Thursday, July 7, 2011

Egypt's bad guys

Ahead of large protests planned for tomorrow in Tahrir Square, Salma Shukrullah from Ahram Online asks a crucial but overlooked question: who are Egypt's "thugs?"

She insightfully writes that the term is so widely used it has almost lost all meaning.   "Thugs" now refers to pro-Mubarak forces who seek to sabotage continuing protests in Tahrir, civilians arrested in clashes with the police force, petty thieves, and even activists.

But the article fails to acknowledge that the term is not just exploited by the powers that be in order to justify illegal arrests, but also tossed around carelessly by activists and protesters in Tahrir themselves.  Setbacks to protest efforts are typically blamed on the baltageya.  The term escalates arguments about issues as trivial as vendors' turfs. I had to laugh the other day when a Tweet from a pro-democracy activist even blamed Cairo traffic on thugs.

"Y r they blocking Kornish el ma3ady..3ayzeen eh?! #baltageya #thugs #CairoTraffic"

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