Egypt

Journey Back To Tahrir For A Disgraced Actor And Mubarak Nostalgic

Spat on and kicked out of his job running a top Cairo theater company, Tamer Abdel Moneim, a bona fide *fulul*, says he's proud he always stuck by the deposed former strongman.

Aug. 2013 pro-Mubarak demonstration in Cairo
Aug. 2013 pro-Mubarak demonstration in Cairo
Christophe Ayad

CAIRO — Tamer Abdel Moneim is no longer scared of Tahrir Square.

On the eve of the massive demonstration on June 30, calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, Moneim rented a room at the upscale Hotel Semiramis on the edge of Cairo's iconic central Square. He spent that evening drinking whisky, emptying glass after glass while contemplating the people coming together on Tahrir.

"I was scared. I didn't want to go down there. But on the Friday, at noon, I did," he recalled. "People recognized me, and they were very welcoming. Some even applauded."

Moneim, 38, wears a gold necklace and is clean shaven: It's the fulul look. He introduces himself laughing, "I am the ambassador of fululs." During the past two years, the word had come to symbolize evil incarnate. It comes from an ancient Arabic word and means "relics" or even, "the abandoned and used weapons that the enemies left on the battle field after they lost."

In Egypt, fulul became a synonym for the supporters, those who were members of or benefitted from the former regime of Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood even extended its meaning to all their opponents during Morsi's tenure.

But Moneim is truly fulul, an authentic fulul. On January 28, 2011, the "Battle of the Bridge" took place, in which the regime unleashed its repressive forces on demonstrators, but without managing to quash the rebellion that was turning into a revolution. That day, the young film star went on television to say everything he thought of this uprising. "For me, it was a coup from the Muslim Brotherhood backed by the CIA," he explains. "I said that we wouldn't be able to find anybody better than Hosni Mubarak. That without him, the country would plunge into ruin and chaos."

Moneim instantly became an outcast. One woman even spat in his face in the street.

Mubarak resigned on February 11, 2011. Three months later, Moneim lost his job as director of the Cinema Palace (a network of art houses). He received fewer and fewer roles in movies. His patron inside the government, Culture Minister Farouk Hosny, fled to France. Moneim chose to stay. "Suddenly, everybody became a revolutionary. I saw high officials change sides and then oppress me — but I never changed."

Shunned, but with chauffeur

He got directly involved in politics, helping Omar Suleiman, former spy chief under Mubarak, who was considering running for the presidential election, before his candidacy was nullified. He then worked for Ahmed Chafik, a former general and last Prime Minister of the old regime, who lost by a small margin (with 48.27% of the vote) against the Muslim Brotherhood"s Morsi in the second round of the June 2012 election.

Moneim says his journey through the wilderness was not too difficult; he still had his Jaguar with chauffeur. His father-in-law is none other than Farid Al-Dieb, the Mubarak family's lawyer.

After Morsi came into office, Moneim found a new job hosting a political talk show on Tahrir, a private channel. It had been bought by Christian businessmen and became a stronghold of the opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. As the Islamist power grew more and more unpopular, his show, Al-Assima ("the capital"), attracted more and more viewers.

And then came June 30, "the real revolution," according to Moneim: "The young revolutionaries were 300,000, the Muslim Brotherhood 3 million and we were 30 million. Everyone was out in the streets: the fululs, but more importantly the so-called "couch party" — those who used to watch the events happening from their living rooms. The Egyptians took Tahrir."

Once Morsi was overthrown, the fululs started reappearing in public life. The transitional government welcomes some of them, like Minister of Information Doreya Charaf Eddine, former member of the political office of the National Democratic Party, which was in power under Mubarak.

Moneim is nostalgic for Mubarak himself even more than he is of his system. "Our great democrats who led the "revolution" two years ago now wave portraits of Nasser and of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. What a joke! Everybody used to make fun of Mubarak because he was weak, but he developed Egypt more than his predecessors. Remember the state Egypt was in when he came into power in 1981? Telephones didn't work, cars were too expensive, there were no hotels for tourists, no bridges… And I also respect him because he could have fled abroad before he was imprisoned and he didn't."

Hosni Mubarak is now out of prison, and for Moneim, Egypt has returned to normal.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never.

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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