As he walked to the vegetable market in the northeastern governorate of Ismailia on 28 January, 20-year old Mahmoud Yehia Zakareya came across a group of pro-democracy demonstrators congregating in front of al-Thany police station where his father worked as a detective.
Mahmoud decided to join the demonstrators in their call for political and socio-economic reform. He had no political affiliations, his older brother Ahmed Zakareya told Al-Masry Al-Youm. Like many young Egyptians, he was forced to drop out of school to help support his family of five. Their father earns no more than LE400, according to Ahmed, who has been serving in the army for the past two years.
Mahmoud began selling vegetables to contribute to the family’s limited income. “He was demonstrating for better living conditions for Egyptians,” explained Ahmed.
Within a few hours, neighbors called his family saying that Zakareya was shot when police officers from inside al-Thany police station fired live ammunition at the protesters. Bullets pierced his lungs and heart and he passed away before reaching the hospital.
“This was the first time for Mahmoud to join any protests,” his brother said.
Ahmed explained that none of the police officers who worked with his father attended the funeral. “We have been unable to press charges or file a report anywhere in Ismailia. None of the authorities are willing to listen to us,” he added.
Ahmed joined the pro-democracy protests in Ismailiya for the first time two days after his brother was shot. He arrived in Cairo on Monday 14 February and left a picture of his brother at the martyr’s memorial in Tahrir Square in front of the Egyptian Museum. The media has paid little attention to the martyrs in Ismailia, he said.
“We need their help to pressure the government to punish those accountable for his death,” he added.
Ahmed’s father has been very ill since his son’s death and has not been going to work at the police station.
“Someone needs to explain to me how my father is expected to salute those who have shot his son to death,” Ahmed said.