the middle of nowhere when the revolution started last year. We didn’t really understand what was happening. We heard people are in Tahrir protesting and we heard that our colleagues in the military were clashing with them. If I was there, I would have joined the people to protest, but I wouldn’t have fought with the soldiers. they are my brothers.

[WHERE WERE YOU WHEN MUBARAK RESIGNED?] We didn’t know anything about it until 5-6 days later. We didn’t believe it. Imagine you are in the desert and somebody tells you Hosni Mubarak resigned — you wouldn’t believe it. You’ll laugh and tell him he’s dreaming! It wasn’t until a soldier came from Cairo and told us what happened that we really said ‘oh. this is real!’ And even then, I didn’t REALLY believe it until I returned to Cairo 6 months ago. It was like traveling to another world. The city was so different. Even the people were different. I have been back for 6 months now and I am still not used to it.
“We used to sleep in a school in the (Sinai) desert, about 450 km from Cairo. Our beds were small and on some nights, the bombs that fell on Gaza were so strong, it would throw us from our beds, even though we were across the border. I swear to you. Sometimes we saw the Israeli soldiers. We didn’t talk to them very much. There was an incident near the border where 3 of my military colleagues were killed while doing a patrol. Bullets hit their car (He showed me video on his cell phone of the bullet-ridden jeep). Nobody told their families what happened because it would make them too upset. But we think there was a clash between drug smugglers and Israeli soldiers, and the Egyptian soldiers were in the wrong place. We weren’t supposed to talk about it otherwise it could make problems with Israel.”


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