A Week of Laughter and Forgetting: Day Two
A year after its outbreak, Youssef Rakha lists seven of the more revealing flights of humour that have punctuated the Egyptian revolution and its aftermath
Omar Soliman, the former head of intelligence who during the 18 days in which Tahrir Square was “occupied” became the principal spokesman for Mubarak and eventually announced Mubarak’s stepping down, had enjoyed the reputation of being a learned and respectable figure — largely, as it turned out, because being an intelligence agent he had never made a public appearance. His brief televised speeches, in which he regurgitated all kinds of nonsense on behalf of the regime, proving himself illiterate in Arabic, were especially enjoyed for their staging: Soliman at the centre behind a small podium, and a very serious-looking man standing at attention to one side of him in back. For a while the Man Standing Behind Omar Soliman became the subject of a whole genre of informal revolutionary comedy.
For example: “Breaking news. Speaking on condition of anonymity, state officials say that the man standing behind Omar Soliman is now sitting down.”
And in English: “mubarak, verb: 1. tr. to stick, adhere or remain attached to a particular position rather than moving when necessary; ‘How on earth will I get this filth off now it has mubaraked on the wall!’ 2. intro. to be or become glutinous, sticky, unpleasantly or repulsively viscous; ‘Why on earth didn’t you put it in the freezer, see now it has mubaraked!’ cf to do a soliman, phrasal verb (from the Hebrew): 1. to appear to be endowed with the wisdom of ages; 2. to take orders from the CIA; 3. to divide things (babies, people, political movements) down the middle. E.g. ‘I thought they were completely mubaraked to one another, but then she did a soliman on him, and now he has to pay her LE3,000 a month alimony!’”
Soliman in person provided material for laughter when in an English-language television interview undertaken at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood had absolutely no part to play in events, he referred to the protests being secretly organised by the “Brother Muslimhood”. What could be that organisation? Speculations about the identity of the Muslimhood and the Man Behind Omar Soliman fuelled many quips after Mubarak stepped down as well: one still very popular Facebook Page is entitled, “The Man Standing Behind Omar Soliman for President”.