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Cairo Journals 2012 – 3 — A hint of Fear

Coming home also meant having to face another reality, that of the rumor mill of Cairo. Constantly surrounded by people, you can't escape it. 

The outline of a body, reminiscent of murder scenes in American movies haunts the front cover of Egypt Today. The headline: "You could be next". 

Every evening, I come home at impossible hours. The security guard unlocks the door for me, and we engage in tired conversation. He tells me of his time as a security guard at Apple, military training and Egypts secrets, of weapons on Tahrir and the role of the media. On the nights after Port Said, he also tells me of muggings, daylight robbery and murders and trucks. For half an hour every night, I listen to him, wondering when they started locking the front door at ten before locking myself in the house with a double shot of single malt. I also wonder how much of his information is true, and how much based on hearsay.

Our Maid, Shaima', talks along the same lines "We never heard of events like this under Mubarak". No, you didn't, which doesn't mean they didn't happen. Whether it is because the government wants them to get out, or they are being staged in order to ferment the fear, or they are genuine acts of crime reports in the news, anxiety and stress in her voice are not to be overlooked. She lives in the heart of Shubra, an area with a bad reputation. She is afraid for her safety.

This fear flows in the undercurrent of almost every conversation. Fear of burglaries. Fear of Murder. Fear of robbery on the Ringroad. Fear of the other. Fear of punishment, imprisonment and torture. Fear of foreign involvement. Salaffear. Fear of constant change and the insecurity that comes with it. Fear of government. Desire to be governed. Anything can and will happen. You are not safe in these times.

The massacre at a football game between the Ahli and Port Said clubs has driven this home to many Egyptians. Understandable: Port Said sent the message that there is no safety, neither in numbers nor football, not even if you belong to the now- famous ultras Ahlawi, one of the spearheads of the more violent parts of the revolution. They are an organised and coordinated bunch who have formed the first row of more than one of the street battles in Cairo. 

No matter who perpetrated the massacre, it was an attack on the Egyptian psyche. "I couldn't believe that en Egyptian would do this to another… not even the Jews would do this!" "It's all been fixed, but how desperate must you be to accept money to kill your brothers?" "Port Said had no reason to retaliate… They won the game…" "

It makes little sense, except as a conspiracy: Word-of Mouth has the governor, the chief of police and another high functionary, who usually attend even small league matches absent from a game between two of the larger clubs. The police was apparently absent from the stadium and how did the knives get in? Bullet casings found on the ground expand an already suspicious tale. Cab drivers tell me of trucks filled with hooligans waiting near Cairo stadium. No- one jokes about Port Said.

Alaa tells me of the yearning of Egyptians for order, in their deeply- held belief in some power, hidden behind the SCAF, behind the Muslim Brothers, in control of the chaos  they feel should  not be. " After this much time, people can't bring themselves to believe that events are happening at random. There has to be someone in control, pulling strings, scheming, making events happen. Some greater force." "They still believe in Pharoe." I joke. He raises an eyebrow.


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