Al Gamal Battle


and sometimes they come on horseback

            Welcome to post revolution Egypt the wonderland of “Baltagiya”. The word Baltagiya (thugs/mercenaries) comes from the Turkish Balta (axe) followed by the regional postfix “-jia” or “-gia” , means axe-wielders. And that what they do, they axe and disrupt social activities for higher. They don’t have a political views or platform, they are anti views of any sorts, and their platform is always the street. Something like the Tea party here, they are not for anything, but against everything. Baltagiya have long been used by members of Egypt’s ruling party since the Turkish ruler in Egypt, but especially during Mubarak 30 years of dictatorship, there were his goon-squads that has been used for years to intimidate Egyptians to stay in line and behave, a trained hired thugs that the Mubarak regime had utilized effectively and efficiently  to make sure election goes the Mubarak way. Once the rotten regime was toppled on February 11th, and the Mubarak security apparatus vanished from the street, Egyptians were free for the first time and the fear factor was broken, as for the trained Baltagiya, almost one million of them, the last hired job was on 28th of January, 3 days after the start of the revolution, they showed up in Tahrir Square in the most bazaar seen of the revolution, at “the battle of the Camel”, as it was coined by Egyptians, where at the heightening of the revolution,  while Mubarak regime  was losing ground to the millions of protestors, desperate alone after his regular police appended him, the Army stepped in to fill the vacuum but stayed neutral, so the bankrupt Mubarak regime showed their ingenuous act; sending a few thousands of  “Baltagiya” on Camels and horses backs to Tahrir Square to intimidate the protestors, about five millions of them were there that night. It didn’t work, protesters determination to topple the corrupt regime was much stronger than the Baltagiya willingness  to get paid overtime, after a growling bloody confrontation the Baltagiya finally vanished with the Mubarak regime, the Military refused to get involved and stayed neutral, for that alone people admired their Military the banner of “The people and the Army one hand”  was raised in Tahrir, there was a short honeymoon between the pro democracy protesters and the Military, and the Supreme Council of Armed forces (SCAF) as it was called, became the defector governing body. A few month later the Baltagiya are resurfaced again everywhere, as the relationship between the Military who is admired by most Egyptian and the “Thouwars”, young revolutionaries got complicated, The Military lately has been trying desperately to discredit  the “Thouwar”,  those hard core protestors who started the revolution, and still on a general strike in Tahrir Square since the revolution. “We are determined to see real change” explained one of the organizer, We are not leaving until all our demands are met” he declares in their almost daily press conference, most of all a speedy trial of Mubarak and his regime”.  He added.  The Military not known for their democratic and sharing power appetite, they went on a mission to discredit Tahrir protestors and turn them from “Thouwar” to Baltageyah. Al Mesery El Youm a private daily paper in Egypt that known for its independency reported on April 22nd, that “Most Egyptians would agree that the 25 January revolution deserves a place in the Egyptian Museum — the most prominent and well-established museum in the country, and a fixture in Tahrir Square, the center of the protests. But allegations that the ruling armed forces used the museum building to incarcerate, violently interrogate, and abuse pro-democracy protesters has indelibly changed the site’s history. Is the legacy of the Egyptian Museum, once the celebrated home of Egypt’s most prized ancient artifacts, now a “torture chamber”.

Ali Sobhy, an Egyptian actor and activist who stayed in Tahrir all the 18 days of the revolution, was one of the unlucky victims of torture inside the Egyptian Museum,  he explained how the Military was trying to stage the “Baltagiay” transformation act, “They lined us up inside the Museum, start beating us karate style, a special trained officer flied in the air and hit us in the faces with his army boots” …  “these guys seem to know what they are doing, as far as filming goes” the actor explained on TV interview. They took us away to another room inside the Museum where there were cameras and a stage, they messed up our hair and started photographing our smashed faces” You see Baltagiya in Egyptians mind have special look that everyone recognizes, a Baltagi (singular) has three facial characteristics, first a messed up hair, a missing tooth, and a scar in the face is a must. Most Egyptians may have one or two of these characteristics at one time or another of their harsh life, but not the three characteristics at the same time, that is only reserved for Baltagiya .  The Army took the pictures and publish it through their media apparatus, state TV and their own fBook page catching up with young savvy Egyptians. Then the military called the people of Tahrir the “Thouwar”  Baltagiya , this started another war of “Baltagiya”  calling, all you need to do to discredit any other opposition group, simply call them “Baltagiya “, the Baltagiya call other Baltagiya, Baltagiya, the “Thouwar”; the hard core pro democracy protesters who never left Tahrir since the revolution,  have signs now saying “we are Baltagiya and proud” to protest the Military attempts to discredit them. The Military always denies that they are using the same Baltagiya of Mubarak to counter the revolution, as the ‘Thouwar” accused them now,  but in fact  the military on their website and fBook page, reassure everyone that they are protecting “ the noble “Thouwar” from the real Baltagiya” . Lots of Egyptian are tired of those “Baltagiya” and accusing them of destroying the economy. Every Egyptian now is talking about them sabotaging “Aglah El Entag”  the wheal of production, as if Egypt was the most productive country in the world during Mubarak.  Now in Egypt everyone is called “Baltagiya”  by someone else, students who demand change in their schools are called “Baltagiya” by the deans, Journalist who demand change in the press are called “Baltagiya “ by the minister of culture. Copts (Christians Egyptian) demands freedom of religion, are called “Baltagiya “ by Islamists,  Salafy groups who want to bring Sharia to constitution,  called “Baltagiya “ by the secular groups. Those who protest minimum wages are called Baltagiya, even the old professional trained Baltagiya themselves call the new ones  … you guess it …  “Baltagiya”

Have you hugged your Baltagiya today?

Ahmed Tharwat/ TV host, Public Speaker


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