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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Marching With Kifaya…Smoking With Marxists


Yesterday I attended a demonstration by Kifaya (Arabic for enough) that coincided with President Mubarak’s inauguration ceremony. Kifaya wanted to convey the message that Mubarak’s fifth term is null since the elections themselves were rigged.

It felt a bit awkward for me to attend such a rally since I did want Mubarak to have a fifth term and I don’t believe in the “anyone but Mubarak” mantra that the opposition believes in. However, I decided to go just for the experience and not to convey a particular message.



Upon my arrival, there were around 1000 (the number grow to around 1500-2000) protesters chanting anti-Mubarak slogans. They were carrying banners, flying yellow balloons, and brandishing flags with the word “Null” written on them. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the omnipresent black batons carrying central security anti-riots soldiers who are notorious for beating up protesters in previous demonstrations. “Today gonna be a good day” I told myself. It seemed the security police reached the conclusion that beating up protesters, especially when caught on the tapes of foreign journalists, is counterproductive. One of the yellow balloons fell right at the feet of a soldier who picked it up and started playing with it. His superior saw him. “If I saw you touching any of these things, I’m going to kick your butt” he told the mischievous soldier.



After around 40 minutes of chanting, the throng decided to march through the streets of downtown Cairo. That’s when I joined in. I walked in the parade while monitoring the reactions of bystanders who mostly just watched as the protesters passed by. A group of high ranking police officers were following right behind the marching crowd. Unlike previous demonstrations, yesterday’s march looked very civilized and free.



We were approaching a medium sized police pick up truck. 2 exhausted soldiers were crammed at the back. I went to buy some water from a nearby kiosk. "Please go home, kifaya baa (that's enough)" one of them told me as I passed by their vehicle. "What?? you're saying kifaya?? Then you're a member of the Kifaya movement!" I said. They started giggling.

Kifaya is the secular face of Egypt’s opposition movement. It is mainly composed of Nasserites (those who follow Nasser’s ideology), leftists, and liberals (or progressives). There is a sprinkle of Islamists in Kifaya, mainly those who do not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB do have a few members in Kifaya, but they prefer to solely employ their power rather than operate with the other much smaller opposition entities.

When the rally concluded, I left and joined a group of young Marxists for a shisha smoke. I had a very jolly time for 3 reasons. First, these young Marxists are liberals-in the Egyptian sense-socially. Two, they hate fundamentalists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Third, Gamal Abdul Nasser is definitely not their cup of tea. Nasser slaughtered and imprisoned many of them back in the 50s and 60s when they were much more powerful than today. So what more do I want? I know that I can’t talk politics with a Marxist and we will never agree on a zillion things, but the above 3 reasons are enough for me to have a pleasurable shisha smoke with them.



Silence That's Killing Me

and the Arab/Islamic media/clerics/pundits/governments are silent *spit* *spit* *spit*

Update: Fouad Ajami discusses this very topic here. He terribly underestimates the influence of Iran in Iraq, but it's still a very interesting read with a lot of truth in it.


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