The Numerous Deaths of the Immortal Pharaoh
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012
Did Hosni Mubarak really die? The confusion lasted for hours the day before yesterday, until reliable news emerged that he is still alive but in critical condition.
Perhaps the last thing that the Egyptian political scene needed to add to its uncertainty, confusion and absurdity is news of sacked president Hosni Mubarak’s death. But that’s exactly what happened in a bizarre sequence of events which made the conspiracy theory rear its head with a vengeance without hearing criticism of those who adopted it or accusations of scare-mongering or exaggeration on their part.
News about Mubarak’s deteriorating health has been going around since March 2010 when he travelled to Germany for treatment, and the subject is prone to rumors. After the revolution, tracking Mubarak’s health became a major news item in and outside Egypt especially when he was moved to Tora Prison after he was handed down a life sentence along with his Interior Minister Habib al-Adli. But the question of whether he would be moved to the military hospital in al-Maadi or stay in Tora remained hanging.
Things continued this way until satellite news channels and news websites announced news of Mubarak’s clinical death. This news was accompanied by questions about the possibility of having a military funeral for him and the fate of his family, fortune and so on.
Perhaps what led satellite channels, websites and newspapers to announce the news is that it came from the Middle East News Agency, which is the official news agency of the state. But it turned out that the news was false.
Reuters reported from a military source that Mubarak is in a coma, that he did not die but his health deteriorated which required his transfer from prison. This reversal came after a considerable period of time had passed, allowing confusion to spread among the people and leading some to wonder why the official news agency did not deny the news itself.
Egyptian media expert Yasser Abdel-Aziz told Al-Akhbar: “Basing the news on one source was a fatal professional error because it broke the “two source” rule which means it is likely that publishing the news without verification was politically motivated because one can not imagine that a mistake of this magnitude would be committed by an official news agency.”
Abdel-Aziz thinks that the way Mubarak’s news was covered reflects the fragility of the state of the media in Egypt. On one hand, there is no law to make information easily available, consequently journalists could not easily reach an official source to deny or verify the news. In addition, the way the media dealt with the news focused more on the repercussions rather than checking its veracity.
But what is the political motivation that Abdel-Aziz spoke of that makes the official news agency risk its credibility? That’s when the other pieces of the puzzle come in drawing a picture of a conspiracy theory.
That evening, when news of Mubarak’s clinical death emerged, all the political forces were in Tahrir Square and other squares in Egypt protesting against the complementary constitutional declaration and supporters of the two presidential candidates, Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafik were swapping accusations about the election results and who is more deserving of victory.
The Muslim Brotherhood was looking into a way to deal with the predicament of stripping the presidency of its powers. While members of the Constituent Assembly, charged with drafting the constitution, were racing against time to secure their political role. All this is nothing but headache for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as it is on the verge of drawing up the final scene of its staged coup to secure its domination of the reigns of power.
It is this scene that led to the emergence of several possibilities or reasons behind announcing Mubarak’s death.
The first possibility that was discussed has to do with what is happening in the squares and the signs of unity in the street even if it wasn’t complete. Some even suggested that the news was announced to distract from the fundamental issue and that is the complementary constitutional declaration and the attempt to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. Poet Abdel Rahman Youssef said: “If someone tells you Mubarak died, tell him that’s not the issue.” It seems that the escalating pressure in the street needed a rumor of this kind to distract from it. That is the view among many activists.
The second possibility has to do with exaggerating Mubarak’s illness and the deterioration of his health so that members of SCAF could take their former president out of prison and put him in a medical facility.
The third possibility is that the purpose of the news was to further blur the public scene and make people feel that nothing is clear which might pave the way for declaring Shafik president despite the ballot counting that proves Mursi’s victory.
The fourth possibility is to pave the way to take Mubarak out of Egypt under the pretext of saving his life and testing the waters to see if people care about Mubarak’s state and his presence in or outside Egypt.
The last possibility is that Mubarak truly died but the news was kept a secret and a rumor was leaked that he had a stroke and died clinically to gauge the public reaction in anticipation of announcing the news officially or deciding to bury him in secret and have a formal funeral with an empty coffin for him in the future.
Despite all these scenarios and the tension they created, a policy of secrecy is still in effect. The lack of transparency makes inconsistency and confusion the order of the day, driving Egyptians to come up with all kinds of conspiracies that range from the humorous to the tragic.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.