Saturday, 24 September 2011

From Egyptian to Egyptian: Work Is Our Only Solution!

In the past eight months since the revolution already 220 political parties were prematurely delivered out of the void. The revolutionary slogans were partially erased from the walls of the Egyptian cities and replaced by the candidates’ names for the approaching elections.
In Abu Kabir (Sharqiyya) the Muslim Brothers -for the first time in history- proudly marked the balcony of their headquarters with their religiously tinted slogans and logos. They now form the political “Party of Freedom and Justice” (Hizb al-Hurriya wa-l-‘Adala).
Yet they are not the only ones making publicity for their candidates. It is as if a hurricane of political activism had passed through the cities and driven away the Ramadan decoration, which was then immediately replaced with all kinds of painted and printed banderoles and posters with names and faces of people who are sharing the new experience of democracy.
Not all of the gatherings are peaceful. Some days ago, when I drove by the children’s hospital in Old Cairo, I saw a group of men who were decidedly and proudly marching into the opposite direction, armed with two Kalashnikovs in full daylight. Later on, when I mentioned this incident to an Egyptian friend, he laughed and told me that this was completely normal, that everybody had always born arms in that quarter, but that only now “after the revolution” they could display them openly.
In the shadow of the emergency law (which was immediately re-introduced after the destruction of the Israelian embassy) states-employees are struggling for “clean” elections. The struggle is difficult and abstruse, as the newcomers have to fight against a Kafkaesque, stagnant bureaucratic apparatus full of people who in some way or the other were collaborating with the regime and are not planning to step down just because their patriarch had done so. As a matter of fact, today even the latter was rehabilitated at the moment when General Tantawi proclaimed Mubarak as not guilty…
There is one curious political group, which started to anonymously monopolize the beginning of the desert road from Cairo to Alexandria with their huge publicity posters. They read: “From Egyptian to Egyptian: Work Is Our Only Solution!” Standing in the middle of the desert, written in English, white and red on black, the whole of it awkwardly reminded me of the Nazi propaganda “Arbeit macht Frei!” (Work will set you free) placed on the top of a gate which knowingly led to death; the one of the concentration camp of Auschwitz.
Which is the audience that the slogan “Work Is Our Only Solution” triggers? Who is it coming from? From an English speaking Egyptian to an English speaking Egyptian who both have cars and use the Alexandria desert road? Yes, those might be the ones who should start to work in order to change the country! But will they remember and want to share with the 90% of their countrymen who do not talk English, the 80% who do not have cars and the 60% who do not have work? Will they be willing to let them partake in power? And if they are, will the Supreme Council of Armed Forces let them do so? If they are not, this is no social revolution and there will be no democracy!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Destruction of the Israelian Embassy in the Egyptian Capital

Demonstrators on the Tahrir Square, 9th September 2011

When I met my friend Ahmed (name changed) who was carrying a big hammer on his shoulder while making his way to the Tahrir Square, I first thought he might want to visually express his adherence to the communist ideology. As a matter of fact, I had never discussed party politics with him before and did not really know which part of the political landscape he was actually belonging too. I greeted him with a surprised and joyful “Ezzaiyyak” (how are you), as we had not met for a long time and immediately started to push his leg about his new membership in the workers’ movement. He smiled in the warm light of the setting sun and made me understand that I was very much mistaken. Happily he declared that he wanted to go and destroy the Israelian Embassy. I laughed, weighed the hammer in my hand and did not believe a word of what he said.
In this moment, when the heavy iron lay on my fingers, I was completely unaware of the fact that this instrument might be among the ones which were to force the initial stroke to the outbreak of a major war in human history. Ahmed disappeared among the crowd of demonstrators on the Tahrir Square. 

The (more ore less) weekly gatherings on the famous place of liberation have now turned into a special kind of folk festival where popcorn and jus-sellers make their living. Also salesmen of handy little sowing and shaving equipment gather for the feast and spread out their towels on the floor among the ones who are trading with nationalistic icons. Black and white pictures of Osama Bin Landen are sold next to Nasser’s multiple photographs. People gather in small groups among artists or party-leaders and charismatically scream their message at each other without forgetting to put it into rhyme-prose or to formulate it as a joke (nokta). 

However, later on last night the panorama changed completely and the ones who were following the news on the Al-Jazeera Channel were turned into witnesses of a major transgression of international law. An emotionally overloaded crowd driven by an exaggerated nationalist enthusiasm started to attack the Israeli Embassy in Giza. First the flag fell down from the 40th floor of the high building and suddenly it illuminated the sky in flames. The armed forces, which were “protecting” the building, seemed to have suddenly lost all their powers with which they had threatened the population on television the day before. The youth managed to sack the embassy without major obstacles. Papers were falling from the sky like snow while the flat looked like the open mouth of a fire-spitting, dark dragon. The crowd celebrated and held their stolen trophies to the cameras, completely unaware that they were not the glorious actors but the mere tool of a cruel game of power-policy. One only remains with the Christian task to ask the powerful to forgive these children, as they were innocent and did not know what they were doing…