One Flew Over the Mulla’s Ballot

logo@Sultans_Seal wallows in his lack of democratic mettle

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Time and again, since 30 June last year, I’ve come up against the commitment to democracy that I’m supposed to have betrayed by appearing to endorse the army’s intervention in the outcome of Egypt’s second revolution.
Time and again I’ve had to explain what on earth makes Egyptians think that Washington and Tel Aviv are secretly in league with the Muslim Brotherhood to decimate the Arab world along sectarian lines and bring death and destruction upon innocent Egyptians as much as Syrians and Libyans in the name of human rights—presumably to the benefit of that impeccably democratic and profoundly civilized neighbor state where racist, genocidal, militarized sectarianism does not present the world community with a human-rights problem.

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NAHDA and Co.



No Renaissance for Old Men
Last week Youssef Rakha questioned the idea of resistance. This week he thinks about the Islamists’ catch phrase
It is the word that Tunisia’s Muslim Brothers chose for their harakah (or movement) and in which the Egyptian jama’ah (or group) couched its presidential programme; it dates all the way back to the late 18th century when, under Muhammad Ali Pasha in particular, it would’ve denoted something significantly different. But in a way it has been the mirror image of European imperialism since then, with its post-Arab Spring Islamist manifestations in Tunisia and Egypt constituting one possible logical conclusion of the region’s political trajectory, and the murderous Arab nationalist dictatorships (whether Gaddafi’s in Libya or the Baath’s in Syria and Iraq) another.
What I want to argue is that, in more ways than one (and despite all the wonderful things it almost did), the so called Arab renaissance has in fact been part and parcel of this immense downward fall of recent history, and that—far from presenting a homegrown alternative to the neoliberal world order, arguably the extension and apotheosis of empire—it has actually aided and abetted the imperialist project.
And well it might: Nahda is to muqawamah (or resistance) what modernism was to imperialism; in some ways, perhaps, it is also what Europe’s Renaissance was to the northern Puritanical values that were eventually more or less subsumed by Enlightenment.
Following this line of thought, one can make surprising connections between past failures of the wannabe independent modern state (Nasser’s “first republic” in Egypt) and present-future failures of Islamism (the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed “second republic”). One can also make connections between both forms of totalitarianism (top-down in the case of the July regime, bottom-up in the present case) and the negative, inferiority complex-driven motivation that—while making huge room for sloganeering, doublespeak and overt suppression—makes no room at all for the revival or regeneration of a glorious past, be it Arab and purely imagined or Islamic and somewhat real. It is a “renaissance” that denies the very tenets of what it hopes to donner naissance to anew: reason, military and/or economic power, cutting-edge global outlook, joyful aspirations…
So, for example, to underline their belief in a militarily powerful and united pan-Arab nation, an Arab nationalist will by default glorify the one dictator responsible not onlyfor the worst military defeat in Arab history (1967) but also for separating Egypt and Sudan and then setting a precedent for the failure of unification by showing the world exactly how not to unify with Syria, encouraging national as opposed to pan-Arab sentiments and limiting inter-Arab freedom of movement, exchange and initiative in practice. To demonstrate how “Islam honours women”, an Islamist will insist on such allegedly intrinsic “Islamic principles” as niqab and polygamy.
Likewise the material renaissance promised by President Mohamed Mursi (or, more accurately perhaps, by businessman Khairat El-Shatir, the most powerful man in the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office): what is marketed as an alternative to Mubarak’s neoliberal and peace-with-Israel policies is actually a programme for turning the entire expanse of the Arab world into a string of modified Saudi Arabias, not only pro-Israeli and even more ruthlessly capitalist but also disinterested in human rights and inevitably impoverished in the absence of oil reserves.
In its accepted, present formulation democracy originated and continues to operate in wholly secularised and intellectually free societies based on universal rights and freedoms. How the Saudification of the Arab world through such vaguely Ku Klux-like “political” entities as the Salafi Nour Party can be the result of democratic process is a baffling question.
Yet such contradictions are hardly coincidental. Without reviewing the history of the term, I just want to draw attention to the manner in which nahda presupposes such manifestations of death and demise as Nakba, naksa (Nasser’s euphemism for the 1967 defeat) and takhalluf (or backwardness). By stressing the (purely rhetorical) need for self- or identity-assertion, what the Muslim Brotherhood is doing is throwing a sand storm into the eyes of Egyptians, just as the Arab nationalists did before it:
Nahda does not mean the elimination of autocracy and corruption, it means stamping them with the divine seal of “Islam”; it does not mean improving the intellectual and material circumstances of students, teachers and creative people, it means ensuring that they espouse the right slogans—even (or preferably) at the expense of progress and production.
It does not mean instating the principles on which a truly functional democracy can be built (a long term process so far seemingly more successful in Libya), it means liaising with the military dictators and their imperialist patrons, guaranteeing the security of Israel, invoking the revolution and “the will of the people”, monopolising the drafting of a new constitution, replacing state institutions and personnel with their own, buying votes, beating people up and otherwise defying law, order and decency in order to gain recognition through sheer power—in exactly the same way as resistance means not actually opposing the status quo but deploying a certain, negative rhetoric in the struggle to prevail over the competition for it. Nahda just may be the Greater Nakba in the making.
In this context it may be worth remembering the initial term in which 25 January was described: as a YOUNG revolution. Notwithstanding all their moral faults, and regardless of individual people’s ages, the Islamists are confirming the suspicion that they are even older than the regime whose ugliness “the people” led by online activists rose up against. No true renaissance is conceivable in the presence of so much moral and material AGE. And perhaps a true renaissance, even the beginning of one, will happen despite (and not because of) Nahda, after all. Such a development would need no rhetoric to support it and no Washington-style marketing to give it impetus. It would not cooperate with the military arbiters who are the post-post-national embodiment of the failure of the independent nation. It would manifest in production, progress and words meaning what they say: a complete break with the lifeless past. Such a renaissance would probably not oppose the global status quo—at least not in the foreseeable future—but neither will it have to pretend to.





