Commentary. Like all anniversaries, the date of Giulio Regeni’s disappearance also runs the risk of becoming a rote ritual observance. One way to avoid that is by asking: what has changed since he died?

The memory of Giulio is something worth fighting for

Exactly three years have passed since that cruel day of Jan. 25, 2016, when Giulio Regeni disappeared from the Al Buhuth station of the Cairo metro. Like all anniversaries, this one also runs the risk of becoming a rote ritual observance, or one filled with false promises and false hope, a remembrance that would be both obsequious and empty of meaning.

The distance of time, carrying us inexorably further each day in the endless flow of events, tends to remove us more and more from what happened to Giulio Regeni, making our memories fade and our sense of urgency falter. How can we avoid that? One way would be to ask ourselves: what has changed in the 36 months that have passed since Regeni’s death?

If we only look at the political-diplomatic and institutional situation, one might answer “almost nothing.” The much-hoped-for “new and important progress achieved in the cooperation between law enforcement agencies on the Regeni case” has not materialized to this day.

It was precisely such “progress” that was promised in the very first statements by the current government after being installed. According to that same government, this was going to be achieved by the “gradual strengthening of the bilateral dialogue with the Egyptian authorities.” As concerns the investigations, no decisive new element has come to light; while in terms of the diplomatic efforts, despite the return of the Italian ambassador to Cairo that was decided by the previous government, no concrete results have yet been achieved, capping off a three-year-long stalemate. However, if we look elsewhere, at the developments taking place in Italian society, we will see a different picture.

Of course, we aren’t claiming that we have the solutions to dictate the agenda for the upcoming diplomatic encounters of the two governments, nor that we could change Italian foreign policy by coming up with the perfect intricate plan that would lead, as if by clockwork, to the final toppling of the despotic regime in Egypt. On the other hand, one should not underestimate the importance of the myriad of everyday experiences that affect our thoughts and our worries every single day—the importance of each and every one of us.

What we are asking for today is to keep digging, keep carving out a path in search of the truth. Every one of us should do it, to the extent that we are able. There are those who hold institutional roles, and have the duty and the means to try to open up those political and diplomatic paths that would demand the clear recognition, beyond all doubt, of those who bear the criminal responsibility for the disappearance, torture and murder of Giulio Regeni. And there are those of us who are able to participate in one of the many initiatives promoted today in many Italian cities, or simply wear the yellow bracelet bearing the words: “Truth for Giulio Regeni.”

It would be cheap and lacking in proper respect to somehow equate these two very different positions in terms of the pursuit of justice and the ability to do something about it. However, the duties of those in power and of ordinary people are simply two different answers called forth by the very presence of that name, of the memory of suffering and absolute evil. But the name of Giulio Regeni evokes much more than that: it calls forth issues of enormous importance about what law and freedom mean. We are heirs to this untold wealth, to a patrimony that proclaims the essential protection of the individual person, their safety and their dignity, and the struggle to affirm human rights everywhere: in totalitarian regimes as well as in democratic states.

The last song that Giulio Regeni heard before descending down the stairs of the Cairo metro three years ago was Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” A line in that song says: “If you can tell me something worth fighting for.” The young man, full of life, who we are remembering today, and the unspeakable ordeal that killed him and continues to kill hundreds upon hundreds of Egyptians, are telling us, over and over, that there is something worth fighting for.

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