Skip to main content

Rant: Clones, Zombies, Tucholsky and a square.

Mabrouk ya Masr.

Last year on the night of the eleventh of February, I was assaulted by a strange thought which I started to write down, but then abandoned in favor of a more positive and hopeful outlook on life and the effects of the revolution on Egypt.

The thought went thus: this was too easy. This is the military saying to itself "Let the children blow off some steam while the grownups maintain the status quo." This is not going to end well.

More than a year later, this thought comes back to me, mocking my unwillingness to express it at the time every time I open this blog. We spend some tense hours together, debating how best to write it down, to draw it, to bring it from the tiny realm of my brain into the wider world. We will never be friends, but we have learned to live together and learn from each other… it's a mutually productive relationship.

This was too easy. Unprepared, Tunesians, Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis have plunged into a state of revolution, and fallen through doors into holes and traps. Yemen is now governed by its former vice president. Libya is, from what I can tell, reverting to tribal structures and internecine violence.  Syria is being executed and massacred, child by child by uprising adult. In Tunis, even though things to have seem improved superficially, scratching below the surface will reveal a powerful islamist coalition ruling the country with wooden batons, according to friends from the country. Palestine, in spite of apparent openings in diplomacy and opportunities for change, has gone back to being the country that has been oppressed by Israel for the last sixty years, in stead of a country with some hope for independence and retribution.

Egypt is… well, Egypt.

Egypt has been riding the roller coaster of a military regime, trying, by any means, to convince the people of the country of the absolute necessity of its continued existence. Means of choice include: Media, fear, shortages, an upsurge of crime and lack of security in ways that only a government intending to scare its people can stage. Looking back, you can find a few historical parallels with Germany in the 1930's, right before and during the rise of Hitler to power*, Pinochets Chile, and America,  post 9/11: A media campaign to frighten the population and incite them against a group, political emprisonment en masse, shortages of gas and petrol, fear of the unknown, staged violence in the country, insecurity as to what the next day will bring… it's a long list.

Add to that long-standing animosity between two the three main actors in this piece, the Muslim Brothers and the Army (or SCAF) who have been at each others throats since 1952, when, as legend and history has it, the brotherhood was discarded in favor of Jimmy Abdel-Nasser after supporting the officers revolt.
In a 2002 interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, their spokesman puts it this way "Abdel-Nasser deceived everyone who worked with him. He deceived all the allies with whom he collaborated prior to and after July 52."

Thus betrayed and in many cases imprisoned, the Brothers, were excised from the body politic and fled into… helping people. Acts of social charity made them one of the more respected organizations in the country. ** Charity that paid off later in form of parliamentary seats for Brothers running as independent candidates and later on, in 2011, with a parliamentary majority of 60% for the Nour and Freedom and Justice parties. In the past 60 years, they have also had the time to organize into effective rallying and

Now, in 2012, my mocking thought returns, cackling "The Plague or Cholera, the brothers or the old regime? Did you not know this would happen?" Even with a German passport and no direct part in the democratic process of Egypt, there was only one expression that described my emotions towards the result. A7a, pronounced Ahha (with a ح), is an expletive connoting deep and far-reaching buggery.

One of Hosni Mubaraks tenets during his presidency, repeated often and with conviction to all that would listen, was that it was either him and his regime, or the Islamists. Without going into too many details of what is, according to some, a fraudulent and unfair election rigged by the SCAF and its eventual outcome, this is exactly the choice Egyptians are faced with now. Morsi vs. Shafiq, arguably the reincarnation of Mubaraks regime. If memory serves, the whole point of the uprising, occupation, virginity tests, martyrdoms and unlawful imprisonments was to… I wonder.

It is a very old game that is being played out. The Army vs. the Muslimhood, to use Omar Suleimans terminology. These are the two organisations that have been most obvious and most present in Egyptian politics. Both rely on a mixture of local and international funding to keep their operations going. Both are deeply integrated into a global framework of states, players, vested interests and finance, without going into the finer points of geostrategic politics. And they both have a history of adversity.

The Brotherhoods relationship to the revolution remains unclear, or Islamist, or allied to the SCAF. At times supportive, at times suppressive and proprietary, the Freedom and Justice Party, as represented by Morsi, is playing the role of the ugly bride, with no-one really wanting to ally with it, or admit they are.
Also, even though there are some indications of fraud, the Stoned Electoral Commission or whatever they're called, which is also dubious in composition, has ruled (that scary word) that the elections are valid. Which means that the 47 per cent of the the population who voted did not do so in vain, if indeed that is the number of people who voted. Numbers are questionable, adjustable things.

