Following the failed assassination attempt on President Mubarak s life in Addis Ababa in 1995, the Egyptian regime quickly used the occasion to serve its own interests. the Egyptian regime decided to use the unpleasant incident to bolster Mubarak s legitimacy at home. Representative of different segments of the society, such as MPs, members of professional guilds, sheikhs and priests, athletes, artists, etc, were asked to visit the presidential palace to pledge allegiance, and promise continued support, to the president and his regime. For weeks, state-run television channels aired hours of sham celebrations, which included pre-prepared proceedings full of pretense speeches and forged emotions.
Unsurprisingly, the strategy backfired. Initial popular relief that the president survived the terrorist attack turned into indignation at the regime and its cheap propaganda methods.
Something similar took place following the sudden loss of President Mubarak s grandson last month. The genius minds running Egypt s official media found in the tragedy an opportunity to increase Mubarak s scant popularity among his people. State-owned television channels broadcast religious songs and Quranic recitations around the clock. Egypt s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, called upon Egyptian women to mourn the death by wearing black. And members of the ruling National Democratic Party missed no opportunity to express their grief over the painful misfortune, and to assure Mubarak that all Egyptians are “his sons and daughters.
Under monarchial rule, the personal tragedies of ruling families were routinely turned into national ones. But Egypt is no monarchy. The mere existence of a ruling family in a sixty year-old republic is an offense to the country and its people. Anyone with a shred of wisdom and decency knows that Egyptians should be only loyal to their country, not their de-facto ruling family.
To attempt to nationalize the mourning of Mubarak s family is both opportunistic and pathetic. It is opportunistic because it capitalizes on Mubarak s personal loss to garner support for his leadership and regime.
And it is pathetic because it reveals that the proponents of the regime, in their desperate quest for increasing the regime s popularity and acceptance, found no other means but this unprincipled and tasteless method.
Indeed, in Mubarak s Egypt, failures are abundant and successes are scarce. No real success story has been achieved in politics, economics, and science over the nearly three decades of Mubarak s rule. Among the regime s staunch advocates, there are of course those who argue that the triumph of the Egyptian football squad and scientist Ahmed Zoweil s winning of the Nobel Prize in chemistry are among the achievements of Mubarak s era, but what kind of idiots would swallow such delusions?
In contrast to the state of mourning applied for the President s grandson, the Egyptian state and media did not mourn the tragic death of the 1,034 Egyptians who were aboard the ferry Salam 98 that drowned in the Red Sea three years ago. In fact, at the time relatives of the deceased were beaten in the Port of Safaga for daring to protest against the negligence and corruption of the government, President Mubarak was at Cairo Stadium celebrating the Egyptian football team s victory of the African Cup of Nations. So why should Egyptian people now mourn the death of his grandson? After all, in civil states, all citizens are supposed to be equal.
The human heart is covered with sadness and sympathy when a young boy – any young boy – dies. That this son is the relative of the president, or any senior official, does not add any further sadness. The architects of the media campaign, however, overlooked the fact that the public s sympathy with the heartbreak of the president has not changed its assessment of his failing approaches and policies. Their grief was a sign of respect for death itself, a feature of life Egyptians have always revered.
On the personal level, feelings of compassion prevailed. But these feelings have not blocked rational thinking. They have not made Egyptians forget that the mismanagement and corruption of their state over the past few decades led to the death of thousands of Egyptians. In burning trains, drowning ferries, in bread lines and in slaughter houses, wrongly labeled as police stations, death has found a fertile ground. The state mourned none of these victims.
Regimes short on legitimacy act in many respects like opportunists devoid of decency. This statement should come as no surprise, for ruling without legitimacy is, in the final analysis, equal to killing without a license.
Nael M. Shama, PhD, is a political researcher and freelance writer based in Cairo. He could be reached at: [email protected]