Ahmed Harara lost one eye in the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, only to lose the other during protests to oust the military rulers who took power after the fall of the veteran strongman.
Photos of Harara’s chiseled face − a patch on each eye − were quickly circulated on social networking sites, galvanizing opinion against security forces’ brutal methods to quell the mass protests that left 42 people dead.
In spite of himself, Harara has become the latest hero of Egypt’s revolution.
“I don’t want to be a symbol. The real symbol is Tahrir Square and the protesters there,” said the 31-year-old dentist.
Surrounded by friends, an emotional Harara carved a path through the thick crowd of Tahrir Square − the symbolic heart of rallies that ousted Mubarak − which he can no longer see.
Everywhere he goes, he is applauded, congratulated, cheered, kissed. Behind him, a banner reads “We are all your eyes, Ahmed Harara.”
On January 25, Harara joined hundreds of thousands of Egyptians calling for political and economic reforms in efforts to end Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.
Three days later, during fierce clashes between protesters and security forces, a police shot claimed his eye.
“I was hit by birdshot in the head, the neck and the right eye. Shrapnel damaged my retina,” Harara said.
He was also hit in the chest, causing internal bleeding which plunged him into a three-day coma.
“I was treated at the Cairo International Eye hospital. Then I stayed home for two months,” he said.
But even after losing his eye − and his job − Harara insisted on joining protesters 10 months later, this time in a bid to bring down the military council that took over when Mubarak was chased from power in February.
On November 19, when the latest round of clashes erupted between protesters and police, Harara headed into Mohammed Mahmud, the flashpoint street leading from Tahrir to the heavily fortified interior ministry.
This time, a rubber bullet took out his second eye.
Harara is by no means the only one to suffer eye injuries during the protest.
A shocking video of Egyptian police aiming rubber bullets directly at protesters’ eyes sent shockwaves across the country, propelling the trial of police accused of abuse to the forefront of protesters’ demands.
“In his eye! It was in his eye! Bravo, my friend!” an officer told his colleague in the footage, which showed the shooter’s face.
Activists have been distributing leaflets with a picture of police officer Mahmud al-Shinnawi, promising a reward of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($833) for anyone who provides information about him.
Having lost an eye in both revolutionary waves, Harara has become “a living martyr” of the revolution that led to the elections that begin on Monday, says his friend, artist Mohamed al-Jbeili.
“I did much less than others during this revolution,” insisted Harara.
“They are all heroes, the protesters in Suez, Mansura, Assiut, Damietta... they all want the ouster of the military,” he said.