I never met Giulio Regeni. However, for the past 10 days since his disappearance I have reached out to mutual friends of ours in a desperate attempt to put together the fractured pieces about the theft of this beautiful stolen soul.
The past five years in Syria, Egypt, and the Mediterranean have been years of mourning. Like myself, Giulio was a student at the University of Damascus in 2010. He had spent years of his life mastering the Arabic language between Damascus, London, and Cairo. He lived life between languages. His work as a PhD student was to piece together the fragments of information we can find on labour movements in Egypt. His passion was to render visible those lost bodies under the yolk of production and capital. Giulio was able to translate what so often is lost: the memory and hope for dignity and life in between home and exile.
Giulio mourned the destruction of the city he had come to love, Damascus. He stayed in Cairo since September, at a time when instability in Egypt is ripping it apart at the seams. Giulio was most at home connecting these fragments and rebuilding the mosaic, despite everything.
Giulio’s body left us on the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, on 25 January. His body was targeted by those who resented his ability to amplify the voices of those who dream of dignity and justice, despite everything. Just as the public prosecutor sent Antonio Gramsci off to prison, saying: “For 20 years we must stop this brain from functioning,” those who targeted Giulio wished to render his body just as invisible as the bodies he had attempted to make visible. Now we mourn for Giulio as we mourn for all those other minds shut away in prisons and stifled by totalitarian regimes. Today is another day of mourning for Cairo, the city victorious, on a bleak winter day.
They can cut all the flowers, but they cannot stop the spring. Giulio’s disappearance and murder should be a call to solidarity with those thousands of human beings who have disappeared without a trace, lost in depths of the Mediterranean and Egypt’s prisons, caught between borders and in the line of fire. His legacy would be best honoured by the realisation of the goals of Egypt’s Revolution: “Bread, freedom, and social justice”. They can take away Giulio but they cannot stop the spring.