Archive for January, 2011

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A Picture of Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein

January 26, 2011

Black and White Picture:

When you were born in the late 70s and early 80s there was a black and white picture hang in the birth registration office. The picture represents a thin man with a military suite. That man’s name is n. He claims that he united the country, that he has beaten the enemy, that he will reform all the legislative and executive powers of the state, and that he is your hero.

Sepia Picture:

You start going to school and there is a sepia picture of Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein, but this time he is wearing a modern suite and Rayban glasses. He became friend with the so called ‘’enemy’’, he ‘’united’’ the country around values of corruption, dependency and fraud, he did many reforms at the legislative and executive powers of the state to allow his family member, military friends and foreign investors to dominate the politics and the economy, and to allow himself to remain in his golden chair for long time, and he is still claiming himself your ‘’hero’’.

Coloured Picture:

Things get hard for you, you live your first love stories and have the features of a real woman/man by now and you go to the university. In the conference hall there is a well situated picture of Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein. The picture is in colours, but he seems getting fat while the shopping purse of your family is getting small. Your former enemy is now called the potential investor and tourist, the country is very united except when there are ethnic, religious, ideological or tribal tensions, which happens more and more often. Reforms are doing ‘’great’’, the telecommunications, water, electricity, tobacco, gaz, cement, and even sewage and your wastes are privatized to foreign companies. You start looking in history, philosophy books, and Indian movies and even in football player for someone you can call a hero.

Photoshoped Picture:

Maturity is not easy to face when you have a miserable job which destroys your self esteem every day, when you start avoiding your girl friend’s questions because you have empty pockets and a heart full of dreams that will not satisfy you daily needs as a couple. You walk in the streets thinking about a solution, and on the corner there is a banner with a huge picture of Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein. The picture is photoshoped in order to reduce his belly and to give a lifting to his old face. You examine yourself with your hand, and you start thinking that you would use of some photoshop magical touches too. You receive a notification on your Gmail from your Facebook on your Blackberry about a demonstration. You change your Profile picture, push the Like button, update your status and send a message to your friends on BBM. After all, he is maybe a real hero. We are having a pretty good life! Why we always compare ourselves to other countries? We are a Special case!

Burned Picture:

You roll a join of hash or go to the mosque to reach a status of peace and forget that your girlfriend married an engineer in Kuwait, that your parents are getting old and tired, that Mody the son-in-law of the manager got the promotion you were dreaming of,. In the street there is a growing noise of young people like you shouting. You follow the voice and found a burned picture of Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein. The demonstrations are calling for real reforms for withdrawing the man in the picture and for some dignity for people like you and me. You belong to a generation that never thought revolutions really exist, that they are just old people’s tales, that you will live and die and leave Mohamed, Ahmed, Hosni, Hassan or Hussein as a heritage for your kids. Well, in the name of all this generation who has been digging and digging with our broken fingers, scratching and scratching with our weakened pens, kicking and kicking with our tired legs… now we can see some light at the end of the tunnel and the Hero who made it happen can be called YOU if you help us digging!

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Jasmine for Egypt “مسائك فل يا مصر”

January 17, 2011

I prepared a tea with jasmine to celebrate the Tunisian revolution, and I sat in front of my notebook to do my morning tour on facebook. The red of the Tunisian flag masked the blue of the social network, and the videos and caricatures of ‘’Zin El Haribiin’’ – as the online community call him – covered the pages of most of Arab users. Yet, what I would like to share with you here are the facebook statuses and their trends from one country to another with a special focus on the country of my heart: Egypt.

Self-Immolation – burning one’s body with fire- is not like burning a DVD on a computer. It is a holy act symbolising purification by fire in ancient religions which became on the 60s a Bonzo Buddhist way of protestation against oppression, and on the 80s and 90s a signature of the PPK ‘’Kurdish Workers Party’’ to attract the attention of the world. However, we are witnessing a unique rise of this phenomenon in the Arab world. First the Tuk-Tuk  suicides in Egypt and now a graduated Tunisian who burned himself and started a revolution on the streets and on the internet. The story of this hero chocked the Arab facebook population, and produced a flow of comments and statuses. 

It is not surprising how the Egyptian humor took over the guilt and the shame of not doing a revolution of their own. I saw somewhere that the more oppressed are the people; the more their humor is strong and creative as a way to exteriorize the pressure they undergo. The jokes talked the Ben Ali escape, the comparison with Egypt, the Arab leadership with a sparkle of Adil Emam and Advertisement quotes which only Egyptians can understand, like : ‘’Tunisia chose change, and Egypt chose Shipsy with shrimps’’! Well I allow myself to criticise the Egyptian reaction, because I left my heart in Alexandria and I feel real concern and love for this country. I was laughing with amusement at first while reading the comments, but later I felt the bitterness of disgust in my through and the tears filling my eyes. I started repeating to myself, here they go again laughing about it instead of taking action. Here they go again spending all their energy in longue articles, analysis and poems instead of standing up for justice! 

We all know Tunisia is not Egypt, not anthropologically, not geopolitically and not politically! The foreign powers sat on their shares watching the former Tunisian Regime collapsing without a move because they have pragmatically no interest in the land of the Cathagians except from some mild investments here and there. Yet, Egypt is the neighbour of a boiling Sudan in the south, and You Know Who in the east, and all the super powers invested so much in the stability of the region to risk it like this. Without getting into the details of the nature of the Egyptian elites, the problematic of the army or the heterogeneity of the dominating ideologies in the country, let’s just admit that Egypt is ready for its revolution to the extent that we hear the countdown tic-tac of the bomb in the air, but not in the Tunisian way in the Egyptian way which unfortunately will be bloody and spectacular enough for a 80 million inhabitant and a 5 millennia of history. 

For the Moroccan facebook population we can note three trends. The first one is the total support and happiness of Moroccans for the second liberation of Tunisia after 1956. However, most people on my list didn’t express any envy or desire to import the revolution to their kingdom. The second trend is the minority of intellectuals who had a really out of context discourse about having a Moroccan Revolution! What is amazing about this second trend is that the revolutionary fever took the people to the extent that sounded like being in Burma not in Morocco, and being just angry in general without précising what is the real subject or object of their anger! The third trend is the most intriguing for me, as some Moroccans were promoting for an Algerian Revolution against the army in the country. I wonder is it out of solidarity between neighbors, or a hidden hope to see the supporters of the Polisario on their knees. 

Regarding our friends from the Gulf countries, I didn’t notice much concern about what happened as if Tunisia was a small island next to Madagascar far from the minds and hearts. The few comments I saw were from a religious point of view, explaining how Ben Ali was banning Hijab and religious symbols and how the Tunisian believers are liberated now on. Watch this discourse, because it is from this part of the Arab body that the capitals come from!

Finally, the heroes of the day: the Tunisians! If they didn’t call the revolution the Jasmine Revolution, I would call it the Internet Revolution. Tunisians were acting as live reporters from their street corners reporting to the world the bloody confrontations with the Police. We witnessed a high quality of information, up-to-date news and sense of patriotism from the people living in Tunisia and the Diaspora living abroad. While the Tunisian national TV was broadcasting documentaries about zebras and crocodiles, the average Tunisian was shouting online his glory to the world. 

At the end I would love to offer a necklace of Jasmine to Egypt on the 25th of January. One of those ‘’Ful’’ ornaments sold by young gipsy girls on the cornice to busy drivers stuck in the jam of life who forget how frail is a jasmine flower and how refreshing is its smell, just like the smell of freedom. Massa’k Ful ya Masr!