Stencil fear

Three days ago, an artist spray painted a stencil graphic on the grounds of down town Cairo by night, which next morning alarmed the state security and prompted wide questioning of people. Possibly on that same night and by coincidence Mo'men, a fast-food chain, stuck small stickers. What Mo'men did was just an ad campaign that has nothing to do with the stencils.

State security investigations (SSI), the ears, nose and throat of the system. Mubarak's iron fist. Started looking for eye-witnesses who can give any clue that will help catch the perpetrators. El Youm el-Sabe3 newspaper first reported the incident along with photos of the graphics.

Certainly for people who are keeping us safe from the eminent Hezbollah threat, this is an inexplicable act of derailment that must signify terror.

El Youm el-Sabe3 reported that officials armed cleaning men with necessary equipment to remove the spray painted graphics. The graphics were, ladies and gentlemen, of a cleaning man without a head. Was the artist — in what could be the cleverest forms of urban art tricks — depicting the officials who are brain dead enough to clear his paintings?

The SSI, in possibly their first successful intelligence gathering mission, managed to find the artist and the man who helped him. They interrogated him, thankfully in Qasr El-Nil police station and not in one of their underground torture dungeons. The man was released the next day from the prosecutors office without charges (he had to pay 100 EGPs bail).

Living in a police state that has zero graffiti artists I would have understood a reaction like this to a graphic depicting a hammer and sickle, Hezbollah, a cross or Kefaya's logo. In any case, this is not the first time someone sprays something on the walls of this city and for some reason the government officials are still unconcerned over April 6 stencil and graffiti everywhere.

So, today the Ahram newspaper ran a story on the stickers and the stenciled graphics. In short, they reported that the graphics caused "a big wave of questions about the significance of these stickers and drawings and the possible groups behind them" and that few thought that they were "the birth of a new political movement. Under the unprecedented atmosphere of freedom that Egypt is witnessing now." In the end, Al-Ahram commented on how these drawings and cartoons were indiscriminate acts of tasteless chaos that needs tightening of the controls, issuing permits and stronger penalties to the violators. "So the streets and squares of the city don't change into Okaz market."

What the Ahram didn't know is that the Okaz market was a big bazaar in what is now known as Saudia Arabia that was, amongst other things, an important platform for poets from all over the peninsula.