Football meets politics again, but differently

Some thinking out loud about the Port Said tragedy:

I watched endless re-runs of the final moments of the Ahly–Masry game in Port Said in a restaurant, on a muted television. Silent images of a man triumphantly carried on someone’s shoulders and hurriedly put down as hordes of men fill the pitch and pursue the Ahly players, shown again and again. The celebrations turned so quickly, so seamlessly, into violence and tragedy.

Hundreds of youths gathered outside Ahly’s Cairo base the next day, chanting against Port Said, against Ahly director Hassan Hamdy, against the Interior Ministry, against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

At one point screams interrupted the chants. A young woman banged her head on the roof of a car while next to her an older woman collapsed on the ground. They had just heard that their relative, 16-year-old Islam Ahmed, was amongst the stadium’s dead.

Read the rest here.

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Don’t know how to make this blog go dark without buggering it up, but down with the evil Internet breakers.

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So here we are, a year later, waiting for January 25th again. At the end of 2010 the country felt like it was at the end stages of some lingering, incurable disease, like it was stagnating. It had been a year of breathtaking police brutality, casual election violations and mass murder, at the Qedesayn Church. Even ordinary everyday life was infected with a sort of resigned hopelessness interrupted by spectacular acts of National Democratic Party mismanagement, failure and injustice.

A year later and the ordinary everyday hasn’t changed greatly. People are still poor, young men and their dreams still drown in the Mediterranean, life goes on. For a brief moment early in 2011 there was the delicious prospect of possibilities and new starts. Teams of volunteers joyfully repainted curbs and polished statues, as if wiping off this surface dirt would ever be enough.

People talked about the revolution as if it is a living, breathing, tangible thing, a thing in need of a protection or a thing that will protect them. But they also said, we are the revolution, or, when hearing about a positive political development, the sacking of some entrenched regime figure in a government institution somewhere, the revolution is everywhere, as if it’s a contagion.

Schisms between the Pro- and the Counter-revolution were identified, classified: regime remnants and the Sofa Party, content to condemn revolutionaries from their living room. On the other side the revolutionaries and their martyrs.

An unforgiving dichotomy emerged. Street children caught up in street battles became either revolutionaries or thugs. Acts of violence against state institutions is resistance or vandalism. Tahrir Square protests protect the revolution and stall the economy. Protests in Abbaseyya Square are held by lunatics and honourable citizens. An entire vocabulary was formed, revolutionary metadata that confounds more often than it elucidates and – like a man who complains about the heat of the beach while one metre away another basks in the sun – tells you more about the speaker than what is actually happening.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been fond of exploiting this, in its clumsy way. It has marketed itself as the supreme protector, uber alles, of the revolution while investing in the basest forms of demagoguery against proponents of this same revolution, apparently in the belief that in doing so, it covers all its bases. A crude, risible technique, but strengthened by the authority of the Egyptian Army, the last bastion against the vagaries of a chaotic, leaderless Egypt.

And now the January 25 anniversary is a squabble over nomenclature, and ownership. Will it be a protest, carnival or memorial? And elsewhere life goes on, the million invisible battles, unchanged and real but invisible.  Fitting, perhaps all this, when all that promise of January has been diluted to a parliament on a leash, and the phantasm of a revolution.

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Army country

In Mostafa Mahmoud Square on Tuesday, a roaring man went up to another man and started slapping him across the face.

There was that moment of hesitation as the accosted man processed what was going on. He looked at the woman he was standing with, looked back at his assailant, looked at his assailant’s palm as it struck him again. Then he started slapping his assailant back, and there followed the sort of grappling men who don’t know how to fight engage in, that unedifying spectacle of clothes-pulling and misaimed kicks.

The man who had started the fight was a youth, perhaps in his very early 20s, wearing jeans and a dark hooded top (The international menace of the hoodie!)

He strode up to the couple with a singular sense of purpose and raised his hand to slap the man as if he was about to shake the hand of a long lost friend. As he did this he bellowed, “emshy men hena yebn el metnaka! El balad deih balad 3askar!” [Get out of here, mothafucker, this is the army’s country].

An older man in a baseball cap carrying two empty bottles interceded, at which point it became apparent that the young man was not an impassioned solo lunatic, but part of a gang of lunatics, out to defend the Egyptian army.

