>> One of Mona Iraqi’s victims tries to burn himself to death
Le jeune égyptien s’est immolé par le feu le 15 février dernier. Après avoir survécu à cette tentative de suicide, il a choisi de livrer un témoignage à un quotidien égyptien.
Cet incident est survenu à la suite de l’affaire de la rafle orchestrée par la « journaliste » Mona Iraqi dans un hammam situé au Caire et présenté comme un lieu de rencontre pour des hommes ayant des pratiques homosexuelles.
Le jeune homme faisait partie des 26 personnes arrêtées par les forces de l’ordre avec la complicité de la journaliste. Accusés d’avoir organisé ou participé à des « orgies homosexuelles », ils avaient ensuite été innocentés par la justice égyptienne.
« Je travaille dans un restaurant dans un quartier de la Shubra et je dois subir sur mon lieu de travail les paroles et le regard des gens (…) Que dieu maudisse Mona Iraqi, tout ceci est de sa faute. », a dénoncé la victime au journal égyptien « El Watan News », tout en gardant l’anonymat.
Il a également assuré qu’il était constamment surveillé par sa famille et obligé d’être accompagné par l’un de ses frères lors de chacun de ses rendez-vous.
D’un autre côté, Mona Iraqi a maintenu et tenté de justifier sa position. Dans un récent épisode de son émission, elle a une nouvelle fois fait le parallèle entre l’homosexualité et la propagation du sida dans la société égyptienne.
Elle a justifié ses actes en présentant ce qu’elle considère comme étant des preuves de la culpabilité des individus qu’elle avait filmés nus lors de la descente policière. Pour la journaliste, le reportage alors réalisé a permis « la révélation d’un grand nid de débauche ». Elle a en outre évoqué sa collaboration avec des hauts cadres de la police des moeurs lors des investigations.
« Divulguer tout ce qui est contraire à la loi et tout ce qui échappe à la surveillance est le but de notre émission parce qu’on n’est pas seulement une émission mais nous essayons de faire partie d’un projet de réforme sociale », s’est-elle défendue.
>> One of the 26 men arrested, tortured, and ultimately acquitted in the December 7 raid on a Cairo bathhouse has reportedly tried to burn himself to death. El-Watan newspaper claims to have spoken to him yesterday in hospital. “I work in a restaurant in the Shobra district,” he told them. “I’m harassed constantly in my workplace by the words of the people and the looks in their eyes.” He said that since his acquittal his fearful family controlled his movements and tried to keep from leaving the house, that one of his brothers insisted on accompanying him everywhere he went, and that he had “no freedom.” Eight days ago, he set himself on fire.
“I am very tired,” he said. He has been confined in one of Cairo’s largest public hospitals since his suicide attempt, and he complained of neglect and mistreatment. Tarek el-Awady, one of the defense lawyers who is now pressing a lawsuit against journalist Mona Iraqi, said the man’s sufferings were due to “the narrowness of the society’s point of view.”
Mona Iraqi, who led and filmed the bathhouse raid and spent weeks vilifying the “den of perversion” on her popular TV program El Mostakhbai (“The Hidden”) will not be repentant. After the acquittal, there were reports she’d be fired. Instead, on February 4, she returned to the attack on air, blasting her critics, insinuating they were foreign agents. She reiterated nonsensically that her raid was all about “sex trafficking,” or preventing AIDS; at the same time, with serene inconsistency, she pointed to “evidence” — from Google searches — that the bathhouse was a gay hangout, undercutting her repeated claim that homosexuality had not been at issue. Lt. Col. Ahmed Hashad, the vice squad officer who planned the raid with her, also appeared on-air, talking about his “secret, extended investigation” of the bathhouse. The acquittal should have humiliated Hashad — the court clearly accepted the defense contention that he fabricated evidence. But he’s not disgraced, he’s an official talking head on morals. Egypt’s police stand by their woman and their man.
The episode aired only two or three days before Iraqi’s and Hashad’s victim tried to kill himself.
In Egypt today as in the region, self-immolation summons ghosts. Even with the country now clouded in official amnesia (last month the government cancelled any commemoration of the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s democratic revolution) no one can expunge the memory of how the Arab Spring began. On December 17, 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, in a desperate protest against bureaucrats who had confiscated his wares and his livelihood. He died three weeks later. By then his solitary act had ignited the Tunisian revolution. Four days after his death, the dictator Ben Ali fled.
In Egypt, in January 2011, in the eleven days between the downfall of Tunisia’s regime and the outbreak of mass protests against Mubarak, at least five men set their bodies on fire in despairing homage to Bouazizi: two did so near the Parliament building. All these were acts of faith. The beacons of agony illumined the anguish of a people. They were also last-ditch expressions of a physical, personal and individual resistance, the lone body defying the state and its repressive engines. The fragile flesh recovered power in annihilation, in its refusal to obey; death was its freedom, and made it incandescent. Skin and bone were the last refuges of integrity against the system. Their consummation was its negation.
The old regime in Egypt is back, and it has put a sanbenito of surveillance over everybody’s body. The small act of this man whose full name I don’t even know was not just despair. It affirms the survival and the continuity of resistance. He wasn’t weak, he was courageous, and I’m too weak to comprehend it. This morning I read some lines by the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. They’re all I can say: trying, and failing, to translate a material bravery that abjures expression into the spectral inadequacy of words.
One day, I will be what I want to be.
One day, I will be a bird, and will snatch my being out of my nothingness.
The more my wings burn, the more I near my truth and arise from the ashes.
I am the dreamer’s speech, having forsaken body and soul
to continue my first journey to what set me on fire and vanished:
– Mahmoud Darwish, “Mural,” trans. Munir Akash and Carolyn Forché’
Par Najma Kousri Labidi