Rozza was a political science student at Cairo University, in the beginning of the 1970s, when the leftist-led student movement was witnessing a revival, after being suppressed under President Nasser for two decades.
Students, then,Â spearheaded mass demos in 1971-73, calling for war againstÂ against Israeli occupation forces in the Sinai peninsula, and campaigning for social and political justice for Egyptian citizens.
At Cairo University, the students formedÂ the "Higher National Committee for Egypt's Students," which acted as an independent national student union, parallel to the government-controlled one. The committee, chaired by Rozza, led the famous January 1972 demos, which witnessed 20,000 students and workers taking over Tahrir Sq., in the heart of Cairo. Before security forces moved in to smash the occupation, teach-ins and discussion groups formed spontaneously went on for long hours; citizens from the neighboring buildings passed food, water, and cigarettes to the students in the square. The global students' revolt, the Vietnam war, and theÂ launching ofÂ the Palestinian revolution were sources of inspiration for the young radical and his mates. Rozza was arrested several times, and earned fame with Sadat showering him personally with slurs in public, in his famous "I will not negotiate with Rozza" speech.Â Rozza did not belong to any of the political groups back then, but his charisma drew him aÂ following that made him the Egyptian Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
Rozza traveled later to Britain for his doctorate, which he wrote on the Egyptian students' movement. Like many other student activists, he gradually drifted away from the lights after his graduation. He became a political commentator, writer, researcher, academic, and ran an NGO in 3ein el-Seera that cared for youth issues... still kept a low profile.
Many of the 1970s activists, who struggled hand-in-hand with Rozza, are still around and taking a leading role in the pro-democracy movement, like Kamal Khalil, currently detained in Tora, and Aida Seif al-Dawla, the anti-torture campaigner. Aida called me an hour ago, clearly disturbed, to say how devastated she was by the news. "I feel the regime is finishing us off, one by one," she sighed at the end of the conversation. "Seems like our hearts have become to weak to handle our country."
I received a follow up from Nora Younis:
Rozza felt hopeful with the political mobility and ran for the Nov 05 parliamentary elections. He used Sadat's quote in his campaign and printed it on flyers. Sharkawi was one of the active Youth for Change leaders to help Rozza lead his street campaign and rallies.