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Slumdog Bookfair

Trekking through what looks more like a refugee camp than a cultural venue, Youssef Rakha goes on a wild goose chase to Tunisia

Founded in 1969, the last year of Nasser’s life and reign, the Cairo International Book Fair is perhaps the largest book-centred event in the Arab world. Year after year under Sadat and then Mubarak, the event kept expanding, promising but not fulfilling its promise to turn Cairo into a city of bibliophiles. Partly because it is organised not by independent publishers but by Culture Ministry bureaucrats (the General Egyptian Book Organisation or GEBO is only a publisher insofar as it indiscriminately prints and stores huge amounts of material), partly because it caters to a far broader audience base than the population’s true core of committed readers, the Cairo Book Fair seldom focused on literature as such.

There are two sides to the Cairo Book Fair as far as intellectual activity is concerned: a formal, luxuriously furnished space for the main programme, presided over by government officials and established, more or less right-wing figures; and the slum-like, more informal setting occupied by several concurrent programmes catering to the penniless and left-wing intellectual majority. Apart from bigger sales for some (especially non-Egyptian) Arabic book publishers in various wings of the fair grounds, however, neither side has ever been directly book related; in a country and a region with phenomenal illiteracy rates and only the most whimsical conception of how books, once printed, might actually be used, things like the logistics of selecting books for publication, marketing and selling them were, for 42 years, summarily disregarded. And after missing a round in 2011, this year’s Book Fair is no exception. Not that one expected a significant shift of perspective or any palpable improvements under the political circumstances, but divested of its the first, official side (neither the prime minister nor Field Marshal Tantawi turned up for the opening), the present fair – the 43rd – does prove remarkably different.

As has been the case with many institutional activities after 25 January, one has the feeling that the revolution – rather than actually reforming institutions – has simply exposed their failures. While the family-outing atmosphere at the fair grounds persists, evidence of luxury and high-profile presence has been eradicated. There are fewer visitors and fewer occupied buildings, while the tent pitched on paved ground and (especially) on the sand instills a sense of being, not so much in a cultural venue as in a sprawling and ill equipped refugee camp.

Apart from Saraya 19 and a building dedicated to Saudi books (it is a well known fact that most Arab books, even those by Saudi authors, are banned in Saudi Arabia, which publishes little in its own right), there are no buildings in sight. Even the toilets, labelled with printouts indicating who was allowed to use them, consist of makeshift trucks stationed near the parking lot, through which you entered the fair as if you had arrived at a long abandoned ranch project with only a fraction of the necessary construction completed. Half-torn signs fluttered endlessly…

This feeling is no doubt intensified no less by the nature of the fair grounds, which have always been in a permanent state of unfinished construction but are more so now – to the extent that even the poster pyramid meant to celebrate the revolution has its scaffolding half exposed – as by the wind-swept dust from the neighbouring construction site of the Metro. Only Saraya 19, which brings together non-Egyptian publishers including a ludicrously modest display of Tunisian books, Tunisia being the guest of honour of the book fair, bears any resemblance to a display space.

