- Life Style
As soon as reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei approached a polling station in the poor North Cairo district of Moqattam, he was met by tens of thugs who threw stones and glass and smashed his car.
Like many Egyptians, ElBaradei, along with his brother and wife, had gone to cast his vote on Egypt’s constitutional amendments. Dozens of his supporters rallied outside the polling station, chanting: “Dignity, freedom and social justice,” a slogan that summarises the platform of the presidential hopeful who identifies as a social democrat. Shortly afterwards, a group of people began shouting: “We don’t want him,” and started to shove ElBaradei and his supporters. The pro-ElBaradei crowd replied with chants of “We want him.” But the shouting match quickly turned into a physical confrontation as young thugs jumped on parked cards and began throwing stones at ElBaradei and his followers. “I went to vote with my family and we were attacked by organized thugs,” ElBaradei wrote on his twitter account a few minutes after the attack. “Holding a referendum in the absence of law and order is an irresponsible act.” One of his female supporters was mobbed and beat up by thugs, before soldiers intervened and took her away. A journalist from Al-Masry Al-Youm, who got caught in the violence, was kicked in the back and punched in the face by thugs who broke his eyeglasses. Earlier this month, ElBaradei announced he would run for president. He has refused to endorse any amendments to Egypt’s existing constitution, widely considered to be an undemocratic document, and has insisted that a new constitution be drafted as soon as possible.. On the sidelines of the battlefield, a 63-year-old resident of the area, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, told Al-Masry Al-Youm: “We don't want him, he's not Egyptian.” A woman wearing a black headscarf also yelled: “He's an American agent, he ruined Iraq. Is he coming now to ruin Egypt?” In early 2010, ElBaradei rose to the fore of the Egyptian opposition by calling for genuine democratization and urging people to take to the streets. Egypt’s state-owned media responded with a smear campaign against the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, accusing him of being an American agent who orchestrated the US invasion of Iraq. Some media outlets went further by alleging he is athiest, a charge intended to discredit ElBaradei in the eyes of Egypt’s Muslim-majority population. But not all residents of Moqattam have bought into these claims. “This is a barbaric act against a respectful man who won Nobel Prize,” said Abdel Nabi Mohamed, a clinical pathologist at a state-run hospital, shortly after ElBaradei left the scene. “Most people here ignorantly believe he [ElBaradei] is a traitor and a foreign agent. They’ve been told this by certain TV channels.”