Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spongebob Tearpants

It struck me yesterday as I watched on television young people destroying Tory Party HQ that Margaret Thatcher is almost exactly the same age as Hosny Mubarak, was elected prime minister only two years before Hosny took the throne and inspires equal levels of vitriol. Imagine if she was still in power 30 years later.

A journalist who has done a series on “Generation Mubarak” (in German. Google translate doesn't bugger it up too much) was at a protest I went to today at Cairo University. There weren’t many Generation Mubaraks there however, and in total not more than 100 activists demanding that the government respect a recent court decision and remove interior ministry security officers from Cairo University, which they have in their grip much in the way they have the rest of the country by the scruff of the neck.

The interior ministry didn’t get the memo about casual dress however and arrived in full riot gear, approximately 150 soldiers on active standby opposite the university and more hidden away in thirty trucks.

How fierce they looked, stacked up all in black with their guns and their helmets, lined up against the green mobile fortresses behind them. Impenetrable and unvanquished.

(As I was going home I went behind the line of trucks and saw a small group of the soldiers sitting on the ground, thin without their bullet-proof armour, tearing into bits of bread on which they smeared bits of cheese, or halawa. These conscripted souls are Generation Mubaraks, too).

One of the state security officers policing the protest was unusually fat. I remember him because he proved to be particularly unpleasant during a protest outside the Kuwaiti Embassy earlier this year. He likes to buffet people around with his very loud voice. He attempted to do so to a man who stopped opposite the protest and watch. The man turned out to be a Cairo University professor, with time to spare between lectures and unwilling to take any of his shit. He stood his ground and I thrust a voice recorder in his face. (Too knackered to translate. If a kind soul wishes to do so, please be my guest. And feel feel to correct Arabic spelling mistakes).

‎أنا بأتمشى كدا قدام جامعتي ‫و كليتي و بأشوف آية المظاهرة دي و موضوعها أيه لأن هي لفتت نظري و أنا عندي ساعة، ساعة و نصف فاضي من المحاضرات‬
‎‫جاي واقف هنا شوية‬
‎‫على جانب‬
‎‫فهو قاللي انت بتلف كدا‬
‎‫عاوز تعمل دور‬
‎‫داخل بيبحث عن نيتي‬
‎‫بيعاقبني قبل ما أعمل الدور‬
‎‫أنا راجل واقف‬
‎‫زي ما هو واقف‬
‎‫يقوللي ممنوع الوقوف‬
‎‫هو كل حاجة في الدنيا بقت ممنوع؟‬
‎‫آية ممنوع الدخول و ممنوع البص و ممنوع التعليق و ممنوع الكلام و ممنوع الكل حاجة‬
‎‫ده سيايته و هو مكلف بهذا‬

Later the fat policeman attempted to push Aida Seif El-Dawla around with his voice but he picked the wrong person to mess with.

Aida asked him something along the lines of, “do you people not respect court rulings?”

“No,” he said, laughing.

He laughed later on, too, when a fellow journalist who I promised I would not out on this blog had an unfortunate trouser disaster in the buttocks area caused during horse riding (!) the previous evening.

“I know this is a weird question but would you mind looking at my backside?” the journalist said, and suddenly things were looking up. But actually I was looking down, at a large tear in his pantalon revealing some very upper thigh.

I confirmed that all was not well on the ranch and together we attempted to think of a solution. Being a professional he couldn’t just bugger off, but at the same time Egypt has enough problems without international correspondents wandering around exposing themselves to students. (Although this hasn’t stopped a certain gifted Guardian writer, ho ho. Only joking, Jack!).

Suddenly my eye fell upon a Kefaya sticker.

There is a use for this group yet, I thought. Lacking alternatives the journalist went for the idea and, while ensuring that Abdel-Halim Qandeel wasn’t looking, I procured a sticker and Kefaya suffered possibly its most ignominious trial yet.

Alas said journalist returned some time later and reported that his buttocks were rejecting popular resistance. By this point the trouser issue had become something of a talking point amongst demonstrators and fat security officers, and a protestor who made no effort to suppress his guffaws kindly presented my journalist friend with a safety pin. That too proved unsuccessful and for the rest of the afternoon my journalist friend walked around valiantly, if rather strained-looking.

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