Haphazard as ever, the activities go on in dust-drenched tents: on Monday, at the Cultural Café, the liberal-turned-pro-Muslim-Brotherhood young activist Alaa Abdelfattah spoke to a handful of people about ways to avoid and/or expose massacres of protestors by SCAF. As in previous years at the Cultural Café, people walked in and out at leisure – mobile phone galore. Elsewhere the annual overdose of ridiculously bad vernacular poetry was being recited. A bearded man held a brand-new Quran in one hand and a shawerma sandwich in the other…


At some point while walking past the tents, regaled by Friday prayer sermons from invisible amplifiers, I got it into my head that, since it is the guest of honour, Tunisia must have a separate display elsewhere on the fair grounds. I went to the information kiosk where I was told, gruffly enough, to walk to the end of the adjoining street and then take a left. All the way along young salesmen stopped me, aggressively hawking laptops and electronic dictionaries: at least 10 of them within the space of 15 minutes. (Again, what this has to do with books is beyond me.) But it wasn’t until I was out of breath, my face caked with dust, that I realised: the man in the information kiosk was actually directing me to Saraya 19, exactly where I was before. Apart from a mawkish gateway in the middle of nowhere which, bearing the sign of the Book Fair, indicated that Tunisia was the guest of honour, there were only the tips of tents fluttering from afar.

photo: Youssef Rakha

25, 28

Youssef Rakha gives testimony of the first two days

I am asked to write about the recent events in Egypt, and my account will be personal whatever else it is. I saw people die, I saw their killers, I saw commentators – some of them close acquaintances or colleagues – lie about it through their teeth. Inevitably, it will be a tiny portion of what I believe will be the main epic of the Egyptian people for decades to come.

As a journalist I have worked for the most powerful pro-government press establishment in Egypt for nearly 12 years. The position has provided a level of social protection against abuses constantly witnessed on the streets; it has acted as a financial and political buffer, replacing citizenship in a society where citizenship grants few if any rights.By restricting my contribution to cultural and intellectual topics and working in English, at the same time, I have managed to avoid direct involvement in the wholesale distortion, misinformation and sheer incompetence that has made up so much of what went for balance and objectivity on the pages of publications printed by this institution, especially since a new team of chief editors were summarily appointed by the Shura Council in the summer of 2005.

Like many Egyptians, until I saw thousands upon thousands of demonstrators gathered in Maidan at-Tahrir on 25 January – saw that they were neither Islamists nor negligible – and totally identified with them – I was largely sceptical about Egypt having much capacity for true dissent. It is something of a media cliche by now to point out that the opposition was already half oppressed, half co-opted, powerless against the airtight alliance of cannibalistic capitalism and corrupt governance. Even the “banned” Muslim Brothers, of whom I am no supporter, were criminally ousted from parliament during the last elections and had since considered taking to the streets in protest.

Then again, no one suspected that the People’s Assembly was ever a representative body anyway (the same is true of the Press Syndicate, membership of which requires an official position at a government-approved institution by law, and provides little beyond installment plans for the purchase of cars and apartments or reduced-price vacations). Among writers – and in the last six years I have been as much a writer in Arabic as a journalist in English – there remained a sense of relief that (since the people failed repeatedly to show revolutionary oomph) the government, if it did nothing else, could at least keep “the Islamist threat” at bay. As much as western regimes, the traditional intelligentsia was for the longest time duped by fear of theocracy; and to this day protesters and their supporters are emphatically rejecting Khamenei’s blessings.

NDP thugs were known to exist long before they attempted to disband protesters on donkey- and camel-back last Wednesday (2 Feb) – the night on which allegedly sincere and peaceful supporters of Mubarak managed somehow to bombard protesters with tear gas (as well as stones and Molotov cocktails), while snipers stationed on the roofs of the highest buildings waited for the cover of darkness to commit murder  in cold blood – but few outside the Muslim Brotherhood felt they had enough of a stake in the electoral process to object to the thugs’ presence. People knew they had the protection of the police, and no one dreamed they could ever be deployed against peaceful protesters on such a scale – partly because no one dreamed there would ever be peaceful protesters on such a scale. Since 25 January other threats have been held up to Tahrir as well: the threat of chaos, the criminal threat, the constitutional-emptiness threat, the foreign-agenda threat. BS! I have not lost touch with the protests since 25 January and I am grateful that I have lived to witness them.

Egypt’s security apparatus is among the largest and best funded institutions of terror in the world today. It has practised torture, extortion and murder systematically for as long as anyone remembers; and I am grateful that I have lived to see it defeated, humiliated and exposed – and to have contributed, however little, to that glory.