Earlier that afternoon a group on Facebook called “I’m sorry, President” had announced that a group of activists planned to “incite against the army” in Mostafa Mahmoud Square and encouraged the residents of Meet 3o2ba (a working class area nearby) to do the necessary.

And this is what hooded man and his companions seemed to be doing. For the next 15 minutes or so hooded man strode up and down in Mostafa Mahmoud Square (which is to the I’m Sorry, President crowd what Tahrir Square is to the pro-revolutionaries), his erratic movements silhouetted in the mist of the feeble light cutting through the evening’s gloom.

A handful of anti-SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) protesters gathered. An old woman started shouting at them, kept going on about the April 6 Youth Group. Men in suits – seemingly bystanders but who knows – politely encouraged the youths to move away from the Square to avoid problems.

And suddenly hooded man reappeared having disappeared for a while, possibly to masturbate quickly over a tank, who knows. This time he really meant business. He immediately jumped on the hood of a car and started giving a speech, the usual shit about people trying to cause problems between the army and the police and he will fuck anyone up who does this and April 6 are all dirty bastards. The speech in all its blue glory was delivered to the soundtrack of the call to prayer emitted from the mosque behind him, as a bystander pointed out, somewhat timidly. Hooded man continued.

Dr Moftases stood underneath and watched him and then gave him a slow clap, saying bravo bravo. Hooded man returned the slow clap and snorted the loudest, longest snort from his nose I have ever heard, you could practically see the catarrh roiling up inside him like lava.

Then a man appeared carrying cables with exposed wires, shouting, “who wants some electricity???” while another built like a bull took his top off and put a wrestler’s ski mask on, completely obscuring his face, and the man in the baseball cap banged his bottles together with a strange exuberance and the older woman screeched SETTA ABREEL SETTA ABREEL [April 6, April 6]. It was at this point that I realised how very delicate most of the protesters were, by which I mean that alas not many of them looked like they had a history of taking on wrestlers in ski masks or men offering to electrocute them.

This was borne out in the moments that followed this. Hooded man got on a different car to exclaim – in English – that he was “ready to fight” anyone. Then he and his motley crew started charging, pushing and shoving anyone who refused to move, ski mask man clenching his fists and going grrrrr, thus showing no originality whatsoever.

The protesters were slowly driven back by the gang. I noticed that bystanders joined their ranks and declaimed against April 6. Moftases was hit on the head lightly with a bottle, Noov had her hair pulled, another protester was set on by four of them but luckily escaped with a few bruises.

Despite the menace of it all, there was something a bit pathetic about this troupe and the spectacle they put on. They were unpleasant bastards, but didn’t cause any physical harm despite having ample opportunity to do so. Moftases said he saw the man in the ski mask attempt three times to use a bottle of Pepper Spray while restraining a protester, pausing in between each attempt to shake the bottle, and failing. He says the blow he got on the head with the bottle wasn’t hard enough to cause pain.

Looking back there was something of the slapstick about it all, although it didn’t feel like it at the time. There was a sort of timidity about them (apart from hooded man), as if despite their big talk actually nah, they’re a bunch of pissants and aren’t really kings of any yard and they know it. The anti-SCAF march went ahead, though not quite from Mostafa Mahmoud Square itself.

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Crackdown in Cairo

Here is something about Fayza’s day out at the NGOs.

CAIRO – There was a flurry of good news last week in Egypt. Activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah was released on Christmas Day, Cairo’s Administrative Court issued a ruling banning “virginity tests,” and thousands of women took part in a spirited march in downtown Cairo to denounce the military’s brutal violence against women protesters during the breakup of a sit-in in front of the Cabinet building on Dec. 16 and 17.

That streak of good times was interrupted Thursday afternoon when public prosecution officials, assisted by armed Central Security Forces (CSF) soldiers — Cairo’s ubiquitous black-clad riot troops — raided the offices of six civil society groups.

Read the rest here.

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Members of the One Hand Group yesterday apologised to their spiritual leaders Tawfik Okasha and amoeba Ahmed Zbaydar for failing in their duty to kill and/or imprison absolutely all Egyptians.

The One Hand Group is a group of 20 retired army officers who in February took over the running of a tour bus previously operated by the Hosny Travels Company. They initially signed-on to run the tour for six months but have since extended their contract without anyone asking them to.

