The end of a thousand myths

Originally published in Egypt Independent.

Amongst the mourners and the angry at the march commemorating the 1st anniversary of the Maspero massacre there was an earnest young man brandishing a sign that read, “Egyptian revolution supports Mitt Romney”.

It was an oddly incongruent forum for this declaration, this sudden injection of the outside, and the now, into the memory being revived at Shubra where thousands gathered just as they had a year ago. But then the memory was being challenged in every way: numbers (smaller), weather (hotter), time march started (later), messages on placards (completely different).

Images from the 2011 march – the good and the bad – are so seared into my memory that to see it “recreated” on Tuesday was strange, a film redone with new actors. At every step I remembered the old: the woman waving the cross at protesters as they prepared to set off, the two men sitting in a boot of a car who laughed and smiled for the camera, the hymns in Galaa Street, the moment the hymns stopped.

I remember the 2011 march as having more Christian iconography than Tuesday’s, which – of course – was dominated by images of the 28 men killed, especially that of Mina Daniel’s whose many friends have ensured that he has not been forgotten. There were also plenty of nooses around pictures of ex Field Commander Hussein Tantawy and his friends, and in a new twist, anti-Muslim Brotherhood proclamations.

Approaching the Ahmed Helmy tunnel where last year protesters were pelted with rocks by unknown assailants, protesters demanded that the march stop and regroup, that it take a deep breath and move forward en masse. It did, and a chant of “the people want the execution of the Field Marshall” rattled around in the tunnel.  Last year the demand had been limited to, “the people want the removal of the Field Marshall” – but that was before the unimaginable happened.

 It had been a popular fallacy amongst some that the army would act as the Coptic minority’s protector against Egypt’s Islamic currents. And then churches were destroyed and Copts driven out of their homes on Tantawy’s watch. During Tuesday’s march furious young men burnt crude effigies of Military Council members, army uniforms stuffed with paper and topped with a cardboard cutout of the unfortunate men.

The legacy and legend of the Egyptian military is just one of the myths that has been challenged by the January 2011 revolution. Egyptian citizens have discovered that Egyptian soldiers will kill Egyptian citizens, and that at times the “one hand” slogan used to describe Christian and Muslim unity conjures up a pummeling fist, such as when individuals were attacked or arrested by groups of citizens on the night of October 9 because they are called Peter or because they were wearing a cross.

The real horror of Maspero was that it exploded so many myths at once in this almost dreamlike frenzy of violence: religious harmony, army gallantry…A boil was lanced, and the pus erupted, but the wound was never given air to heal. It was covered up, and left to fester, as is generally the way.

The physical blood and the debris had been removed from the (crime) scene by the next morning.

A group of protesters and unlucky Christian passersby were arrested and punished twice. The first time was in a room on Maspero’s ground floor, with army boots and batons, and one wonders what the cleaners made of the aftermath when they arrived the next morning. The second time, the cruelty disguised itself in legal process and involved zany charges (including against Mina Daniel) and judicial sophistry that subjected these men to three months as part of an attempt to repackage events.

When Vivian Magdy grasped the hand of her dead fiancée in a morgue in Cairo, surrounded by the blood and guts of other dead men shot or crushed to death and screamed with grief it was difficult to imagine that nobody would be held to account for their killing. But a military court earlier this year found three junior soldiers guilty of “manslaughter” for their role in driving the armed personnel carriers that killed 15 people and handed them brief prison sentences.

The trial was essentially an exercise in pummeling the truth until it resembled something more palatable. The military line was that the soldiers panicked when confronted by thousands of protesters descending on them, and drove into the crowd while trying to escape.

I had never seen people be killed before Maspero. Maybe that is why I am regularly visited by the image of the APC that climbed over an island in the middle of the road and crushed the people in its path, of the way it slowly and serenely went up the October Bridge while below it another APC circled under the same bridge and returned to the protest driving in a strange zig zag fashion at high speed, competently ploughing into anything in its path. Panic free.