Tuesday, 25 Jan. Maidan, the Egyptian word for “square” or “circle” – as opposed to the Syrian-Lebanese word saha, for example – originally means arena or battle front; and during the last week of January many of those to whom Maidan at-Tahrir becomes a home or a second home, partly inspired by the lyrics to a well-known song from the 1970s by the oppositional composer-singer Sheikh Imam Eissa, will start referring to the principal hub of modern Cairo simply as the Maidan: “The brave man is brave, the coward is cowardly/Come on, brave man, let us go into the arena.” In the space of a fortnight the spot at which thousands of younger Egyptians have gathered, contrary to all expectations, will have turned irrevocably into a place of memory, a historical site. Passing the square or hearing about it, people start to wonder whether “this is real”; they are already joining in. Faces and voices are incredulous, but it is true: for once at a political event the number of demonstrators is actually greater than the number of Central Security troops restricting their movement and ready to subdue them by force; for once a political event is taking place in the open, in a central space, lasting all day and well into the night. Of course, by Saturday 29 Jan, Tahrir will have turned into a maidan in every sense possible.

Central Security is a branch of the military placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Interior for purposes roughly equivalent to those of the riot police. Best known for their unthinking violence, they tend to be army conscripts from working-class provincial backgrounds (less legally, army conscripts in the form of  guards are also routinely employed in the service of police officer’s families, buying groceries for the madam and using the state-owned police vans popularly known as el box to transport the children to school); directed by loyal commanders, Central Security do what they are told; and along with legal complications regarding the right to peaceful protest, emergency law (which in practise allows any member of the police to arrest and indefinitely detain any member of the public), and possible intervention from the notorious (plainclothes, highly skilled and practically autonomous) State Security, they have been a sufficient disincentive up to this point. Yet none of it stops people, thousands and tens of thousands, from flocking to Tahrir now – all of it in response to a seemingly stray Internet call for solidarity and anger?

The initial demonstration was announced on the popular Facebook Page called “We Are All Khalid Said” (a reference to one young man who died in the process of being brutalised by a low-rank policeman on the streets of Alexandria, without charge, on 6 June 2010). It was started by a young man “of good family”, to translate the classist Egyptian expression ibn nass, well-off and internationally connected, a product of the global economy and the kind of sheltered upbringing that produces conscientious and well-meaning geeks. Born in 1980, Wael Ghoneim is Google’s Middle East  marketing manager. (On Sunday he will be kidnapped by State Security and held, blindfolded, in secret confinement until the next Monday, when he made a powerful appearance on Egyptian satellite television.) For months the Page worked loosely in liaison with four online movements – April 6, Youth for Justice and Freedom, Hshd and the Popular Front for Freedom – as well as the El Baradei Campaign, the Muslim Brothers (who will keep an admirably low profile despite playing a very significant role in the survival of the Tahrir community) and the Democratic Front Party.

The demonstration was planned, with truly poetic irony, to coincide with Police Day, a national holiday commemorating a major act of heroism by Egyptian police troops besieged by British forces in Ismailia on the eve of the coup d’etat-turned-revolution of 1952. I am among the majority who think 25 January will come to nothing, but by evening I too have trouble holding back tears. There are clear signs of life in the long dead body of my true constituency – political participation by sheer force of right – and it is not driven by any (inevitably suspect) political programme. It is sincere, it is civilised, it is tidy, it is – and this too has mattered to me throughout – cool.

That evening I leave Tahrir around 11.30 pm. People are singing, bearing signs, lying in circles on the asphalt. They are predominantly young and secular. Even Central Security guards, with smiles on their faces, are humming the most popular slogan, adopted from the revolution in Tunisia: ash-sha’b yureed isqaat an-nidham (the people want to bring down the regime). A group of protesters surround one young man in what appears to be a standoff; they prevail on him to remove stones from his pockets. “Whoever throws a stone belongs with them,” I hear one of them say, referring to the security forces stationed at one entryway near by, “not us.”

Outside Tahrir the traffic proceeds normally; there is a sense of danger and excitement, the area surrounding the square is sealed off, but traffic proceeds more or less normally. I have barely arrived home when I find out that, desperate to disband protesters intent on spending the night in Tahrir, Central Security has attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, rubber and live pellets, canes and armoured trucks. A friend of mine ends up with 63 pellets lodged in his body; at least five friends of mine – two of them award-winning writers – are mercilessly beaten; in the next two days there will be numerous, more or less brief arrests, notably outside the Supreme Court near the Press and Lawyers syndicates. By 1 am the Maidan is more or less empty, and despite continuing demonstrations in the area and news of extremely violent confrontations in Suez – led by Alexandria and Cairo, the entire country is rising up – things appear to have quietened somewhat for the next two days. They are not over.