On Sunday the One Hand Group gave a press conference to journalists about recent violence on the bus. Only journalists born within a 10-mile radius of Mansafees, Minya, or Dayroot, Assiut were allowed to attend the conference, which was chaired by pensioner Adel Emara wearing his special green soiree beret.

Emara mostly droned on about foreign plots to flatten the tour bus’ tyres and schemes to undermine the stability of its chassis. When a journalist attempted to question him he threatened to eject her from the conference but instead gave her detention. Another journalist who works for a news agency from a small insignificant Gulf country suspected of funding the plot against the tour bus was reprimanded when she attempted to show Emara a picture of some of the atrocities committed on the bus.

Ploughing on through this maelstrom of press chaos and insurrection Emara provided conclusive proof backing up the One Hand Group’s contention that a subversive group, known as “Egyptians” are pursuing a deadly plot to ensure a better future for the tour bus with better facilities and a better air conditioning system.

Emara screened the video below, in which we see Egyptians wreaking havoc in a garden shortly before they boarded the tour bus.

“What kind of people attack a tour bus! What kind of people throw molotovs at the television monitors!” he asked nobody in particular.

“Our men showed the upmost restraint while pursuing their task of wiping out the Egyptians, as they did during the Maspero affair,” Emara said, making reference to the events of October 9 when Egyptians threw themselves in front of the tour bus in an attempt to destablise it.

Emara elaborated on this restraint, explaining that rather than use boulders they threw rocks, stones, china, filing cabinets, ladders and sheets of glass off the top of the tour bus at the riff raff below them, which is kinder. They also used large groups of men to beat up individual Egyptians in order to ensure a quicker end.

Egyptians that inconveniently refused to cease living were dealt with speedily in the tour bus’ luggage compartment, Emara said, explaining that the One Hand Group’s men were “under great pressure” as women, rather than stay at home and excoriate themselves about their female existence went out and flung themselves at batons and shoes while being armed with breasts.

Tawfik Okasha, a professional mouth who has a Phd from the University of Doesntexistongoogle said that the One Hand Group had not done enough to kill all Egyptians.


Ahmed Zbaydar the amoeba could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press, it is believed that he might have been accidentally obliterated by some errant Dettol.

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Walls go up


There are now not one, but four walls in downtown Cairo. Huge cubes of round-edged cement are clumsily stacked on top of each other, as if by a child. Hours after its construction, the Qasr al-Aini wall was almost completely covered in graffiti on the protesters’ side. Tens of silhouetted army soldiers stood sentry behind the cubes, visible through the gaps between them. Two young boys stood next to the wall and made obscene gestures at soldiers on the building behind the wall. Above them a young man clambered on top of the cubes and stretched out his arms to the side, fingers in a victory sign.

Around the corner the battle raged, with perhaps ten meters separating the two sides. The protesters’ front line was a wriggling mess of men and women in constant motion made up of three rows of stone throwers and spectators and people ferrying rocks to the front line. The flying missiles filled the sky like locusts. Protesters cheered and advanced at each security retreat, and were met with the sound of ammunition of some kind. False alarms of an army advance produced panicked surges back every so often. Old hands stood their ground in the middle and shouted “esbet, esbet”(stand your ground).

The army has been trying to find a successful formula to control public space for 10 months and has tried everything from threats of the law to attempts to co-opt political players to physical brutality and incitement of the general public against protesters. Nothing has worked. The protesters returned to Tahrir, and then to parliament. The threat of death and injury has not been enough to keep them away, and the army has resorted to this most crude of devices to control them, erecting monuments to its own failure.

It has adopted a similar approach in its dealings with that other public space, the media. On Saturday, gangs of soldiers raided flats and hotels overlooking Tahrir Square in order to confiscate and destroy the cameras filming the brutality below. It threw Al Jazeera’s equipment off a balcony. It wasn’t quite quick enough. The whole world has seen the image of the soldier stomping on the breasts of the prostrate woman in the blue bra while next to her six soldiers vigorously set upon a man like a pack of feral dogs.

