11 Jun 2011

The leader of the melons

Saturday 11 June 2011

When I heard there was a demonstration or a sit-in at Maspero, which is the State Radio and Television building, I rushed out of the nearby Al Jazeera office. I was eager to see the famous Maspero building too, named after a French egyptologistBut as we walked there we were warned not to go. Someone said his Rolex was stolen and people were violent.

I still wanted to go see them. I decided to walk there with a colleague, but no TV camera.

I saw a few dozens of people, all looking pretty poor. They wanted : housing ! And they wanted it : now ! One man on the floor was being beaten by a group of other men and women. Three women looked hysterical, screaming at each other, as I walked by. From afar I could see more beating and fighting between people.

The thug enigma

I was told it is the "thugs" (baltagiya)! Whose thugs? Mubarak's thugs? The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' thugs? And who is beating whom and why? That man on the floor was being beaten by whom? Is he the thug or is he the thugs' victim? How do you know who is the thug?

As I walked back, following my Egyptian colleague's decision to stay away, we went past a group of policemen, dressed in white. I had learned from Egyptian soap operas that Egyptians call them "shawish" !

Wait a second.. Wait a second.. The police are standing by, just 3 or 4 meters away from the man beaten on the floor? Why don't they restore order, defend the defenseless? Or at least check out what is wrong? They looked as relaxed as ever.

"khalas ma feesh" said a passerby who heard me wondering. It means: "there is (no police) any more!

It surely looked like the policemen standing there were as good as "ma feesh" !

Military trials vs civil trials

"I will not pay a bribe ever again", read a sign at the entrance of a state building. It is a product of the revolution, it even has a facebook logo on the top left corner, which looked like the name of something like a sponsoring company!

The building in question was the Supreme Justice House.

What has a correspondent from South America come to do in Africa?", asked a high-ranking official working for the entity that groups the judges of Egypt.

"I learned about revolutions there, so I came to check yours out", I answered with a smile, hoping to break the ice. I was a bit nervous dealing with officials in an Arab country for the first time in a very long time.

The Supreme Council of Judges decided to back two judges who had criticised on TV (Al Jazeera Mubashar Misr) the trial of civilians in military courts on TV. The two judges had been called in for questioning regarding their public statements. But now the Supreme Council of Judges decided to put an end to that. So they will not be questioned. However it also asked everyone, including judges and journalists, not to "tackle the issue" again in media.

Indeed, Al Jazeera was not allowed to film anything or interview any of the judges or officials there. The president of the Supreme Council of Judges said to me, off camera: I won't talk to any media organisation. This matter is finished.
Does that mean one should not discuss the military trials of civilians in Egypt? And what about former officials from Mubarak's depooosed regime? Why are they being tried, including Mubarak, in civilian courts?

It is quite a debate in the country. It raises a lot of questions about the state of liberties in this transitional post-Mubarak period under military rule.

Clearly the army does not feel comfortable being criticised by anyone. Many I talked to said that the army is "sacred".

took a break in a typical downtown Cairo cafe, full of men. Some were playing backgammon. I wondered why they are not working.

In the midst of the chaos of the day I suddenly saw a man carting melons by. They looked beautiful. They were perfectly stacked in a pile as they were being carted around. The huge price tag, placed on top of a stick, stood proud among them. That is the kind of balance needed in this country: beautiful yet resistant melons, supporting and respecting each other on a bumpy road, led by the man who is carting them around and who placed them where each one belongs.

He would be the leader of the melons!  


Read previous posts on my stay in Egypt ---> Egyptian Diary

No comments: