Tamer (like "hammer") Abouzeid ("ah-boo-zAID") was born in Egypt, lived in Kuwait, returned to Egypt at five, and immigrated to Chicago in 1998. Since then, he has lived in the Chicagoland area with the exception of four years he spent in Washington, DC. He is an attorney (Georgetown Law) and a member of the Illinois & Washington, DC bars. Currently, he works in police accountability.
Tamer decided to run for State Senate because he believes in progressive values that can make Illinois an equitable, thriving, and safe place for all Illinoisans. He also decided to run because he believes representatives should go through elections, not coronations; the same old back-room politics has failed us all.
Tamer was born in Egypt and his family relocated to Kuwait soon after for work. In Kuwait, Tamer was exposed to war at the age of five when Iraq invaded Kuwait. He learned the hard way that the world is not black and white, and that sometimes those in power make decisions that are catastrophic for the populations they supposedly serve. He realized then that a man can be a member of an occupying army, and yet be a poor, ill-equipped pawn who has no choice in what he does. And on his car journey with his family back from Kuwait to Egypt, he learned how powerful people can be when they bind together.
Growing Up in Egypt
Tamer returned to Egypt at the age of five, and would live there until he turned thirteen. Looking back at his time in Egypt, and comparing that life to being an immigrant in the USA, Tamer realizes how privilege works. In Egypt, Tamer was a member of the majority - Arab in heritage, Muslim in religion, urban in upbringing, middle class, with a medium complexion that is neither too light nor too dark.
Tamer did not give a second thought to the idea that he may be treated differently from other people. That there were many mosques to choose from in his neighborhood but not one church. That he could walk down the street without getting catcalled. That he could watch a movie without hearing someone make fun of his accent, or portray him only as a servant, or insinuate that his complexion is not beautiful.
He did not analyze that critically back then, perhaps because he moved away from Egypt at 13, but looking back, it is clear as day. Privilege is not a concept that is exclusive to one race or religion, and it is certainly not a concept that only exists in America. Privilege is simply about power, and it is an international issue that affects the disenfranchised everywhere, whether you are Black or Brown in America, Christian in the Middle East, beur in France, dark in India, or Muslim in China. And within one country, it could change from one generation to the next, as political realities change or as governments are toppled.
During his time in Egypt, Tamer learned another hard truth, that those close to you can still betray your trust. Tamer was sexually abused, starting around the age of 8 until he moved to Chicago, by members of his non-immediate family. His struggles with this trauma make him a strong believer in the importance of self-care and of mental health services being available to everyone.
Tamer arrived in Chicago with his family on June 19, 1998. He attended eighth grade at Frances Xavier Warde and went to St. Ignatius College Prep for high school. The first few years in America were quite the learning experience. One of the earliest memories in America that stands out to Tamer was watching Jay Leno on the Tonight Show make fun of Bill Clinton. It was jarring to see a president be ridiculed by a comedian—Tamer turned to his father and said, “Does this mean he will go to jail?” But Tamer learned that, in theory at least, no one was above the law in America.
His next few years would teach him the realities and nuances behind that simple sentiment. While in theory, the law applied to everyone equally, in practice, it was anything but. Tamer learned about the evils in America’s past, and the inequalities in its present, from school, from his friends, and from his oldest brother (who was studying political science). And he experienced it first-hand too, such as when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place.
To make a long story short, Tamer’s first few years turned him into an activist for social justice. He decided to study law and to go into public service.
But before law school, Tamer meandered a little bit. He graduated from UIC with a degree in marketing. He worked in marketing and sales until he married his college sweetheart, Deena Hassaballa. And he has no qualms about saying that Deena is the biggest reason that Tamer has been able to achieve most of what he did in life.
Tamer graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with his law degree in 2015. In his second year of law school, Tamer was a legal intern at the US Office of Special Counsel in Washington, DC. In his last year in law school, he represented low-income plaintiffs suing for better housing conditions and defendants getting evicted.
After law school, Tamer went to work at the international law firm, Shearman & Sterling, LLP. Tamer was a member of the International Arbitration practice group, but what gave him most joy was working on the pro bono cases, which included asylum, competitive democracy, human rights, veterans' rights, wildlife conservation, and women's rights.
Tamer's plan was to stay at his firm until he could pay off his student loans, but then the 2016 election happened, exactly one week before Tamer became a US citizen. He decided that he could not wait any longer to do what he is passionate about: public service. And he knew there was only one place he would do it: Chicago. So he moved back with his wife, and he currently works in police accountability.