There were other images, too — of a woman in her late fifties surrounded and hit, old men caught and bashed, bleeding children being dragged away by soldiers twice their size, photographs of a smiling Al-Azhar sheikh and a student of medicine, both shot and killed. In another universe this might constitute damning evidence but here, capturing the truth of something means holding truth hostage, making it disappear.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) employed Major General Adel Emara to do just that on Monday, assisted by Egyptian state media in yet another post-crisis press conference. Emara, in a green beret, sat in front of journalists and delivered a soliloquy about plots to destabilize Egypt and genuine and non-genuine revolutionaries and the enormous pressure soldiers are under and the disaster of the books lost in the Insitut d’Egypte fire. When Al Jazeera English journalist Nadia Abul Magd held up a copy of the front page of Al-Tahrir newspaper, featuring the now infamous photograph of a half-naked woman being attacked by soldiers, Emara instructed her to put it away. The SCAF general dealt with this incident by saying it was under “investigation” and told us that we must think about the circumstances in which it happened and the pressure soldiers are under.

Just like that, one of the most shocking images of the last 10 months was dismissed with the prospect of a disciplinary procedure that will likely never happen. Then Emara screened a video of the SCAF’s interpretation of recent events — the usual compilation of murky night shots and shaky mobile footage of youths hurling rocks and missiles at a target kept conveniently out of frame. This was interspersed with the “confessions” of various individuals including minors who had clearly been physically assaulted and seemed to have memorized a script. Inevitably, there were echoes of Maspero as Emara delivered his performance and the journalists clapped (literally). Maspero, when even death was rewritten.

There is a terrible absurdity in all this, not least of which is that as the atrocities get worse and the excuses more preposterous, public support for SCAF remains unchanged — there has been no significant public outcry over the latest scenes (outside of Tahrir Square and independent media), no mass rallying behind the call for an end to military rule.

State television’s Channel 1 had an interesting split screen on Saturday evening. On one side it was showing one of its insipid documentaries on Cairo, full of picturesque, tranquil shots of Nile and Islamic Cairo. This was juxtaposed against live shots of the battling on Qasr al-Aini. When I first switched it on I thought they were making some kind of point: look what we’ve lost because of these Tahrir hooligans. In fact, it seems to be their version of coverage following the Maspero fallout (when they were viewed as accomplices to army murder): accept grudgingly that something is happening but don’t enquire. But this strange split screen captures Egypt at the moment: Tahrir in a little box, the others, with their resentment and anxiety and yearning for stability in another.

On my way to the funeral of Sheikh Emad Effat, killed outside parliament on Friday, the taxi driver said that protesters who died in recent events “can go to hell” — a stark condemnation given the taboo about speaking ill of the dead. The taxi driver argued that the protesters “are not genuine revolutionaries.” Emara used the same tactic during his press conference. This has been the military’s strongest weapon. It has succeeded in dehumanizing protesters, making them unworthy of respect even in death while its soldiers are exculpated from the most inhuman of acts, again and again. Untouchable. Not all walls are visible.

Originally published here.

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Piss off!

As a service to readers who don’t read Arabic, we have translated a recent important column* by Al-Masry Al-Youm editor Magdy El-Gallad, commenting on this. And this

I have been bestowed with many blessings, and one of them is that I was chosen to be Magdy El-Gallad. I am waterproof, microwave and oven safe, and most importantly I fear no criticism. I fear nobody.

Another blessing is that like you, dear reader, I was lucky enough to be born of an Egyptian mother. The Internet doesn’t exist. All of you lucky enough to be reading this are members of the superior race, in the beautiful Land of Kanana.

I have learnt that being proud of my country means using it as a basis for ad hominem attacks on colleagues and others I disagree with, as well as a device for constructing fascistic, paranoid delusions designed to distract people from the fact that I am a self-obsessed, cow-towing sycophant.

Robert Springborg (who I describe as American when he is in fact Australian because it fits into my theory of a US plan to invade Egypt**) and that British correspondent Alistair Beach don’t understand something. Even some Egyptians living amongst us have misunderstood – despite their superior intellect – because they have been mislead by the Internet. What they have misunderstood is this:


Springborg and Beach don’t understand this because they hail from countries with inferior genes. They don’t understand that I WILL NOT BE THREATENED, other than by whoever happens to be in power in Egypt today.

As we have established, I am not an ordinary mortal. Since I am not an ordinary mortal I gave the benefit of the doubt to the idiots working in the new Al-Masry Al-Youm English supplement when they decided to publish that article by Springborg. Not everyone can be Magdy El-Gallad, but luckily Magdy El-Gallad can be everywhere.

Springborg wrote an article suggesting that there are schisms between my moustache and my face, and that my moustache – together with my nostril hair – wants to stage a coup against my face. This Springborg supposes to threaten me with well-researched opinion pieces based on a 30-year academic career!