Tuesday 1 Feb, when a million people under protection of the army establish the virtually independent City of Tahrir – a fully functional and demographically varied community whose population at the time of writing has not dropped below 30,000 for a minute since Saturday 29 Jan – is still a long way off. At the time of writing pro-Mubarak demonstrations, announced repeatedly since then, have fizzled out to nothing after it transpired that they were invariably penetrated by criminal elements and police, directed not by popular will but by official and business interests. In times of need a decades-old dictatorship relies on the poverty, dependency and ignorance it has spent so much on cultivating – but lies can only go so far once the barrier of fear is broken. Already on Tuesday people who have been to the Maidan believe they are inhaling cleaner air, to the point where some of them are wondering whether it is because the numbers of vehicles in the area have significantly dropped.


Friday, 28 Jan. Of the many different fumes potent enough to induce a significant state change that I have experienced in my own body, I now have an additional one to give me flashbacks: tear gas. For someone who has never tried it, where a sufficient amount is inhaled, the effect is fiercely disorienting. Stinging sensations all over the face are accompanied by a temporary inability to breathe, and eyes – already clouding over – seem to reflect the death throes of the victim. Soda on the eyes and onion or vinegar soaked fabric on the nose: from that day I can count at least 30 young men crying out, standing or lying prone on their backs, wondering whether they were about to die. Solidarity among the demonstrators was instant and absolute; among the most touching remarks I heard exchanged in the entryways of residential buildings was, “Don’t panic, just don’t panic. It only lasts five minutes.”

It was on Friday 28 January, with both internet connections and mobile phone lines completely cut off all across the country, that I set out to the site of the oldest mosque in Egypt in Misr Al-Qadima, Jami’ ‘Amr, where one of many demonstrations planned for this, Angry Friday (I would personally call it Liberation Friday, but that is not the point), was to set off after the weekly group prayers. There were four of us on the Metro, all writers. Before we arrived at Mar Girgis, the two women put on headscarves and separated from my friend and me. At the entrance we asked a young man where the women’s section was. “I don’t know,” he said, with a strange look in his eyes. “This is my first time here.”

That look, the desperate determination it expressed, the all but suicidal readiness to effect change it communicated silently across classes, cultural backgrounds, even political orientations, will no doubt remain among the most defining experiences of my life.

For close on half an hour we endured a Friday sermon in which we were prevailed on to avoid sedition and, where our just demands were not met on earth, wait for the reward in the hereafter. The ameen that follows each request at the end was all but inaudible when the imam mentioned the name of Mubarak. It was not clear whether calls for protest would be met in sufficient numbers here of all places, particularly in the absence of the ability to confirm them. I am secular, not a practising Muslim, but I performed my prayers devoutly and did all I could to reach out to God. No sooner had the prayers ended than the cheering sound of hundreds chanting in unison emerged from the deepest point in the mosque, with people elsewhere rushing to join the fast forming block of people that would exit the premises as one: Islamists, human rights activists, conscientious geeks. By the time we reached the main street we had lost our female companions, and Central Security were already firing peremptory tear gas. My friend and I ended up in isolation from intellectuals and activists; until we departed Misr Al-Qadima, we were among everyday working-class people for the most part, chanting the slogans adopted all across Egypt, avoiding Central Security violence and occasionally attempting to stay violent responses to it, sharing carbonated beverages with which we splashed our eyes to reduce the effect of the tear gas, sharing water, scarves, what food there was, and cigarettes, as well as helping the injured off the ground calling on the demonstrators not to scatter.

In Misr Al-Qadima I saw uneducated 15-year-old girls brave enough to face Central Security head on, shouting “Down with Mubarak”; I saw a mechanic nudge his friend: “Are you from South Africa, man? Why aren’t you joining in!” I saw elderly women patting the backs of demonstrators and muttering, “God grant you victory.” Then my friend and I, having stopped at a cafe where Al Jazeera was broadcasting reassuring news from all over the city, set out towards downtown. It was 2 pm.

