In Egypt, A Conversation Between Two Important Men

First Man: By the way, I’m upset with you.

Second Man: Why’s that? I hope it’s not too serious.

First Man: You haven’t spoken for two days.

Second Man: I’m sorry. I swear that only the direst necessity would keep me away from you. I’m quite exhausted, working day and night. The whole world’s on my shoulders.

First Man: I know it’s a heavy burden, but I do wish you would stay in touch with me because I need to talk to you.

Second Man: I’m your disciple, and I can never forget what you’ve done for me.

First Man: Thank you. Do you have any news? I heard a kid died in prison.

Second Man: Sir, the police officers are under heavy pressure.

First Man: The police officers are fine, upright men. I’ll never forget the stand they took in January when they defended legitimacy. I can’t believe we’re putting them on trial for carrying out orders.

Second Man: Unfortunately there was a particular time when we had to put them on trial, to contain people’s anger. But don’t worry about them.

First Man: So what’s the story of the kid?

Second Man: He’s called Essam Ata. The military court gave him a two-year sentence. It looks like he smuggled a mobile SIM card into Tora prison, and they caught him. He spoke to the officer in a provocative manner so the officer went and put pressure on him, just to teach him a lesson. The kid couldn’t take it and died.

First Man: Be careful. It could turn out to be a big issue.

Second Man: Don’t worry. We’ve taken every precaution. All the relevant departments have come up with conclusive proof that the kid swallowed a bundle of marijuana, had a drop in blood pressure and died. People won’t cause any trouble now. People are exhausted and they’re happy with anything we do.

First Man: If people are happy, why did they come out and rebel?

Second Man: Please, accept an observation from your disciple. The reason for what happened in January is that the security forces made a mistake. They left people to assemble and were confident they could force them to disperse. But the principle is that we don’t let them gather in the first place.

First Man: We should indeed have been tougher. We made a mistake. We thought Egyptians were good people. I never imagined they would do that.

Second Man: They are good people. The problem is with the Facebook kids who keep inciting people.

First Man: They’re working for foreigners. They’re traitors, taking money to wreck the country.

Second Man: We’ve saved the country, thank God. I’d like to reassure you, that the Tahrir kids have lost their popularity in the street.

First Man: How so?

Second Man: Because the situation in Egypt is intolerable—no security, no tourism, no economy. The whole country’s in chaos. All the sects are at each other’s throats. Every day there are strikes and sit-ins, thugs and killings, and bandits on the roads. People are frightened for themselves and their children.

First Man: All the better. Let them see. What matters is they understand that all these problems are because of the kids in Tahrir.

Second Man: Of course people understand that, and now they hate them. We’ve exposed them in the media and explained to people that they’re working for foreigners. When they come and make a demonstration or a sit-in now, you find it’s the honest people who lay into them and hand them over to the military police.

First Man: Those are the real Egyptians, when no one’s incited them.

Second Man: I wish you’d forget what happened in January.

First Man: Want to know the truth? The scenes we saw in January were horrible. I can’t possibly forget them.

Second Man: Believe me. What happened in January is over and it can never happen again.

First Man: Are you sure?

Second Man: Of course. It was just a sudden outburst and the circumstances have changed. We’ve dealt with it politically and put an end to it. Now most Egyptians don’t like what happened and they regret it. They want to go back to how things were. People have started saying, “There’s no time like the old times. At least it was safe.” And the troublemakers who caused the problems in January won’t have a second chance. They’re divided and are pulling each other to pieces: the Islamists against the liberals and the Salafis against the Copts. Tahrir Square is finished. We’ve learned our lesson. In fact, the State Security guys have done a good job. Agitators used to get a million people out for demonstrations, but on Friday they had a demonstration with a thousand at the most. We have a plan in stages. The activists who are still causing trouble are being arrested and we’re throwing them in jail. We’ll keep hunting them down like sparrows one by one until we’re rid of them. By the way, did you see the newspapers today?

First Man: I get all the papers every day, Arabic and English, but I don’t feel like reading anything. Between you and me, I spend the whole day watching television.

Second Man: There was a piece of news that’s bound to please you. For the first time we’ve started prosecuting the people who instigated what happened in January. We’ve started with the first batch and then we’ll bring them all to trial.

First Man: You must give them hell—destroy them, as they destroyed Egypt.

Second Man: Quite right.

First Man: There are also some journalists and writers who are acting heroic and trying to stir people up.

Second Man: We know them, each and every one. State Security sent me some detailed files on them. We’ve started to put pressure on the people who own the television channels and newspapers where they work. Then, when the time is ripe, we’ll deal with them.

First Man: You know, sometimes I feel I’m living a nightmare. And on top of everything else now we have these presidential candidates. Have you seen what they look like? Everyone and his uncle wants to be president.

Second Man: Well sir, there are several considerations when it comes to elections and if we play it right we won’t need to mess around with the ballot boxes. Members of the National Democratic Party are respected figures and have served Egypt, and no one can prevent them from standing. It’s true there’s a court ruling that dissolved the party but we have eight parties with people from the NDP, and we hope they’ll win a majority. The elections will also take place in difficult circumstances. The security situation is very bad and it will continue to deteriorate. The judges and lawyers are at war and the law courts are pretty much closed.

First Man: So the elections could fail?

Second Man: We’re ready for every eventuality. If the elections fail, then so be it, and if they take place, the results will be in our favor. The next parliament will be ours.

First Man: Where have you been all this time, man? If we had done it that way, we could have spared the country all these troubles.

Second Man: It’s the will of God. What He wishes, He brings about.

First Man: God is indeed gracious.

Second Man: Just to be sure all’s well with you, is there anything you’re missing? If there’s anything you want, just let me know.

First Man: Thank you very much. You’re on top of everything.

Second Man: Of course. By the way, thank God your lady wife is safely home.

First Man: Thanks. She came straight from the airport to see me.

Second Man: I hope she had a successful trip.

First Man: Thank God. You know she has to go to London every ten days or two weeks to meet the lawyer and make arrangements.

Second Man: Of course. Anything else I can do?

First Man: Thanks.

Second Man: Goodbye then.

First Man: Goodbye and keep well.

Dear reader, do you know who these men are? If you find the right answer, please send it along: I have a valuable present for you.


Photo Attribution: Lilian Wagdy

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