May 23, 2013
Dispatches From Cairo: Blood, Youth and Revolution
Posted on May 4, 2012
Saudi economic experts warned of the repercussions of the political crisis between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where about 1 million Egyptians work. Experts estimate that Saudis hold more than $12 billion in investments in Egypt.
Even though it withdrew its ambassador Saturday in reaction to the demonstrations, and later closed its Cairo embassy, Saudi Arabia later said it would proceed with its plan to give Egypt $2.7 billion in aid.
As usual in Egypt in times of unrest, absurd propaganda churns in the background. An example of such hooey is the rumor that Islamists are trying to implement a “right to necrophilia with wives,” a story picked up by websites including those of some international media companies.
Meanwhile, the fundamentalist Salafis have now surprisingly thrown their support behind the ex-Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Liberal candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who is also backed by none other than Wael Ghonem, the great hero and facilitator of the revolution. It is now a clear contest among the three major candidates: Abul-Fotouh; the secularist Amr Moussa, ex-chair of the Arab League and Egyptian foreign affairs minister; and Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, who will have to work hard to regain the MB’s diminished voter base. The reinstatement of the previously disqualified SCAF candidate, Ahmed Shafiq—a former general who is friendly to the United States and Israel and who briefly was the last prime minister of the Mubarak government—raised a small outcry, but his was never a popular nomination, and quickly other outrages took precedent.
So what are you protesting today?
“I am protesting the military government. They must go out!” She said this loudly, and other people in the march turned and seconded her words.
“Aren’t most people here protesting Abu Ismail’s disqualification for candidacy?” I indicated the bearded and sign-bearing people gathering on the route. “I mean, … his whole family are U.S. citizens and live in California, and that was the rule the Salafis wrote.”
“I don’t care,” she said. “I am here as a revolutionary to support the revolution, whatever the subject.” She was adamantly in agreement with the anger about the reinstatement of the candidacy of Shafiq, a remnant of Hosni Mubabrak’s regime. “They are trying to steal back the revolution but we won’t let them! … They are murderers and liars.”
She didn’t once say the name of Allah, a common invocation among conservative Egyptians. That seemed to clash with her wearing of a niqab. I felt compelled to ask: “If the government forced you to wear the niqab, would you, in the name of revolution, violate the order and take it off? If Egypt became like Saudi [in requiring the niqab] …?”
She deflected my question, saying: “I protested against the Saudi Embassy yesterday. They are keeping thousands of Egyptians in prison without trial. They only have oil, they are hypocrites. We don’t want them.”
“What do your parents say?”
“They understand I am a revolutionary, but of course they are worried.”
“Do they know you are here?”
She looked mischievous and said, “Not exactly.”
And then two of her friends—girls in niqab and waving Egyptian flags—passed, and she joined them in chanting, “Out! Out! The military government!”
Covered in cloth as they were, I imagined their parents would not have been able to recognize them in photos of the march.
I hope the three teenagers went home before violence broke out. I hope that they—and Yussef, whom I have not been able to reach since Wednesday—are back with their families, and away from harm.
I didn’t get a chance to talk about other issues with Dima Shawky, and she didn’t mention the breaking of the fuel deal with Israel, or the Islamists’ global endorsement of Abul-Fotouh Abou-Fotouh. But I guess it doesn’t matter. She is for the revolution of the street, whatever it may be. The new Egypt will be hers.
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