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!”