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The Bad Never Leave

February 11, 2011

I sat in my office tonight with my jaw hanging open, dumbfounded at the words I was hearing coming from the mouth of Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters have consistently made three demands: the resignation of President Mubarak, the lifting of the Emergency Law, and the dissolving of the fraudulently elected Parliament. Of these, the resignation of Mubarak has been the one non-negotiable articulated by everyone from self-appointed spokesmen like Muhammad El Baradei to the random protester  in Tahrir Square.

Mubarak addressed the crowds as his children, told them how proud he was of their protests, assured them he would punish those responsible for attacking them, explained which six changes he would make to the constitution for them, and urged them to stop listening to the foreigners who were stirring them up and go home or get back to work.

Along the way he invoked every nationalistic trope imaginable, from military service to the freeing of the Sinai to the flag, his age, how much he feels their pain, the common struggle, the perseverence and honesty of the Egyptian people… the list seemed endless.

It was the classic dissembling doublespeak that the regime has indulged in for decades and should not have surprised me. Just a week ago I had told a group of students that I would not really believe Mubarak was gone until a stake was driven through his heart.

Like the crowds in Tahrir Square, I had been taken in by a series of false signs. A military council met without Mubarak (its titular head) and issued an ambiguous message saying they would step in to “safeguard the country”. General Hassan al-Roueini, the military commander for the Cairo area, told protesters in Tahrir Square, “All your demands will be met today.” The secretary general of the NDP (the job recently vacated by Gamal Mubarak) said that Mubarak should step down. And in the US, CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress today that he expected Mubarak to relinquish power.

“He will never leave,” a disheartened Egyptian friend in Luxur told me by IM this evening. “I have said so from the beginning.”

In Luxur, the people not only protested against Mubarak, they marched on the palace of the Supreme Council General seeking to oust its chair, Dr. Samir Farag (who most people call the governor of Luxur). Many hold Farag responsible for the destruction of dozens of homes and businesses to clear the way for development projects that would take even more of the tourism income from the hands of locals into the pockets of Cairo-based major tourist corporations.

A local business leader told me in 2010 that both the governor and former NDP secretary Gamal Mubarak were shareholders in the companies engaged in the tourism development, which meant police frequently enforced company decisions and court challenges were futile.

Dozens of houses and businesses in Luxur are being arbitrarily destroyed to make way for tourist development projects. The governor of Luxur and former NDP secreatry general Gamal Mubarak are said to be shareholders in the companies

My disappointment is nothing, NOTHING compared to his. Issander is a tour guide in Luxur, whose livelihood depends on tourism. The protests in Luxur have cost himhis livelihood, his savings, and he fears much more. “I have lost everything,” he said.

While there were signs of returning normalcy in Cairo this week, he said there were none in Luxur. Shops are closed. Banks are closed. Schools are closed, and life is at a standstill. It will take months before tourism resumes at even a fraction of normal rates and Issander and other people dependent on tourism don’t know what they will do.

If they felt the protests had accomplished something, the mood might be less dark. At least there would be the hope of a brighter future for themselves and their children.

But neither Mubarak nor the governor of Luxur have left in the face of their peoples’ anger.

“The bad ones never leave,” Issander lamented.

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