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The Mother, The General, And The Power Of The Internet

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 31/03/2016 Lucia Annunziata
REGENI AL SISI © Ansa/Hp REGENI AL SISI

It's not the first time a mother, mourning the loss of her son, rises up to take a stand against death, pain and injustice. Previous examples include: the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the mothers of students who were massacred by a drug cartel in Mexico, and the Italian mothers of Ilaria Alpi and Stefano Cucchi.
But this may be the first time that the bond between a mother and her son may have the power to change, if not history, then at least the relationship between two countries.
With dry eyes and in the midst of a crowded press conference, Giulio Regeni's mother stood firm in the face of a system, a government, a General who heads a powerful country, to which many Western countries bow their heads.
Signora Regeni has threatened to publish a photograph of her son's beaten body if Cairo continued to deny Italian police access to its investigation's findings. She described her son's maimed face without shedding a tear: She said they hit him so hard he shrunk in size. "I recognized him just by the tip of his nose. The rest of him was no longer Giulio," she said.

The story of Giulio's death would not have become the symbol it is today if it weren't for the Internet -- if we didn't share a vast, immediate, simple, emotional form of global communication.

That image is proof of all the lies and cruelty. Regeni's mother knows how much impact it would have. "Don't force me to publish it," she said. A threat to the General.
With this gesture, the Regeni family has done something new. Instead of limiting themselves to the usual expression of hope, to the same old appeal for the truth to come out, they challenged the authorities of an entire country, accusing it of fascism: "On Giulio's face I saw all the ills of the world. We have not faced such torture since the anti-Fascist era," she said.
"We cannot say, as the Egyptian government has stated, that this is an isolated case... Not this time. Giulio, an Italian citizen, is a citizen of the world. What happened to Giulio is not an isolated case, separate from other Egyptians, from other people around the world. That's why I'll continue to tell the truth about Giulio, now and forever," said the mother.
Her words represented a strong attack, devoid of the slightest hint of self-pity.
Aside from the emotion (ours) and the strength (of this family), this challenge between a mother and a General is also an invitation for all of us to better understand the times we're living in; the new conditions that make it possible for a single victim, a single mother to have an impact in such an enormous universe.
The story of Giulio's death would not have become the symbol it is today if it weren't for the Internet -- if we didn't share a vast, immediate, simple, emotional form of global communication.
The son of a world without borders, as his mother described him, Giulio Regeni went to study in Egypt, a country where the Internet sparked the largest and most turbulent revolt against an Arab dictatorship. And it was on the Internet that resistance to silence over his murder has grown. The "magic" of the Internet has the power to unify and vindicate any individual in this amorphous mass; to give every individual their dignity as a citizen and a human being. The Internet has given a voice to everyone, and in our case, it has globally amplified the voice of a mother.
Signora Regeni has at her disposal a key piece of leverage, that photograph, which if disseminated on the Internet, may have a greater impact than a clash between states.

A great number of men and women, who during the Arab Spring protests in Tahrir Square believed that they'd found their voice on the Internet, have lost that voice today, to the jails or cemeteries of Egypt. This is not simply because Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has reverted to (the ever-popular) violent methods employed by previous military regimes in the country. The Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood exhibited intolerance and violence in their short stint in power; they clearly demonstrated their willingness to crush every hope and desire for a new Egypt.
As a result, humanity has been caught in the middle and crushed by the immense clash between opposing forces that we're experiencing today. The Internet -- even with all its dark corners and manipulative powers -- remains the only thread we can cling to in the hopes of gaining at least a little truth and justice for those who have been afforded neither. The tool may have allowed terrorism to ride the wave to our doorsteps, but it has also communicated key issues to the world, including the resistance in Raqqa, the refugee crisis, and the mobilization of entire European cities against suicide bombs and explosions.
In its own small way, the Internet has ignited a wave of rebellion in reaction to the death of Regeni -- and his mother is riding that wave. Signora Regeni has at her disposal a key piece of leverage, that photograph, which if disseminated on the Internet, may have a greater impact than a clash between states.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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