It is hard to prove conclusively that these elections were illegal, and some of the theories are from the realm of conspiracy.  But people did go out and vote. And they and a few stuffed ballots, fake IDs, dead people, clones, exempt army officers and policemen did elect their candidates and after a count, frontrunners were arrived at. That embassy staff throughout the globe did vote overwhelmingly for Shafiq helps his cause.

Thank you for three choices.

The third choice was that of Hamdeen Sabahi, a secular, revolutionary, Nasserist candidate. He won a large percentage of the vote, considering a haphazard campaign and a disparate voter base. His programme remained slightly fuzzy, but his political credentials are more aligned with the beliefs of the revolution. He represents the faction that has followed the developments of the revolution and is now out of running. Again this is subject to change. The three choices motif repeats itself, metaphorically between a military junta, an islamic state and a revolutionary coalition. The idea of a transitional coalition has also been mentioned, several times and since the beginning, then discarded in favour of not working together.

Even disqualified, he and his backers represent a sizable faction of the population. That he attained a relatively high percentage of the vote shows that enough independent people got together to create localized and effective support. A will towards change is being proven and will hopefully continue.
In the short term, however, with the countdown to the final announcement running, the Egyptian revolutionaries are trying to manufacture nothing short of an electoral miracle.

The run-off between the two candidates came to Berlin. Many people are used ballot papers as a rare opportunity for direct democracy, rather than to elect a candidate. A voter in voted to "Fuck the Mother of the Brothers and the Military! The Revolution continues!" Others wrote poetry or turned the candidates pictures into caricatures. The vote goes to the creativity of the Egyptian people.

In the middle of all this, a verdict: Hosni Mobarak is guilty. Habib Al-Adli, former police chief is guilty. Two bobbly figureheads have been found guilty, while those who followed their orders, or those to whom they wanted to hand over the country, walk free. Justice in Egypt is an interesting topic, politically charged. In combination with the election results, it is no surprise that the people have taken to the streets again in protest. 

Kurt Tucholsky tells us that "If elections changed anything, they would be illegal". Funnily enough, while  the elections in Egypt seem to have lived up to the North, or Wests democratic aspirations for the country, some Egyptians I talked to reflect that "Who ever said we wanted democracy? We did not take to Tahrir on the 25th of January for fresh elections or even democracy. We took to the streets because we lacked basic things: Bread, Freedom and Social Equality. Those were our chants. No-one ever chanted: We want elections."

One of the buzzwords of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was "exporting democracy". Voting in the US in 2000 and 2004 tell a story of flawed democratic values which allow elections to pass, even with irregularities, and zombies voting. In a slightly comical twist, Transparency international published a report on corruption and transparency*** in Europe in the same week as the elections, proving, in part, that a continent which represents itself as a beacon of civilized, comfortable, egalitarian living.

These have been applied to the Egyptian elections, how nice. Even though, to the casual observer, all this well-organized queuing and stuffing of ballots may seem like a great act of nation building, it is, at best a distraction from the real problems facing the country. And yet they are a significant indicator of change in the country: In Cairo and Alexandria, people who did not boycott the vote elected the secular candidate. The rest of the country, with the notable exception of South Sinai, for the Brother or the Revenant.

At this point, the only way to solve this seems to be secession: Elect a quorum to govern the parts of Egypt that voted for the revolution, independently of the current system, support them financially through the timely payment of taxes and deal with the military and brothers on an economic level only, disregarding differences in politics and criminality. It's not feasible, but reflects a comment I heard yesterday at the World Press Photo awards on a picture of a Muslim brother delivering a protester to the military "He's sha'ab (people). And that guy's a son of a bitch."

Even though I agree that that man was a son of a bitch for putting someone in the hands of the Liars, this kind of thinking is not going to help. Ibn Kalbeyya (Son of Bitchitis) is a curable disease. The remedy is somewhere between discussion, respect, education, food and media awareness. And maybe a more coordinated uprising.

Here endeth the rant. Rahrahrah!

*Interesting factoid: Hitler was granted German citizenship in 1932, just one year before he became the Chancellor of Germany
** For those interested, Aljazeera has a documentary about the political history of the Muslim Brothehood in Egypt
*** The graphic on page 16 is an eye-opener

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

IGAF: Lying on Camera // Astounding Armaments

Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.



He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.

In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…

In Taheyya we Trust - How an Egyptian bellydancer found her posthumous stage in Berlin

“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today).
Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya

My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17. 


Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.



Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…

Two minutes: Love

Love is a big word that has been filled with so many meanings that for me to strain its contours by doing more than writing it out in pretty letters is to do it a disservice. There is much to discover about the content of the word- go out and find it for yourself and fill it with your own meanings, which only experience can give you.

Like religion, discovering love is deeply personal- books and people can help guide you, and give your understanding a foundation and context, but what love ends up being for you cannot be determined by anyone but you.

Maybe we need a new word for love.