This is a public service announcement for all Egyptian youth planning a day at the beach in the sweltering summer season: You are in danger.
This is not about sharks or jellyfish; it’s not about the perilous currents of the Mediterranean, deadly tidal waves or fatal diving accidents in the Blue Hole. It’s not about losing your wallet or having your car stolen in the rabid sweep of thefts that has left every Egyptian home victim to at least one mugging or house-robbing incident of late.
But it is about loving your country.
Henceforth, all shows of patriotism will be severely punished, so be forewarned.
Patriotism has become an issue of ‘national security’ and if you are caught in the act of expressing your love for your country anywhere along the sprawling Egyptian coastline, and what’s worse, if you happen to be carrying the Egyptian flag as you chant the forbidden lyrics of ‘traitors’ like Ahmed Fouad Negm, and Sayed Darwish, you will simply be asking for it.
That’s the lesson you must all learn from what happened on July 23, 2008 when a group of (God-forbid) patriotic youth made a public display of emotion at an Alexandria beach to commemorate the ideals of our glorious 1952 revolution – the revolution that emancipated Egyptians from the shackles of colonialism, the humiliation of feudalism and the subjugation of a despotic monarchy.
But don’t jump to conclusions. There were no couples rolling around in the sand, smoking hash or getting drunk in public, intoxicated by the ecstasy of being free – all of which may have easily missed the radar of the ‘vice police.’
The young group was simply marking the single most important event in the modern history of their country with a day trip to the beach, a few songs and a kite in the colors of the Egyptian flag.
I exaggerate not.
According to news reports, 14 youths aged in their early to mid 20s, were snatched off the streets of Alexandria by police as they celebrated Revolution Day last Wednesday.
The group – affiliated with the beach-going wing of the April 6 secret Facebook organization as evidenced by their t-shirts brandishing the haram words “April 6 Youth Movement – will be detained for 15 days. (April 6 is a reference to the violent confrontation between state security and demonstrators in the Delta City of Mahalla at a protest against rising prices propagated by an activist Facebook group.)
The detained youths face charges of gathering with more than five people, forming an organization of more than five people – both outlawed by the emergency law – and leafleting. Whether or not they were actually giving out any leaflets was clearly an inconsequential detail, because according to those who escaped the arrest, the security personnel who detained the others, may have easily mistaken the flags for leaflets and the patriotic songs for protest slogans.
The original group of 30 was accosted by three plain-clothed policemen and two vehicles which cordoned them in a circle. While half of them managed to escape, the rest were allegedly subjected to violent treatment, including beatings by police, before being bundled into security vehicles.
One prominent member of the 73,000-strong supporters of the ‘notorious’ Facebook group, Ahmed Maher, known for his coordination of the April 6 general strike, was allegedly traced via his mobile phone and beaten in an Alexandria street by eight men before he was kidnapped in a car.
The detainees were neither informed of their crimes, nor given access to lawyers for two days, until the public prosecutor in Alexandria issued a 15-day detention order pending investigation.
To go back to the PSA: The Egyptian State has sent its unequivocal message loud and clear: If you have a Facebook account and you love your country, stay off the beach on national holidays; abstain from reciting patriotic songs or carrying the Egyptian flag, even to football games; you never know, you may just be declared an enemy of the state.
So shut up, go home and for heaven s sake, stay off Facebook.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.