The idea was to walk, through Ain Al-Seerah and Majra Al-‘Uyoun, to Qasr Al-‘Aini Street and whence to Tahrir, where we realised the main battle had already started and where State Security were deploying fire hoses in addition to everything else. Little did we know that the very simple business of traversing this thoroughfare on foot would take up the rest of the day and night. I will cite only two moments from that period of the day: the arrival at the Majra Al-‘Uyoun end of Qasr Al-‘Aini – where we converged with thousands arriving from Maadi – and the point at which, sitting next to me on the steps of one residential building, his face soaked, one little boy who could not have been older than five or six from the near-by neighbourhood of Sayed Zainab said, “I want to go home.” Replaced by others, people would take refuge in the side streets and the buildings, but they always came back out.

Hours and hours. Slogans, attempts to win over Central Security, squabbles with the neighbours. The sight of thousands of unarmed young men taking over the streets together, their heads raised, chanting to the balconies as they passed Enzell, enzell (“Come down, come down!”) and of people throwing apples and bottles of mineral water to them, of other young men taking of their pyjamas and rushing inside to join them: I will die proud of having been part of that sight.

By evening, while still firing pellets and tear gas, Central Security will have fled; some of them returned individually to hunt down stone-throwing protesters on the streets of Garden City one by one, their guns loaded with live ammunition. Violence had broken out after a white car with diplomatic plates ran down some 12 people while it drove past at 120 km per hour, reportedly killing four. Thankfully, before I took refuge in a friend’s house in Garden City, I managed to phone my mother to tell her I was alive and well; I did not tell her that people were being shot point blank while President Mubarak gave his first, vastly disappointing speech, speaking of “the safety and the security of Egypt’s youth”, the very people who were being killed in order for him to stay in power.

Later, not so much later, we will find out about the inexplicable and absolute disappearance of the police; most of us will take it as a sign of our victory in a battle we joined without arms. Friends were hosed down while praying on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, beaten to death, run down by armoured cars. But in the end the Maidan had been completely occupied by the people – for the first time since 1952 there is a truly public space in Cairo, a space with a voice and a will. Equally importantly, the police were humiliatingly defeated. I believe I will always remember the cowardice and brutality of State Security, the hysteria and determination of my fellow Egyptians.

As a writer, as a journalist, Friday 28 January has given me back my public voice. It has confirmed to me the existence of a homeland and a people of which I am part. All I ask of the security apparatus at this point is that, if they are going to bomb us with tear-gas, they should at least use tear-gas that is not older than the expiry date inscribed on the cannisters.


Wednesday, 10 February, 2011

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بورقيبة على مضض في الإمارات اليوم

19 يناير 2011

من يوميات أديب مصري في «قرطاج»

«بورقيبة على مــضض».. تونس حلم مبهج


«ثورة الياسمين» الشعبية أطاحت بوريث بورقيبة. أ.ب – إي.بي.أيه

خالدة في ذاكرة البعض الكلمات التي قالها الراحل محمود درويش في وداع التوانسة: «رأينا في تونس من الألفة والحنان والسند السمح ما لم نرَ في أي مكان آخر»، مضيفا بصوت متهدج «في هذا الوداع، نحبك يا تونس أكثر مما كنا نعرف، هل نقول لك شكراً، لم أسمع عاشقين يقولان شكراً». وبكى صاحب «لماذا تركت الحصان»، وابكى جمهور مسرح تونس البلدي عام ،1994 في وطن احتضن المنفيين، ومنظمة التحرير الفلسطينية وأبوعمار بعد النزوح من بيروت إثر الاجتياح الإسرائيلي في عام .1982

بدموع درويش وكلماته يستهل الأديب والصحافي يوسف رخا، أوراق كتابه «بورقيبة على مضض.. عشرة أيام في تونس»، والذي يسجل فيه المؤلف المصري مشاهد من رحلته إلى تونس، خلال مشاركته في تغطية فعاليات مهرجان قرطاج الدولي الحادي والأربعين عام ،2005 بحضور محمود درويش ومارسيل خليفة.

بسرد متحرر من قيود اليوميات المتعارف عليها، ومن شكل أدب الرحلات الرسمي، ينطلق قلم رخا الذي اعتبر أن سفره إلى تونس بمثابة حلم منام مبهج، لتمتزج ذكريات الكاتب في تونس، بتفاصيل من حياته في القاهرة، ومشاهد من سفراته إلى كل من بيروت ولندن، وغيرهما من العواصم، ويشتبك ماضي تونس الخضراء، وأساطير «بلاد السفيرة عزيزة، والزناتي خليفة والهلالية»، مع حاضرها ورموز من أمثال «سي» الحبيب بورقيبة، و«سي» زين العابدين بن علي الذي فرّ قبل أيام بعد «ثورة الياسمين».


