Will a Joke Turn Serious?
When Khedive Ismail* had his back against the wall, swamped by debts due to his corruption, foolishness and squandering, and when he became in need of a backer to strengthen him in the face of the pashas and the British, he decided to take the Egyptian people as his backer and, at the same time, appear before the civilized world as the head of a constitutional state. Hence he decided to establish a "Shura Council”, i.e. Advisory House of Parliament.
The council was a laughingstock. It was a consultative council that had no contact with the executive branch. Its members were Egyptian elites immersed in the bounties of the palace. It had no authority over anything and could not interfere with the Khedive’s power. It was a council that met only one month per year and had no right to look at the state budget. It was nothing more than a strawman.
The Khedive took the matter as a comedy play, a farce, but peoples take these matters very seriously. Elections were held in an atmosphere of heated enthusiasm, and the council that started as a "nothing" almost became everything afterwards.
That first council held its first meeting on November 25, 1866. The hearts of Egyptians flew to it and their hopes were set on it. Those who represented them in it became stars. Egyptian patriotic emotions burst out because of this nominal council, and no one could cage these emotions and hopes back inside Egyptians again. It was an arrow released from its bow: it could not be stopped by anyone.
That council was one of the causes of the Orabi Revolution and the 1919 Revolution, and it was a factory of patriotic leaders for decades until 1952.
When Mubarak decided to write the play of presidential elections, the scriptwriter determined to deprive everyone of the right to run for presidency, and indeed, advisers of evil volunteered to make Article 76 of the constitution a laughingstock for nations. It was an article for debarring nomination, not for defining terms of nomination.
But peoples take these matters very seriously. The result was that, out of the unknown, appeared someone named Ayman Nour. Regardless of our opinion of this candidate or his suitability for holding high office, Egyptians’ fantasies and desires for change were set into motion. No one was able to stop the new generation of Egyptians from having a dream.
Today, after the January Revolution erupted and forced the rest of the Egyptians and Arabs to envisage an honest nation, and after the bird of dreams soared high up in the sky, some narrow-minded persons coming from past centuries want to believe that Egyptians could go back into the burrows of tyranny. They are thinking in the same way as the Khedive did in 1866. They are supposing that the wide dreams of an entire generation will disappear, that killing people in the streets and dancing over their dead bodies on television will scare youths or force them to forget their wide dreams.
The constitution play, which has given the deep state all the gains it desires, will not prevent Egyptians from dreaming of a real constitution that is not written inside a tank or altered at a dinner party.
The alleged presidential elections announced will not be able to curb the longing of Egyptians to see a real president, one who is elected by the people, and who did not come to them pretending to be a fair president while his whip was darker than the darkest night.
Gentlemen... You make fun of your people, and you offer them comedy bits. But be certain that peoples take these things very seriously, that all the comedy plays on show today will turn serious tomorrow. That tomorrow is near, very near, God’s willing.
Resist change with all your might, kill people on the streets, frame them with whatever charges you want, sue their symbolic figures with whatever legal tricks you contrive, and defame the honest with blameful as well as non-blameful charges. In the end, change is coming.
Long live Egypt for Egyptians and by Egyptians.
Original article by AbdulRahman Yusuf appeared in Arabic under the title “Hal yosbehu al-hazlu jaddan?” on February, 1, 2014 on Arabi21 site. Link to original article: http://arabi21.com/a-2/a-299/724531-a * Ismail Pasha is a “khedive”, i.e. viceroy, who ruled Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879. His policy greatly modernized the nation but placed it in deep debt. (translator’s note)