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By Abdel Rahim Ali

Farewell to my teacher and mentor Refaat El-Said

Friday 18-08-2017 - 05:49 PM
eteran leftist Egyptian
eteran leftist Egyptian politician Refaat El-Said dies at 84

Cairo - I was never intrigued by the notion that I would be mourning his death one day. Rather, I have always been haunted by the other notion that he was the one who would be mourning the death of the "troublesome boy" as he would have liked to call me so.  

I well remember when I received death threats from extremist groups in a statement that I among others were targeted, his stern voice came from far away propelling me to keep on the struggle and the fight against those dark forces without fear or reluctance.

This was Dr. Refaat El-Said, the teacher, the mentor and the godfather of my generation.

El-Said was our educator and champion. He used to rejoice in our success and come to our rescue when we needed him. He would send us his salutary advice wherever we were and whatever we were doing. Par excellence, we are: "The disciples of Refaat El-Said " as some would like to call us.

When one writer penned an article describing El-Said as “the great patriarch” who greatly influenced “the younger patriarch,” which was me, I never been so happy. I was happy that I have become an example of him; and people started likening me to him. 

'We always loved him as much as we criticized him'

El-Said was “the
El-Said was “the great patriarch” who greatly influenced “the younger patriarch,” which was me

I remember how we came from remote villages in Upper Egypt to the vibrant capital of Cairo, laden with dreams of the poor in bread and freedom. We went directly to his office which was the favorite destination of all the leftists at the time; we exhaustively discussed a myriad of issues with him and the debate raged about the decline of the role of the leftists in the Egyptian society. I vividly remember that Al-Ahali Newspaper used to distribute 150,000 copies, and the leftist party proclaimed it loud and proud: [that] "It will never be electing Mubarak for a second term."

We saw all call as "nonsense" because it did not come within the framework of the call for anarchy, pardon me, I mean the so-called revolution, as we liked and believed in that time.

It is a history made beyond flesh and blood. I really miss those days. Those days have made us thick-skinned; and no matter what calamities befell us, it was just a great test of our stamina. Hardships instilled into us the ideals of manhood, magnanimity and patriotism. El-Said was one of the makers of those back days, and he is well settled in the soul.

One interesting thing about Refaat El-Said is that he used to plant the area in between his office room (i.e. office of the secretary of the Central Committee of the El-Tagammu Party, which later became the Secretary-General's office room) and the Secretariat’s room, in a circular garden; he was dynamic, tireless and relentless.

At seven o’clock in the morning, you would see him from a distance walking and talking with one of our comrades through his office corridor and into that spacious area around it. In the office, when you would start talking to him, he would point to the roof of the room as a sign that someone was listening and recording the conversation. We were enthusiastic young men; our voices were loud enough to cause ourselves much trouble. We were very excited about the idea of ​​re-building a homeland free from poverty. 

Refaat El-Said was our final destination; he embraced us

Refaat El-Said was
Refaat El-Said was the recorder and interpreter of Socialism in Egypt

From Upper Egypt all the way up to Cairo, we came laden with the dream of the metropolitan city, an incubator of the Socialist dream. Refaat El-Said was our final destination; he embraced us. We disagreed with him so much; and we bitterly criticized him; bur we have adored and loved him very much. We admired his generosity of spirit and nobility of his cause.

In actuality, we did not criticize his character, but rather, the circumstances that prevented us from achieving our legitimate dreams. In an underprivileged homeland that aspired to a clean and decent standard of living, for human dignity for all its citizens at home and abroad: the proletariat, the peasants, the small businesses, the landowners, the police officers and soldiers, the glitterati and literati.

We did not even hail from middle classes, but rather, we were—and still are—the children of the poor citizens.  We have never ever disavowed our past, showed ingratitude to our families and teachers, on top of whom was Dr. Refaat El-Said who was the most important and the greatest among them all.

More than eight decades of struggle and giving that constituted Dr. El-Said’s lifespan. Time goes by, and he departs our mortal world to where his dream is: the land of Egypt, which he dreamt to be a shelter for the poor and a warm welcome to the oppressed.

Is it the ripe time now to make the confession that has been made by almost all my fellow leftist rebels, that we always loved him as much as we criticized him. This was perhaps because we were not able to keep pace with his struggle, initiative and insight. He was that elder teachers and we were those rebellious young disciples. His insight and analysis that were in response to reality demands always came first. With the passage of time, as we started chasing our dreams, he never ceased to embark on analyzing, monitoring and chronicling real life situations, offering us great lessons and advice.

El-Said was the most self-effacing of men - the last thing he would have relished was a eulogy. However, as we are grief-stricken over his death, it is compelling to eulogize him by these simple, humble words, which echo within me on this day very profoundly before I commit them to writing:

My great teacher: May your soul be blessed; may your name be perpetuated and celebrated; may your example be always with us; and may your history of struggle be a source of inspiration for the posterity. I testify that your generation was the best of the generations; your judgments were the most judicious and your positions were the most honorable. My mentor: Your mention will be an honor to us and to Egypt. Your methodology will be always a shining example for us and a guiding light for the future ahead. Goodbye to you, until we meet again in the Gardens of Bliss and Delight. 


Editor Notes: This Op-Ed originally appeared on Al-Bawaba Arabic Website. To access the original article, please click here. Permission should be granted before re-publishing.

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