صدر للكاتب والصحافي المصري يوسف رخا مؤلفات:

أزهار الشمس – قصص قصيرة – دار شرقيات، .1999

بيروت شي محل، نصوص وصور، كتاب أمكنة .2005

اسم الولد السعيد، قصائد – طبعة خاصة، .2006

شمال القاهرة غرب الفيلبين – أسفار في العام العربي – الكوكب .2008

كتاب أمكنة

«بورقيبة على مضض» ليس كتاب أمكنة يهيم بالجغرافيا، ويتغزل بأوصاف المدن ومعالمها السياحية، ويسجل تفاصيلها بشكل فوتوغرافي، متناسياً ذات صاحبه ومشاعره، كما تصنع كثير من مؤلفات أدب الرحلة، إذ قلب رخا الصورة، فكشف عن الروح والهواجس والغرائز «والصعلكة، والجنون أيضاً»، بشكل لا مواربة فيه، وعرض جوانب من حياته، وحياة أقرب الناس إليه، أبيه وأمه، مازجاً ذلك بمشاهده ويومياته خلال سفرة تونس، متخيراً سرداً خاصاً، وفقرات قصصية قصيرة ترتحل بين أماكن وأزمنة مختلفة، تحت عناوين مكررة، بلغة تمثل أكثر من نسق يفرضه السياق، فمرة تكون شعرية محلقة، وأخرى يومية تدنو من قاموس شارع قد يكون في تونس العاصمة، أو القاهرة، كما تماس رخا مع كتابات آخرين، مقتبساً نماذج منهم، خصوصاً من نص «البحث عن عايدة: مونودراما عن الماساة الفلسطينية» تأليف وتمثيل جليلة بكار.

يقول رخا: «ماذا رأيت في أول طلعة؟ سيدي بوسعيد ظل السوق السياحي، وفلل بيضاء، ثمة أثر معماري له باب أصفر واسم ساحر.. أمواج على اسم هانيبال حفيد عليسة يقتل نفسه بعد أن تحدى الرومان على ظهر أفيال صغيرة، فوق قمم الألب، وبعرض البحيرة والبحر بقايا احجار مدينتين.. في أول يوم في تونس. على معظم لافتات (الباركينج) ألاحظ عبارة (مأوى بمقابل). من أول الأشياء التي استوقفتني. وبعد الضحك من ارتفاع مكانة السيارات بالدرجة التي تجعل الركنة مأوى، اعود للتفكير في هذه العبارة مضيفاً (لا). كيف أتخلص من فكرة أن تونس ملتجأ أو سبيل. سكن بالمجان، للهاربين، المطرودين المحرومين من مساحتهم. عرب ويهود الأندلس، إثر محاكم التفتيش، ومن قبلهم عشائر بني هلال».

حكاء ساخر

يسجل رخا في كتابه الصادر عن دار الكوكب ـ رياض الريس للكتب والنشر، عام ،2008 بشكل صريح آراءه في «رموز» كبيرة، ومشاعره الخاصة جداً، خلال تلك الرحلة، في «خلطة» فنية، تجمع بين السيرة الذاتية وأدب الرحلة والرواية والسرد العفوي، تتداعى المشاهد والذكريات، من أكثر من سبيل، الماضي والحاضر.. الخاص والعام.. الحلم والواقع.. الحقيقي والخيال، ما تم وما لم يتم، بشكل ملتبس وغامض أحياناً، يجعل القارئ يلهث وراء ذلك الحكاء الساخر.

يبدأ رخا «الفضفضة» من لحظة تفكيره في تأشيرة السفر إلى بلاد من قال إذا الشعب يوماً أراد الحياة، والبحث عن وسيلة لتدبير ذلك في مكان عمله بجريدة «الأهرام ويكلي» التابعة لمؤسسة الأهرام المصرية، يقول: «عندما تأتَى احتمال تغطية مهرجان قرطاج الدولي.. تذكرت حقيقتين أن المدينة الأثرية أقامها فينيقيون من صور، وأن أبوعمار بعد خروج منظمة التحرير من بيروت إثر وصول الجيش الإسرائيلي صيف ،1982 راح بالطاقم كله هناك. عرفت أيضاً أن أهم الفعاليات هي: مارسيل خليفة بأغاني فرقة الميادين القديمة، ومحمود درويش يقول (لماذا تركت الحصان)، من جديد، فلسطين في تونس أيضاً، قل بيروت وتونس في فلسطين.. بشيء من الهوس دبرت الذهاب، اتصلت بموظفي الأهرام وإدارة المهرجان، اشتريت الكتب والدفاتر. نغمة الأغنية التي أعرفها للطفي بوشناق في أذني وأنا أكلم أصدقائي الشوام، في هذه الأيام بدات أخبار تونس تنسال من أفواه مصرية».

