Zvi Bar’el / Now that Mubarak's gone, it's time to purge his former supporters
Artists seen by the masses to have supported Hosni Mubarak are now being blacklisted, a well-known process that follows any successful revolution.
The Egyptian actor Talaat Zakaria should have guessed that his name would be included on the blacklist prepared by activists of the Egyptian revolutionary movements, not only because he called the Tahrir Square protesters “drug addicts who are busy with sex.”
Three years ago, he portrayed the cook in a film directed by Amr Arafa called “The President’s Cook.” In the film, the cook tells the president the truth about the troubles that the nation faces, about the lies fed by advisers and ministers and about the terrible quality of the bread and other food products that the Egyptians eat.
This was the first film about an incumbent president, Hosni Mubarak, that the censor had allowed to be shown. That was because Mubarak is portrayed as a good president who listens to his cook’s stories, calls the ministers in and orders them to eat defective bread that contains pieces of broken glass and nails.
Zakaria knew then that the role he was playing, just like the entire film, was one big sham. But he remained faithful to the president until the last moment and even had a two-hour meeting with him from which he came out expressing full faith in Mubarak. Now he is on the blacklist together with some 30 other Egyptian artists. The heads of the revolution, whoever they are, are demanding that these artists be boycotted.
Also on the list is the outstanding actor, Adel Emam, who called on the demonstrators to go home, the actress May Kassab who accused the demonstrators of being ignorant but withdrew her accusations a day before Mubarak resigned and then claimed that she had not really been aware of the regime’s terror, as well as Ghada Abdel Razek, who made it clear to the demonstrators that they did not represent the 85 million citizens of Egypt.
The list also includes other leading Egyptian film and theater actors and singers.
Egypt has entered its blacklist phase, a well-known process of settling accounts that follows any revolt or revolution. Part of it can be extremely violent, as it was in Iraq, part of it takes place in the courts, just like what is happening now in Egypt where the state prosecutor is bringing cabinet ministers and senior government officials to trial on suspicion of corruption, and part of it is devoted to public boycotts of the kind against the artists.
This is a season of sorting out who was among the traitors that collaborated with the regime, and who was loyal − those who at the last moment joined the protesters.
But even during this national bloodletting, there is confusion. For example, the well known Egyptian television presenter, Mona el-Shazly, was forced to leave Tahrir Square when some of the protesters began shouting that she was a traitor and hurling other insults at her, even though others clapped hands and chanted “Mona Shazly is the voice of the people.”
Later, Shazly held an interview with Google executive Wael Ghonim, who is crediting with energizing the protests. He apparently does not have a problem with Shazly’s “treason.”
“I don’t understand how a soccer player can be turned into a traitor simply because he was a star during Mubarak’s time,” said Abdul Rahman Al-Rasheed, the former chief editor of the Al-Arabiya television network, in an article he published this week in the Asharq al-Awsat daily. “After all, someone who was a film star or an important writer or soccer player under the Mubarak regime, won acclaim not because of Mubarak but because of his own talents.”
But this logical reasoning does not hold water during the interim period between one regime and another.
Copts look for equality
In addition to the purge of the artists, there is also starting to be sharp criticism of the committee drawing up the new constitution, which was appointed by the supreme council of the armed forces. This is where the divisions and arguments between all the civilian organizations and the human rights groups are expressed.
For example, the representatives of 91 legal associations claim that the seven-man committee headed by Judge Tariq al-Bishri does not represent all levels of society; it does not have even one woman representative and it includes political figures that served under the previous regime.
Thirty one associations claim that some members of the committee were partner to amending the previous constitution in 2005 and 2007 and that these amendments, which were initiated by Mubarak, engendered opposition.
The appointment of Bishri has also aroused fear among Egyptian Copts, who constitute about one tenth of the population, and who are afraid that “Egypt will turn into Afghanistan,” as one senior Coptic figure said. A number of Coptic organizations say Bishri is an ideologue of political Islam and has set up his committee to reflect Islamic values.
Coptic organizations outside Egypt are demanding changes to the constitution that will ensure that religion is no longer the major source of authority for legislation, as it has been until now. However, according to statements made by members of the constitutional committee, there is no intention of changing the status of religion in the constitution.
These arguments point, more than anything else, to the difficulties that will confront the military regime over formulating the amendments to the constitution and especially to the uncertainty that can be expected when the new constitution is brought to a referendum. At the same time, the campaign for the presidential election is warming up, although a date has not yet been set and it is dependent on when the new constitution will be completed.
A sign of this is the announcement by Amr Moussa that he is planning to leave his post as secretary general of the Arab League to run in the election; but the former opposition politician, Ayman Nour, is also interested in the presidency, as is, perhaps, Mohammed Elbaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
There will not be a great deal of love lost between them.
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