I do not fear Springborg, nor the Independent, nor Foreign Policy nor that broken record of “freedom of opinion” that the West uses to play its dirty games against us. I don’t give a damn about Springborg or his great country that I say is the US when it is in fact Australia**, because the US fits my imperialist plot theory better. I will not publish his article and will bang the nationalist drums in order to cover up the censorship.


Springborg thinks that I can be blackmailed into publishing this article when I don’t give two hoots about what he thinks, because a single, testosterone-filled black hair of my (non-coup leading) moustache is better than him, his country and the entire West.

While he is busy plotting instability on my face I am with the common man, lurking around Establ Antar and Imbaba going on about the good honest Egyptian brown soil before leaving to my lucrative CBC presenting job. I work for the common man. I AM THE COMMON MAN AND THE UNCOMMON MAN.

I say to Springborg this: our several thousand years of culture has taught us that difference of opinion is healthy, unless it is difference of opinion about my moustache. 87 million Egyptians and the army and Islamists are in agreement about my moustache because my moustache is Egypt, and they were taught to love Egypt while still at their mother’s breast. In fact my mother has on several occasions tried to throw me in the Nile, such was her concern to teach me to love this blessed country.

I say to Robert Springborg and to those in league with him: Springborg, you are an American (whether you like it or not)** and you work for the US Ministry of Defence. Your status as a foreigner from a foreign country disqualifies you from the right to comment on affairs concerning my face. I say this because I am the gatekeeper for Egyptian morals and decide what and what Egyptians can handle with regards to moustache affairs.


*Update: Max Strasser provides an alternative English translation here.

**In fact I am informed by someone who knows Mr Springborg that he is a dual citizen. Clearly I am the douche who didn’t do my homework and not El-Gallad.






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Bloody elections

I wrote something about them and Arabist put it up here.

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November 19th

There is a public toilet in a car park in Falaky Square, downtown Cairo, whose walls have become an outlet for people’s grievances.

At the end of January a joker had scrawled “we want freedom, we want to live, we want Hashish”. In February, a huge and beautiful mural of one of the revolution’s martyrs appeared. The council painted it out and the kids came back and drew it again. Then the anti-army graffiti started, including one stencil of the Field Marshall’s underpants. The latest graffiti before the November 19 uprising was of Alaa Abdel-Fatah, imprisoned by the army at the end of October.

On Saturday this public toilet was turned into a defence against riot police attacked from a street directly opposite it. Protesters and spectators sat on top of the building or sheltered behind it as teargas canisters, flying brides with their train of vicious white danced around them and buckshot splintered into pieces, and into people.

The scene was repeated at several points around Tahrir Square, as for six days the police and protesters engaged in trench warfare led by indefatigable young men in LE 15 gas masks on one side, and armed troops on the other. The battle eventually turned into a costly and interminable war of attrition waged over 50 metre stretches of street. The Interior Ministry’s defence of its actions is that it was defending the Ministry building – its “house” – against hooligans intent on attacking it. Never mind that if you look at a map of downtown Cairo you will find that the battles are on streets that either don’t lead directly to the Ministry or are relatively far removed from it.

Never mind also that the spark for these clashes was a violent attack by police and army soldiers trying to clear a tiny sit-in in Tahrir Square a week ago.

There is a stunning obtuseness to Interior Ministry actions, barely masked by the viciousness.

Like a lumbering heavyweight fighter it stumbles from public relations disaster to public relations disaster, pounding its way through problems. The approach worked with minor dissent but has proved to be less successful 30 years later when there are ten people to replace the one taken out by a bullet. But still it continues, defending itself and its “yard” using the same unsuccessful tactics, briefly cowed in January, but now back on its feet and smarting.

On numerous occasions during these six days the riot police fired multiple volleys of teargas. I witnessed five or six in the span of a minute. It didn’t feel like riot control so much as punishment, or revenge. Brave protesters picked up the canisters and returned them to sender, but the field hospitals set up around Tahrir Square received a never-ending stream of people who had either suffocated on the gas or were experiencing minor spasms, thought to be as a result of exposure to huge amounts of gas in a confined area, thereby reducing oxygen in the blood to dangerous levels.

