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Egypt’s Cities Wage Satirical Secession Campaign

Posted by vmsalama on December 14, 2012

The Daily Beast (click here for the original link)
by Vivian Salama

A burly wall of a man in a leather jacket and traditional ankle-length jellabiya stood guard outside the city council headquarters in Mahalla El-Kubra, a large industrial city along Egypt’s Nile Delta. As we approached the two-story complex, the poker-faced, no-nonsense guard asked for a visa—that is to say, a traveler’s document for entering the city of Mahalla, located two hours north of Cairo. Like any perfectly timed comedian, he waited just long enough for concern to peak on our faces before letting out a thunderous laugh.

“You don’t need a visa!” he said, his belly still jiggling from laughter. “Our independence is a concept, but Mahalla is open to all Egyptians!”


As Egypt’s latest political crisis over an Islamist-proposed constitution threatens to tear the country in two, several of its largest cities have found unity online once again, triggering a sovereignty campaign in which several cities—including Alexandria, the country’s second largest—would secede from the nation, albeit satirically. It began after hundreds of protesters enclosed around the Mahalla City Council, hanging signs for the “Front of Revolutionary Salvation” around town and, on city buses, for “Mahalla Airlines.” The photos went viral within days and a secession campaign was born, with photo-shopped images later circulating on Twitter of men carting in the chair for “The Republic of Mahalla” into the U.N. General Assembly. And on Friday at protests outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo, a sign on one tent reads: “temporary headquarters for the embassy of Mahalla.”

Mahalla, a city of about 450,000, was home to the first “April 6″ secular revolutionary protests and has been the scene of several uprisings and labor protests since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year.

The six-month old regime of President Mohamed Morsi has come under fire in recent weeks, after the president shocked Egyptians with a decree granting him sweeping powers and immunity from judicial interference. The constitutional committee, which had been toiling on a revised version of the country’s political framework these recent months, is also protected under the new decree. After almost three dozen committee members walked off in protest, the Islamists who remained wrapped up the draft constitution in haste and presented it to the president. Egyptians will vote “yes” or “no” in a referendum that begins on Dec. 15. (click here to read more…)


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