Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Balances and Ladders

Very view observers of the presidential elections outside of Egypt may have noticed the little circles which enclose symbols on the propaganda posters of the candidates. These are not mere adornments or amulets for political prosperity but they do have a very pragmatic function: they are meant to facilitate the participation of the around 25% of citizens who can neither write nor read.

Each candidate was therefore free to choose a symbol to represent his name on the lists at the polling stations. The ones that remain for the second round are the ladder for Ahmad Shafiq and the balance for Muhammad Mursi.  Whereas the former seems to promise an accelerated advance of the country straight up to the sky, the latter claims his capacity to balance the different interest down on earth. However, both options seem to convince neither the Facebook-community nor the graffiti activists who keep expressing their discontent about the election results on diverse levels of artistic accomplishment. Fearless they are attacking the two presidential candidates while sarcastically stating that it will be the last time for a long period...

"The Ladder": Ahmed Shafiq

Were the elections really clean? May they be labeled truly democratic? Is it normal that after a popular revolution, which had been able to overthrow a 30 years old regime, less than 50% of the same angry and now self-confident citizens proceed to the polling stations? Is it fair to force people living in disperse locations of the country back to their place of origin in order to fulfill their duty as citizens of a democratic state? Is it not very likely that the poor employee who is working in Luxor cannot travel all the way back to Cairo (more than 12 hours) in order to deposit his vote? What about the analphabets? Did they truly understand where to sign and were they left to proceed without any outer assistance?

"The Balance": Muhammad Mursi

When the High Council of Armed Forces lifted the state of emergency it seemed to push the country up the ladder and into the democratic heaven. A few days later however, the same ruling institution took hold of the legislative power which un-balanced the classic repartition… Nevertheless, the demonstrators do not want to play this kind of “balances and ladders” which seems to be a loosing game for the revolutionaries. This is the reason why they called for another “milliuniyya” (massive demonstrations) on the Tharir Square tomorrow.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Visual Propaganda in Egypt: the Army and Hazim Abu Ismaʿil

After Mubarak’s demission which marked an end to the first phase of the Egyptian revolution, the army celebrated victory together with the people. Egyptians of all generations took photographs in front of the tanks that had surrounded the Tahrir square allegedly in order to protect the demonstrators. Nevertheless against what exactly the army had come to protect them remains to be freely imagined…

The initially so euphoric glorification of the soldiers as the guardians of the revolution came to an end after multiple scandals. As early as on 9 March 2011, “virginity tests” were perpetrated on the allegedly “protected” female protesters in order to “protect” them even more; namely against the accusation of prostitution. Then certain claims for civil trials of the demonstrators who had been sent to prison at the beginning of the revolution with rapidly improvised military sentences (most probably to “protect” these young people against themselves?!) could be heard in the public sphere. Later on, the events in the Stadium of Port Said and the ferociously suppressed demonstrations in Mohammed Mahmud Street in Down Town (next to the Tahrir Square), made people doubt about the honesty of the army and more and more “NO SCAF”-graffitis appeared on the walls all over the Egyptian capital. 

-->"The People and the Army, Hand in Hand!"

Finally, as the artists stopped to eternalize the image of the kind soldiers who distribute flowers to little girls with grinning faces, the army took over the lead in reminding the people that they had “protected” them during the revolution. All the tanks (where one year ago demonstrators had written: “the people want the fall of the system”) now carry the following caption, yellow on purple: “the people and the army, hand in hand!” For the ones who are not able to read –and this is still a big portion of the people who are roaming night and day the Egyptian streets– big posters were produced with a gentle soldier who is cradling a baby in his arms. The spectator, made prisoners of his emotions while looking at this symbol of tenderness, remains unaware of the Kalashnikov which is hanging from the soldier’s left shoulder.

However not only the army started to use visual propaganda posters on the streets in order to attract the attention of the people who are not using Facebook. Although these millions of people might easily be forgotten from an economical point of view, in democratic elections the voice of the most disadvantaged analphabet in the country will also count. Two parties understood this fact very fast: the army and the self-nominated presidential candidate Hazim Abu Ismaʿil.

While Egyptian graffiti-artists are honoring their martyrs on the wall of the old AUC main-building, the grinning face of the presidential candidate Hazim Abu Ismaʿil, stuck to the rear-window of the car in the foreground, is promoting “a decent state and modest people.”

About three weeks ago, the happily smiling face of a man, who for European children looks like dear Father Christmas with his long white beard, started to appear on buses and cars all over Cairo. Far from a religious garment, in his modern suit with a blue tie, this wolf in sheep’s clothing promotes “a decent state (dawla muhtarama) and modest people (shaʿb massun)”. Both attributes are directly related in the Arabic language with this strange kind of honor which in patriarchal societies seems to depend solely on “their” women’s –and here I would like to stress the possessive quality of the pronoun– behavior. In other words: the dominant, religiously immaculate male, Abu Ismaʿil is paradoxically planning to penetrate the state in order to make it become decent. From this point of view his attempts seem somewhat cynically in accordance with the Moroccan penal code that allows the rapist to wed his victim if she is a minor… 

Well anyway, if he wins the elections, dogs and women might start to apply for political asylum somewhere in the “indecent” states which are populated with “heretic” and “immodest” people stereotypically called “the West”.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Demonstrations on the International Day of Drama in Tunis

On 25 Mars 2012, the salafists challenged the liberals in front of the Théâtre Municipal in Tunis. The theatre-workers gathered under the banner: “the people want theatre!” while the salafists assembled in the middle of the street in front of them and chanted: “the people want an Islamic state!”
Meanwhile in the Café l’Univers people were having coffee and watching bearded teenagers passing by who shouted at them: “you heretics!” However, the former turned around calmly, laughed at them and answered back: “yes and you guys are very good Muslims!”