Photo by Omar Mohsen Photo by Omar Mohsen

Collective Memory

Thu, Nov. 9, 2017
Back in 2008, war novelist Ahmed Zayed decided to launch a portal collecting testimonials and articles to document the landmark Octo-ber 1973 War, about which Egypt’s younger generations sadly know very little. The non- profit 73 Group Historians is powered by Zayed and 11 acquaintances, none of whom actually have a military career. Instead, they are people like Zayed, who have known people who fought in the war and feel that not enough is being done to preserve the experiences of 1973 War veterans for gen- erations. Zayed is himself a commercial manager at a multinational and has written several war novels. “You can say that the spiritual father of Group 73 Historians is Air Marshal General Mohamed Okasha who, after reading my novel Battalion 77, hooked me up with other veteran fighters. The first person we interviewed was General Samir Aziz, and from then on we’ve been meeting more and more people who were a part of the 1973 War and who want to show people that there was so much more to the war than what’s in our school history books.”

Zayed goes back to the airstrike as a good example. “Most of us think of Mubarak as the only hero, when in fact it was a coalition ef- fort comprising an Iraqi flight squadron, 200 Egyptian pilots and some 5,000 soldiers, engineers and technicians, in addition to the public who also pitched in. For instance, in To commemorate the 1973 victory this month, we look at 73 Group Historians: an online portal working to keep the memory of the battle alive.

Mansoura the airbase was manned by mili- tary staff but it was everyday civilians who helped fill and lug the sandbags and so on.” To help raise awareness of the airstrike and the momentum of its impact Zayed notes that the element of surprise was certainly in Egypt’s side but that Israeli ar- tillery, technology and machinery was far more advanced Group 73 Historians in 2010 put out a documentary film entitled Wings of Anger. The film, self-funded and costing LE 500,000, was helmed by director Ahmed Fathy who “contributed with his own inheri- tance,” says Zayed. To raise the rest of the money, Zayed sold off his wife’s jewelry.

The film was screened free of charge four times on ONtv. With the help of one of the portal’s Facebook fans, Zayed adds, the film, which includes 45 minutes of high- tech graphics content, was shown on Israeli national TV just 90 minutes after ONtv’s first screening. Otherwise, there appears to be very little interest from TV channels. “I’ve been on TV several times to talk about how very little is being done to document the war and to draw attention to our plight but to no avail,” Zayed says. “I even sent in a copy of the film four days before the anniversary one year to be aired for free on national TV but they didn’t show it.”

In addition to producing documentary films, Group 73 Historians has organized scores of lectures, bringing on veterans as key speakers. “El-Ghitany helps us put

these events together and reach out to the war heroes,” says Zayed, who recounts that among the most prominent heroes they have interviewed were Generals Saad Eddin El-Shazly, Galal El-Haredy and Nabil Shoukry, in addition to many others.
“We videotape and record these inter- views so that visitors to the site are sure the accounts are authentic,” explains Zayed. “Naturally we do our own research to cor- roborate but since people may get bored of reading such descriptive details we have the

recordings online as they are more engag- ing.”
Also on the portal are a collection of ar- ticles, videos and photographs as well as a “Hero of the Month” segment, which visi- tors find an interesting and important tes- tament to the many veterans who served in the war. “It’s especially important to have this because the veterans with us today will not be here tomorrow,” says Zayed. “We’re working hard to capture their achieve- ments.”
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