The Maddening Betrayal of Potato-Seller, Omar Salah

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Omar Salah: In life and death
Omar Salah: In life and death

Published in openDemocracy
Republished in Ahram Online

An Egyptian army conscript walks up to 12 year old Omar Salah Omran, a sweet potato seller – outside the front gates of Cairo’s US Embassy close to Tahrir Square – and requests two potatoes from the young street vendor. Omar answers, “I’ll do so after I go to the bathroom”. The allegedly untrained soldier retorts with a mix of cockiness and jest that he will shoot Omar if he doesn’t comply immediately. On Omar’s reply, “you can’t shoot me” – the conscript, on the alleged presumption that his weapon was not loaded, aimed two bullets piercing through Omar’s heart. He died instantly. (Based on Omar’s father’s television interview with host Mahmoud Saad)

The entire incident was over in ten seconds. The fallout continues.

Many Egyptians were humbled and awoken to another Egypt with the release of a gripping video of Omar speaking to a Life Makers charity member in which he says “I am tired of this job”: he says he wants to learn to read and write. There is an inherently troubling dimension in Omar’s demise that goes beyond the “accidental” nature of it. It is the callous disregard by the state that instigated and attempted to cover up the crime, and a society that no longer gives a second look to the plight of child labour.
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