Les théories du complot au sujet des révolutions arabes me fascinent: alors qu’il y a suffisamment de complots réels – par exemple le coup d’Etat égyptien du 3 juillet ou les assassinats politiques en Tunisie (on apprenait il y a quelques jours que la CIA avait alerté ses collègues tunisiens des menaces pesant contre Mohamed Brahimi, sans réaction aucune du ministère nahdaoui de l’intérieur – on s’échine à en inventer de toutes pièces. L’Egypte par exemple, et plus particulièrement la chute de Moubarak: confondant opportunisme et complot, d’aucuns avancent que ceux qui ont tiré profit des ou réagi aux circonstances – l’armée égyptienne, les Frères musulmans, les Etats-Unis, le Qatar, la Turquie, le Mossad, l’Iran, faites votre choix – ont en fait dirigé le théatre de marionnettes de derrière les coulisses. L’absence de preuves est considérée comme une preuve accablante: ça prouve que le complot était drôlement bien exécuté!
De retour dans le monde réel, les acteurs principaux en tombaient plutôt de leur chaise lorsque les événements prirent la tournure bien connue, avec la chute de Moubarak le 11 février:
The changing lifestyle, the changing faces, the changing topics; that’s not really strange for me. It’s actually sometimes enjoyable. This is how we lived and in 2011 no one was really ready for it. It was shocking for everyone, you know, even the people who were planning it. You talk to the Revolutionary Youth Council, and they tell you they thought it was going to be a minor protest, security would crack down on them, and they’d take everyone and make an example of them but then everyone was stunned by what happened. (Mohannad Sabry, journaliste égyptien interviewé par Cairo Scene)
Et d’ailleurs, pour rester avec le même journaliste – la focalisation excessive sur les questions sécuritaires ou plutôt les images violentes – les médias ont couvert toutes les émeutes au Caire depuis 2011, mais combien ont couvert les conflits sociaux et les grèves?
I think it’s a general mistake we make in Egypt and all over the Arab world that we tend to look at issues and subjects through a very short and tight security lens. We only deploy in a situation where the police and the protestors are confronting each other, or we only cover somewhere the military has taken action, which is really fucked up, because there is a lot beyond the security crisis. What we tend to ignore all the time are the socioeconomic aspects which are a reflection of the security crackdown in that community. If you start looking from a journalist’s position, you start looking at things from a different point of view which is the social point of view or the socioeconomic point of view; you’ll get more stories earlier than a lot of people because my understanding is if we had not shed the light on the Suez crisis that was happening in July 2011, it would have evolved into something bigger, and then the media would’ve jumped in to cover the clashes or the massive protests. So I guess it’s not a matter of having an eye for those things, but it’s more about getting out of the box and not analysing things through the really simple conventional way. I mean, security is not everything after all.
Et ça vaut également pour la couverture des événements au Sinaï:
So, how is it that Sinai became your area of expertise?
In 2008 I went to Sinai on a personal trip, and I’m still in love with it. I speak the Bedouin dialect pretty fluently, and I understand a lot of a dialects that normal people wouldn’t, so I always had a connection with the Sinai Bedouins. I was going there to start working with an Egyptologist friend of mine on a smart, cultural guide to Sinai but that got put off.
What’s life like there?
To me, it’s beautiful. Sometimes I feel it’s safer than Cairo. In Cairo, you’re facing protests and you hear about your colleagues getting beaten up. All that doesn’t exist in the villages of Sinai but that’s a personal feeling that has nothing to do with what we’re discussing. The villages in North and South Sinai are the source of the issue because those are villages that don’t have proper water in a country that has the Nile. They don’t have electricity and are forced to steal wires from street lights or whatever. Those villages are basically microcosms of the Sinai crisis.
How do you approach talking to Bedouins as a journalist?
The Bedouin community is a very conservative community. Not conservative as in religious, but very conservative at every other level. You’re talking about Bedouins that live on a border. I’ve covered the borders with Libya, and the border with Gaza and Israel and those cross-border citizens are always extremely conservative and extremely protective due to the nature of their community. When you go there you have to respect the culture, don’t expect to see someone on the street and not say “el salamu allaikum.” Don’t expect to walk into any house thinking you’re walking into a coffee shop in Cairo, and always make sure that people know you because when you drive into a village, no matter how disguised you are, they will always know you are an outsider, and an outsider always means one of two things: you’re either a welcome guest or a trespasser. That’s not to mention that this community has been suffering marginalisation for the last 30 years. When the war with Israel was finally done, we signed the peace treaty and everything was nice but the Bedouins who fought for Egypt were discriminated against from the government and the people. The fact that you’re a civilian doesn’t make you any less guilty than the government. So you come from the culture they suffered from for over 30 years, and you’ve got to take this all into consideration and you give them their time to trust you.
So how do you approach the violence and crime when you report?
You just have the community talk to you. You don’t have to meet the criminals. Also, what we view as a crime is not always viewed as a crime by everyone. Look at the tunnels, for example, which everyone views as the biggest mess of Sinai. If you go back to 2011, I waited for something like five months to finally get to a tunneller to talk, because I didn’t want to go to someone who would want money for their time or someone who would tell me what would please me. I wanted someone who would want to talk to the media and that was it. For them, it was about making a living, and the guys were very clear about it. They said if we had a job like yours, if we had security like you, we would give up risking our lives 30 or 40 times a day. Unfortunately, two of the cousins of the guy I interviewed were injured, and one of them died in a tunnel.
What, in your personal opinion, would solve Sinai’s long standing issues?
Let’s take a very simple example, the tunnels, which are a major thing; I’m not undermining the threat of the tunnels, or the intensity of the issue itself. But, let’s look at how the Egyptian administration deals with it and what the general public want done. Everyone is saying shut down the tunnels, simple. OK, do you think that if you shut down the tunnels that’s going to deal with the issue? No, because the tunnels are essential for two communities. One is living off of them, and one eats from them. The government, for decades, has been cracking down on tunnels, blowing them up, flooding them with water or letting them go, and has never tried to resolve the issue that forced people to get involved in the tunnel business in the first place. It’s the fact that they are marginalised and have no other job. They have one of the most fertile lands in the country but they don’t have water to plant with, they don’t have electricity to run the generators on their farms, and they keep demanding this from the government, and the government keeps turning a blind eye on their legitimate demands. Not only this, but the whole country has an idea that Sinai is just an empty piece of land with a bunch of bandits running around. No it’s not, it’s a part of the country that has a massive community in one of the most critical regions in Egypt, and is totally marginalised, even at a security level. I mean, if you want to secure a border, make the people living there happy, don’t force them to break the law.
Mais il est évidemment plus facile de parler de complots fantasmagoriques d’apporter des informations directes de zones de conflit ou de couvrir et analyser, à partir de situations concrètes, la situation sociale de catégories sociales dont les médias – et, soyons francs les lecteurs aussi – s’en moquent.