Maspero was a thousand myths short-circuiting. State apparatus, notably the media, managed to contain the damage but truth can be annoyingly persistent even when it is just presented in the form of cardboard cutouts of the faces of 28 dead men and a chant, fel ganna…ya Mina. In heaven, Mina.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The end of a thousand myths

  1. Constant reader says:

    Oh Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, I’m glad (strange word) you wrote this sad stuff straight. You are so good in describing the mechanics of the mess and horror, the continuation of memory and its markings, actions. By chance, this Saturday morning, I am listening to Jessye Norman sing Strauss’s Four Last Songs while reading your words about Maspero. Never thought you would have a soundtrack? This morning it fits, a searing sorta fit. Your photos hit the bullseye, too.

  2. Ray says:

    ‘…………….an earnest young man brandishing a sign that read, “Egyptian revolution supports Mitt Romney”.
    Next day, 100 men called Romney appeared at his doorstep!

  3. of surprise and pleasure as when she first saw Amber at the
    police station. Stevens: “My job is boring–I think I’ll write some incomprehensible poetry to break the tedium. On an actual beach, it will just look tacky, trampy and downright ridiculous.

  4. Awesome! Its truly awesome piece of writing, I have
    got much clear idea on the topic of from this piece of writing.

  5. What i don’t realize is in truth how you are no longer actually much more neatly-preferred than you might bee now.
    Yoou are very intelligent. You know therefore considerably when it comkes to this topic, produced mee personally believe it from
    so many numerous angles. Its like men and womrn are not fascinated unless
    it is onee thing tto ddo with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent.
    Always handle it up!

    My page :: polished concrete marble countertops pros and cons

  6. This is my first time go to see at here andd i am truly happy to
    read all at alone place.

  7. Nara Iredale produces a regarding make-up products to select from, so here
    is a sample of Jane Iredale’s smart, fabulous finds
    to achieve 2013. If it’s a car you’re having done –
    ask for a worse case scenario – body panels like floors, fenders etc have
    a fixed price, if the restorer is experienced enough
    he should be able to tell you clearly how long it would take to cut off the rear quarters, cut out the trunk pan and rear valence and
    weld new panels in. (If you are not sure use a inspection group
    like to check it out.

    Have a look at my homepage: csr classic money hack

  8. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your
    useful info. Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

  9. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am having troubles
    with your RSS. I don’t know why I can’t join it.
    Is there anybody getting similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond?

  10. I was wondering iif you ever thought of changing the pagge layout off your blog?
    Its very well written; I love hat youvve gott to say.
    But maybe yoou could a little more in the way of content so people could connect
    with it better. Youhve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    Review my blog nintendo 3ds xl release date

  11. I really like reading through an article that can make
    people think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

  12. Next one is likely to subscribe above! After a close eye on, in order to hit $100.
    It is: 1 54 for it other than the length
    of time, and as it has been shopping here for you to ask.

    Apple is on a major gun whose large firm with
    his new accountant has provided good advice on matters such as the prediction.

    Feel free to surf to my web site – #salesprocess

  13. Make a wish list of cars that you are interested in. You have seen many cars in advertisements and on the
    road. It should be easy for you to build a solid
    list of vehicles that would suit your style. You can add a couple of dream cars
    that seem out of your range; however, be realistic about what you
    can afford. Never take a car at face value. Though
    you may not be a mechanic, it is a good idea to do a thorough
    inspection of the vehicle. An important part of the inspection is a test drive.

    This allows you to feel the car on the road, listen for any
    wayward noises and possible spot issues with performance.

  14. Hey are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new
    to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you need any coding expertise to make
    your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  15. says:

    we not too long ago built our steam shower unit, the best item i’ve
    purchased in a long while, children and family think it’s great, cannot see myself heading back to
    conventional showers ever again

    my web-site: steam showers reviews (

  16. Isabella says:

    A wide variety of tremendous information on this
    site, want a steam shower unit inside my bathroom

    Feel free to visit my blog post … steam shower whirlpool tub (Isabella)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>