Despite this, spirits remained high. On one night a man stood in the middle of the clashes, raised his arms in the air and expounded in florid classical Arabic, “DO NOT TURN YOUR BACKS ON THE ENEMY!”

“Mate, talk to us in Arabic so we understand you,” a man grumbled in the Egyptian dialect as he sauntered past.

During the six days of fighting the square itself became a squalid mess of medical waste, human waste and rubbish whose miasma was sealed in by a floating ceiling of bonfire smoke and occasional teargas. At night figures drifted in and out of the gloom in masks, gas or medical, or with faces wrapped in scarves or covered up by goggles. Sometimes people wore all of the above.

A thriving market in industrial safety wear inevitably developed as Cairo’s enterprising street vendors identified a gap and plugged it with goods bought from the nearby Gomhoreya Street, Mecca for all things construction. Goggles are sold for LE 10, gas masks LE 15, medical masks LE 1.

An ambient seller walked through the crowd holding the masks aloft shouting, “protect your heart, protect your chest…Masks, masks”. By the third day the streets around Tahrir resembled a cross between an emergency room and Star Wars, as people sat at cafes with helmets on and gas masks hanging around their necks as they drank tea and this became normality.

Tahrir became even more all-consuming then it did in January, the constant battling a permanent reminder of its fragility. A blitz mentality developed, the sense of solidarity manifested in everyone looking the same in their industrial safety wear uniforms. A little army formed, and the outside world was forgotten.

One night we wandered up from Falaky Square and found ourselves amongst an angry crowd of men who prevented anyone taking photos and aggressively shooed protesters out of their area. On state radio there are callers who out-Mubarak the notoriously deferential state radio, calling the Tahrir protesters child hooligans set on dragging Egypt into the abyss and rejecting any suggestion that Tahrir Square represents them.

On the sixth day of fighting – the day a truce held – I was back at that bloody public toilet in Falaky Square and witnessed an animated discussion between citizens. It was like taking a time machine back to February 2nd 2011 when the state media propaganda machine was at its zenith and you couldn’t move for infiltrating elements and their meddling hands.

A group of men furiously condemned the Tahrir protest, saying that peaceful expression of demands is one thing, “destruction” another. They rejected the idea that the police were at fault. One man said that the army had scheduled elections and put in place a timeframe for a handover to civilian rule – what else did the protesters want?

Another man alleged that protesters were being paid LE 50 a day. He didn’t say who was paying them.

They were admonished by a tall and robust looking woman who called the protesters “men” and rejected the idea that protesters had vandalisd property or started the violence.

She asked where the police were during the security vacuum, and how it is they are now everywhere “like ants”.

“How are protesters meant to defend themselves against the police?” she asked when the men challenged her about Molotovs and rocks thrown by protesters.

“Are they just meant to sit there rocking back and forth reading the Quran and hope for the best?”

A phrase, “the sofa party”, has developed recently to describe those perceived as reactionary or apathetic. They are often conflated with another group, vocal Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) supporters, who think that the revolution was a foreign plot to destablise Egypt.

This group – on Facebook called “we are sorry President [Mubarak]” staged a protest to counter Tahrir on Friday. At its largest a reported 15,000 turned out at the protest to condemn the people of Tahrir, (all traitors and/or foreign agents) Freemasons (Israelis) and “pro-revolution” TV presenters such as Yosri Fouda (mercenaries).

I attended one of their protests once, and it was an extraordinary display of jingoistic paranoia and anti-revolution bile. One speaker, Hassan El-Ghandoury – who once kidnapped an activist, Amr Gharbeia, and publicly admitted to doing so, describing it as a “citizen’s arrest” – played a song dedicated to Hosny Mubarak whose refrain is, “you are a legend, general”.

They are however the extremist wing of the “silent majority”, that amorphous lump of general public perceived as prepared to support anything just for a quiet life. Tahrir and the protests elsewhere in Egypt have yet to co-opt them – at least in terms of numbers on the ground – and it is a mistake to dismiss them. The elections – scheduled despite everything to start on Monday – will decide where they stand.

In case you’re asking I won’t be voting. Neither will several of my acquaintances. While there is a strong argument against a boycott (it might help keep out religiously conservative forces) it doesn’t sway my conviction that taking part in the election gives legitimacy to a regime that doesn’t deserve it, that has treated Egyptians like foolish children and whose only display of creativity during this never-ending transitional process has been in methods of killing people and building walls.

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