Omar Salah was a thirteen-year-old child who came from a poor family. He dropped out of school to work and support his family. He worked in the area surrounding Tahrir Square selling sweet potatoes on a wooden stand. If it weren’t for a video shot by a social activist a few days before he was killed by the hands of the armed forces, he would’ve been killed without ever being heard of, or cried for by millions in Egypt as well as around the world.
When the cameraman asked him why he was doing this job, Omar responded with: “To feed my siblings and my family.” He added that it was his dream to find another job.
After his murder, it was unknown sho had shot him. A photo of his dead body was shared on social media along of the video in which he spoke. If it was not for the testimony provided by the activist group known as “No for Military Trials,” no one would have known who killed him. Late, the armed forces issued a statement that admitted it was one of their members that were responsible for Omar’s murder.
In a video documented by the group “Egyptians,” Omar’s father states the reason for his murder: A member of the armed forces asked to buy some sweet potatoes from Omar and when Omar refused the soldier threatened to shoot him. Omar replied that he can not do that. The soldier then fired at Omar, killing him instantly. His body was transported by ambulance to Zeinhom morgue.
Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the “Life Makers” campaign and the one who filmed the famous video of Omar, learned about his death and posted a video, writing the following: “Omar was a child no older than thirteen, wearing a blue ‘tracksuit’ and patched slippers, and messy hair that looks like it hadn’t been combed in months. When I stepped out of the Opera in Tahrir I found Omar as he was trying to push the sweet potato wagon towards Qasr El Nil. I learned that he lived in Bashtil and that he was illiterate. He was headed to Garden City seeking refuge and protection from the soldiers as he was defenseless after he was attacked by one of the thugs who had taken away all his money. Omar was killed on February 3, 2013, with a bullet to the heart and another to the head at the hands of those whom he sought protection—the safety soldiers. Rest in peace, Omar.”
Approximately ten days after he was killed and after the controversy was all over social media, the accusatory fingers were pointed at the police. The Armed Forces posted a message on their official page:
“In light of what had been stated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the murder of the child, Omar Salah (the sweet potato vendor who is of 13 years of age), in the proximity of the American Embassy on the 3rd of February 2013, and in the interest of the Armed Forces’ dedication to revealing the bare truths to the public with full transparency and clarity, we declare that the responsibility for the murder was a member of the armed forces and it was by accident during the shift switch while conducting a weapons inspection.”
The military trial sentenced the killer soldier to 3 years in jail with the charge of “unintended manslaughter and disobedience of military orders.”
The actor Khaled Abol Naga made a film about Omar Salah entitled, “The Unknown Sweet Potato Seller.” The Dubai Film Festival canceled the movie premiere 24 hours before its intended debut date in 2016 without any given reason.