Emergency meeting of the baboons

On 30 June, millions of Egyptians took to the streets to withdraw their confidence in Morsy, and demand an end to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The army responded to the will of the people, toppled Morsy, referred him to trial and announced a roadmap to realign Egypt on the path of the revolution.

Egyptians felt a sense of joy they had not experienced since the fall of Mubarak. But the Brotherhood went mad, terrorist attacks erupted in the Sinai where Egyptian troops died seemingly everyday.

And so the Brotherhood rallied its supporters in Rabea al-Adaweya and al-Nahda, staging sit-ins that are not peaceful. Scores of people were tortured in both squares, their corpses thrown out and later found. Armed marches went out everyday to fire indiscriminately on innocent bystanders.

A whole month passed, with the Brotherhood continuing to commit crimes at both sites. The residents of Rabea al-Adaweya began to complain that their lives were being made a hell, while those in Bein al-Sarayat near al-Nahda were assaulted by the Brotherhood. Dozens were killed and hundreds more injured.

But amid all these tragic events, we forgot that al-Nahda Square is right next to the zoo – opened in 1891, the first in the Arab world and Africa. The animals inside have been affected by what has been going on nearby. Reports from inside the zoo have spoken of a general state of depression among the animals.

Elephants, giraffes and lions, tigers and zebras, ostriches and many other animals, have all suffered. The baboons got fed-up and started to shout and move about until the alpha male came out. Assuredly walking around on his hands and feet, proudly raising his tail, he enjoys the respect of the other baboons. When he looked at the others, they slowly lowered their voices until there was silence. Then he spoke in a booming voice.

“My dear sons. I feel for you and suffer like you, but I advise you to calm down so we can think and act wisely,” the alpha male said.

But another baboon chimed in: “We will no longer tolerate this hell.”

Another baboon jumped up and down, saying: “We have been unable to sleep for a whole month. And the horrible sound of gunfire! They go out and shoot innocent people. I saw them torturing a man to death near the fence.”

“I saw them maiming the bodies of the victims with their knives," a horrified female baboon said, holding her cheeks. "They are criminals. They are savages."

The alpha male shook his head, while another baboon who seemed eloquent yet cranky said: “We must stop talking and start doing something. Isn’t it the government’s duty to protect the people?”

“It seems Sisi and the transitional government are reluctant to break up the protest for fear of casualties,” the alpha male replied cautiously.

Then the baboons began to yell.

“Victims will fall due to the sit-in, not its crackdown," the eloquent ape said. "They will be shot dead or tortured. Still, I can’t understand why Sisi is hesitant, especially that he was authorized by millions of Egyptians to combat terrorism."

"It is possible to break up the sit-in without casualties, just as happens elsewhere in the world. What about water cannons?”

The alpha male said: “Don’t forget they are armed, we’ve seen the automatic rifles. The first thing the Brotherhood would do is shoot at the soldiers.”

“Then the soldiers would have the right to defend themselves," the eloquent baboon replied. "Listen boss, we gather here everyday to complain and then go home and do nothing. We must find a solution tonight.”

The baboons yelled again.

“Listen, it’s not up to us alone," the baboon's leader assured them. "I will consult the other animals and get back to you right away. Wait for me.”

He jumped high in the air then disappeared behind the trees. The baboons stayed impatient for a half hour before he came back.

The alpha male returned with the same booming voice: “My sons, I consulted our fellow animals, and they all agree the sit-in of those criminals must be dispersed quickly. So said the lions, the tigers, the elephants, the zebras, and even the cute giraffes. I have never seen those giraffes as angry as I did today.”

The baboons appeared enthusiastic all of a sudden.

“Please boss, tell us what to do,” the eloquent baboon said.

“The other animals asked me to send a message to Sisi. Do you agree?” the leader asked.

The baboons cheered in support but the eloquent one returned with another question: “And do you think Sisi will care about the opinions of the zoo population?”

“He should," the alpha male replied. "He must end our suffering. We zoo animals are part of the lives of Egyptians. They all had nice times here. Nice memories. Who of them did not come watch us as a child on a school trip? Who did not come here as a young man with his fiancee?"

“Sisi must know that we love Egypt just like he does. Though he was authorized by millions, he is hesitant because he knows the Muslim Brotherhood is protected by the Americans. America keeps pressuring him and the government for the Brotherhood protests to spread. And when clashes spread everywhere, the Americans will intervene and bring back the Brotherhood to rule.”

The baboons started shouting in anger.

Eloquent baboon reacted angrily in turn. “Impossible! The people will not allow that. Sisi must protect the Egyptians and protect us animals of the zoo.”

“Listen, you know that our guard Qadry has spent 30 years with us here and knows our language," the alpha male bellowed. "He never told anyone, for who would believe him? I personally talk to him everyday. I like him, and I trust him. I say he relays our thoughts to Sisi. Our fellow animals gave me suggestions. I want to hear from you, too. You there, go ahead.”

“How can Sisi let the Egyptians who have authorized him suffer torture and murder in the streets?” the female ape asked.

“Madam, don’t forget there were casualties from the Brotherhood as well,” the leader replied.

"We grieve for both sides, for every person who dies unjustly," she said. "But why does the government not apply the law to all and break up those armed sit-ins? That’s rule number one."

The alpha male pointed at a baboon at the back. "Your turn.”

The baboon jumped twice in the air to calm himself down and said: “I want to ask Sisi why the Egyptian government succumbs to U.S. pressure. Since when did America want good for Egypt? America wants to keep the Brotherhood only to achieve its own interests.”

“Listen, here is the message that Qadry will relay to Sisi," the alpha male began. "We residents of the zoo want you to take a clear position vis-a-vis the criminals’ sit-in in the two squares. We are part of the Egyptian people, and we love this country just like you do. You were authorized to deal with terrorism, but the days passed without action. We are unable to sleep, eat or make love, and we are falling apart.

“The Eid al-Fitr is coming up. This is a joyous occasion for us animals here to meet thousands of visitors. No one will visit us in this time, however, because people are scared of the nearby sit-in. They could be kidnapped any moment and tortured to death.

“No other country would allow that. The Egyptian people support you, Sisi, so forget about America. America will not decide our fate. Only the Egyptian people can decide their fate.”

The baboons noticed in his voice how he was moved by this last sentence. They were filled with enthusiasm.

“Do you approve of my message?” the alpha male asked the crowd.

They cheered him on and shrieked with joy.

He smiled and turned away.

Democracy is the solution.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Alaa al-Aswany is an Egyptian writer, and a founding member of the Kefaya political movement.

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