بين القاهرة وقرطاج

يبحث الكاتب قبل سفره عن كتب تتحدث عن التاريخ التونسي، يتعجب من تشابه العلل العربية، ويستوقفه تشابه قصة استقلال تونس مع قصة استقلال مصر، والحديث المتقارب في الكتب التاريخية الحديثة عن الواقعتين «اختزال الجلاء تدريجياً في بطل واحد صعوده على حساب سواه من المناضلين. وعمليات تطهير مزامنة للصعود.. بورقيبة مشغول بالقمع والاعتقال، وناصر يتابع صفوف الضباط الأحرار بحكمة مكيافيلية». يربط رخا ما بين وطنه، وتونس، ويرى أنهما تنويعتان على تيمة واحدة، تتداخل في الصفحات الكتابة عن مصر بالكتابة عن قرطاج «كأن مصر وتونس توزيعان للحن نفسه: البلد، الحزب الحاكم، علاقة ملتبسة بغرب أو شمال العالم، ما بعد الاستعمار وذيوع الحكم مدى الحياة كمبدأ أساسي. وعلى خرير نضوب قنوات المقاومة، تبدلات التوجه عبر خمسة عقود».

يقف رخا في «بورقيبة على مضض» مع بعض الجراح التونسية، ويتحدث عن هموم الشارع، والقهر السياسي الممارس من قبل سلطات بن علي، ومحاولات التدمير لحركات المعارضة، واحتجاز المئات من المساجين السياسيين وغيرهم من الشبان الذين طالتهم حملات اعتقال لمجرد زيارة مواقع بالانترنت تحظرها السلطات، والمحاصرة والتضييقات والحرمان من حقوق سياسية ومدنية، ما أحال تونس الخضراء إلى سجن كبير، كما ذكر راشد الغنوشي في بيان لحركة النهضة الإسلامية.

ويشير المؤلف إلى بدايات حكم بن علي الذي قال عام 1987 بعد انقلابه على الحبيب بورقيبة: «نحن زين العابدين بن علي.. التضحيات الجسام التي أقدم عليها الزعيم.. لذلك احببناه وقدرناه وعملنا السنين الطوال تحت إمرته، لكن الواجب الوطني.. أمام طول شيخوخته واستفحال مرضه.. عاجزاً تماما عن الاضطلاع بمهام رئاسة الجمهورية.. نتولى بعون الله وتوفيقه رئاسة الجمهورية، والقيادة العليا لقواتنا المسلحة.. حب الوطن والذود عنه والرفع من شأنه.. إلخ».

ويضيف رخا «صور الرئيس عدد محدود من البوزات المقننة تملأ آخر شبر من الفضاء العمومي. كل شيء بموافقة رئيس لا يحبه أحد من قلبه. ولا بالضرورة يكرهه. فتحي (المرافق التونسي للكاتب خلال الرحلة). جفل وابتسم عندما سألته إن كان بن علي محبوباً. الحيرة في عينيه.. لا أحد يعرف بما يجيب عن هذا السؤال».

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آباء غائبون

كنت أحسب المرأة التي حملت مني هي التي أنجبت. ولأن هذا يحدث في المنام نسيت أن هناك أخرى سبقتها في الترتيب. فجأة وجدتني جالساً مع الأخرى هذه وهي لا تشبه نفسها في الواقع. خيل لي أنها هي التي ظنني أصدقائي أتكلم عنها يوم أخبرتهم بأن لي ابناً لا أراه. لكن طوال جلستنا، لم أصدق تماماً أنها أم ابني. عبثاً حاولت أن أتذكر من أي زاوية ولجتها ولم أتعرف على ملامحها بيقين. لذلك عاق فرحتي بتسامحها الخرافي انقباض. لا وعي عندي بأنني أحلم. ورغم أنني بدأت أتلمّس علاقة حميمة ببني آدم يشبهني عنده ثلاث سنين، ممتناً لأن غيابي لم يجعل عند المرأة التي أنجبته ضغينة، ظل الانقباض يشتد. عندما أفقت تذكرت فادي يعلّق على لقاء كارثي بامرأة لم يتخلص من حبها: «حصل الشيء». وحزنت من أجل آباء العالم الغائبين

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