The Proverbial ‘Bakshish’ and the Mubaraks

What is “Bakshish”? Tourists often ask. Stricktly speaking it is a ‘tip’ or payment for services rendered. In Egypt, however, the term ‘Bakshish’ has a wider use, and is sometimes replaced by ‘Azemni Shaiy’ which literally translates as ‘Offer me a Tea’ or, more suruptiously ‘Pay me a bribe’. This way of ‘payment’ has been so widespread that it affected all aspects of life, including the police, government officials and anyone in a position to do you a ‘favour’ or bend the rules for you. This form of social corruption was so deeply entrenched in the collective psyche of Egyptians that it became a way of life, seen as a totally ‘nornal’ practice to get things done –legally or illegally.  Naturally it favoured those who had the money; whereas those who could not afford it were obliged to suffer the humiliation and abuse of police and officials for the most minute service  –which meant not only waiting hours (sometimes days) at a goverment office for obtaining, say, a birth certificate or such like document. Anyone who has had the misfortune of having to deal with goverment department to obtain this or that permit or licence will attest to the terrible corruption and the overwhelming ‘red tape’ that completely choked the system. Yet what could take days, months or years to obtain (if you were lucky) only took minutes if you had money and were willing to pay that proverbial ‘cup of tea’.

If there is one thing that the young people who carried out the 25th January Revolution wanted out  –other than Mubarak and his regime– was this despicable, abusive, totally corrupt way of the proverbial ‘cup of tea’. This is not only because it has choked and ruined the otherwise normal process of government administration and commerce, but also because it has debased Egyptian dignity and made it the laughing stock of all foreigners who visit this country.  In the ‘new Egypt’ no one must be above the law or be granted special favours simply because he or she can ‘pay’ their way. Everyone must be subjected to the rule of law and everyone must be entitle to his or her rights according to the constitution and the law and rules of the land. No one is above this.

If the Supreme Military Council and the General Attorney accept ‘payment’ from the Mubaraks to let them off the hook and grant them amnesty for their horrific crimes against the Egyptian people, then this will be the ultimate humiliation for Egypt as a whole, and will totally unermine what the 25th January Revolution stands for. Not only it is totally wrong and unacceptable for granting amnesty to the Mubaraks in this way, but the irony is that they money and assets the Mubaraks are offering belonged to the nation in the first place!

People of Egypt, if you allow this to happen not only will you have sold out the 25th January Revolution but also the very soul of Egypt.

The Egyptian people must have faith in the judicial system and the constitution. They must believe that every citizen, no matter his creed or his position, in accountable to the law.

The Mubaraks must go to trial. Justice must be done. The fate and future of the new Egypt depends on this.

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