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Egyptian activists post wills on Twitter

October 18, 2011 |  5:13 pm

Egyptian Christians display a poster and the shirt of Mina Daniel

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- In keystroke bursts of poetry, defiance and humor, Egyptian activists are posting their wills on Twitter.

The electronic missives, vibrant with immediacy and edged with wit, specify how organs should be donated and small sums of money spent. One activist asked that his picture not be posted on Facebook so as to spare his mother pain. Another sought to calm the country’s deepening sectarianism by arranging for a grave in a cemetery shared by Christians and Muslims.

“Bury me in the grassy island in [Tahrir] square,” wrote protester Metry Ghebreyal, conjuring up the hallowed ground at the epicenter of the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February.

After the recent deadly clashes between soldiers and Coptic Christian protesters, activists fear their peaceful revolution is slipping into a dangerous phase. The ruling military council has expanded martial law and has pushed back the timetable to hand the nation over to a civilian government.

The wills are a distillation of young lives imprinted by social media and longing for social change. They are part publicity stunt, part reflection, offering a glimpse into the desires and frustrations of a movement that inspired upheavals across the region only to find itself mired in an unfinished, often messy, revolution.

“Death has become so near and we are all ready to die for Egypt,” a group of activists wrote. “You need to publicly speak out against the repression of the military, not just their army trucks and rifles, but also their hypocritical use of the media. Write and write.... This is an open invitation for everyone to document their will.”

The effort, which has spread to Facebook, is called Martyrs in Demand: Write your own will against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The idea arose after Mina Daniel, a Coptic Christian activist, was shot in the chest Oct. 9. His will asked that his body be carried through Tahrir. Mourners honored the wish, marching his coffin from the morgue through the busy square and toward the graveyard.

Thousands of people turned out for Daniel’s vigil, and for the funeral processions of other fallen protesters, whose deaths symbolized a nation’s yearning — and yet reluctance — for change.

One protester doesn’t have much money to bequeath, but knows how he would want it spent: “If I die crushed [by an army truck], don’t forget to get vengeance for me. There are 200 Egyptian pounds [$34] in my drawer, please take them and buy ice cream for all my followers. They are good people.”

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-- Jeffrey Fleishman

Photo: Egyptian Christians display a poster and the shirt of Mina Daniel outside St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo on Oct.12. Credit: Associated Press

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