Yesterday evening, while I sat at this desk dreaming up cultural content for the pages I am in charge of, Twitter began turning up news of protesters being fired at and pelted with stones – but not run over by armored vehicles, not beaten repeatedly after they were dead, nor thrown into the Nile as bloodied corpses. Not yet. The location was outside the Radio and Television Union Building, along a stretch of the Nile known as Maspero.
This fact (of protesters being fired upon) along with some of the slogans suggested that the march under attack was Coptic. I in fact knew that most of those tweeting from the location of the shootings were Muslim, but every Coptic protest since 11 February had included Muslims. Ironically, no Arabic term has been coined that might translate CNN’s far more civil “pro-Coptic,” which is also the more accurate by far.
Unconsciously, it seems, I had waited a lifetime for Kismet. This was not my first attempt at a family of my own but, though I never resisted the idea, one way or another, fatherhood had eluded me. And for some reason I never thought I would have a daughter. When the sex of the foetus emerged relatively late in my wife’s pregnancy, I was unaccountably emotional; for the first time since childhood I experienced a desire wholly voided of lust. Life seemed to be coming together, albeit only once its setting had been transformed.
The (un)culture of (in)difference: a family reunion
At a recent family gathering, someone happened to mention the case of Albert Saber: the 25-year-old proponent of atheism who had been tried and convicted for online “defamation of religion”.
Albert’s case had begun as an instance of Muslim zealotry “coming to the defence of Allah and His messenger” against “offending” statements from (so far, mostly, foreign or Christian) unbelievers—before being taken into custody, the young man was brutishly mobbed at his house; his mother was later physically assaulted—a tendency that long predates “the second republic” ushered in by the revolution of 25 January, 2011 but enjoys unprecedented official and legal cover under the present (pro-)Islamist regime.
Despite its sectarian roots, such populist persecution of the irreligious has the blessing of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is both extremely conservative and non-confrontational. Evidently it is no longer safe to be secular in Egypt regardless of official religious affiliation or actual degree of secularism.
ناهد نصر تتذكر ماسبيرو:
ليست شهادة بقدر ما هى استشهاد بجريمة يكرم مرتكبيها الآن، ويتم تجاهلها وتشويه ضحاياها عن عمد وعن إثم وعن فجور، جريمة لطخت ثوب “أكتوبر” أهدي ذكراها لشهداء أكتوبر 1973 لعلهم يربتون على أرواح إخوانهم شهداء أكتوبر 2011 برفق.
لا يمكنني الآن تحديد الوقت بدقة، لكنه مساء 9 أكتوبر 2011، بعد غروب الشمس بقليل.. أنا هنا الآن في الدور الحادي عشر، المبنى رقم 1121 كورنيش النيل، حيث جدران الاستوديوهات ألواح ضخمة من الزجاج تطل على موقع الأحداث من كل زاوية، محيط ماسبيرو من الواجهة وفى الخلفية، كل المواقع المحيطة بالمبنى مسرح للأحداث ـ بعد قليل ستكون كل المواقع الموجودة داخل المبنى مسرحاً للأحداث بداية من البوابة الرئيسية مروراً بالأحد عشر طابقاً، واحداً تلو الآخر، وحتى باب الحمام، أقصى نقطة في صالة المونتاج بالطابق الحادي عشرـ