Mohamed ElBaradei has always expected to face accusations from the Egyptian government, and its supporters, ever since he emerged as a potential candidate in next year’s Egyptian Presidential election. However, even he has been taken aback by the latest attempts to discredit him and his family, through the apparent slandering of his daughter, Laila, on various online platforms.
So far, he has faced criticism in government sponsored papers, who have painted him as an outsider, someone who does not know Egypt and its problems, having spent so long in Europe. However, things appear to be taking a nasty turn, with his opponents using the same platforms ElBaradei has been using to turn the tables against him.
An apparent ‘anonymous friend’ of Laila ElBaradei has made a Facebook profile, introducing themselves as a “friend of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei’s daughter, Laila.” The poster then goes on to say that, “When I first heard that Dr. ElBaradei may run in the presidential elections; I was shocked. What shocked me the most was his unprecedented visits to the mosque, since I knew Dr. Mohamed and his family do not embrace any religion. This empowered me to speak out and tell the truth.”
Pictures were also posted of Laila at a party where alcohol was served, and also in a bikini. It was also claimed that she was married in a church.
Mohamed ElBaradei has been stung by the latest allegations against him and his family, saying that it is a “smear campaign,” and that it is “all lies and fabrications.” He has been trying hard to promote his image as a religious person, Egyptians are apparently the most religious people on Earth, and has been photographed praying in a mosque.
The question is, will this latest attempt at slander work? For one thing, it has emerged from Egyptian diplomatic sources that Laila ElBaradei was married in an Islamic ceremony at the Egyptian embassy in Vienna, and not a church. That is one accusation clear. The photos of Laila in a bikini are potentially more damaging.
However, the online accusations have not made the waves that were probably intended. Egyptians are a very private people when it comes to their families. The families of public figures are usually hidden away, and there is no major market for the kind of libellous material that appears in the Europe. If the move was planned as an attempt to lessen the appeal of Mohamed ElBaradei, then it will most likely fail.
Although he has not announced that he will run, ElBaradei has emerged as a figurehead for the opposition to Hosni Mubarak, the 82 year old who has ruled Egypt for 29 years since Anwar Sadat’s assassination. Hosni Mubarak is rumoured to be ready to vacate the hotseat, but many fear that, along the lines of Syria, rule will pass on to his Mubarak’s son, Gamal. This has been widely condemned all over Egypt, and the change coalition, centred around ElBaradei, includes the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s largest opposition grouping, despite its illegality.
ElBaradei has attracted mass support since his arrival from Vienna, after completing his third term as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. The role gave him an international profile, and it appears to have translated into a certain level of trust from the Egyptian public. He has 250,000 fans on Facebook, and his online petition for change has one million signatures. He also uses other types of social network platforms, such as Twitter, increasing his appeal to the youthful Egyptian population.
The Egyptian people fear the continuation of the current dynasty more than they fear a bikini. If the elections saw the ascendancy of Gamal Mubarak, there would most likely be widespread unrest, and he would have a very difficult task in bringing Egypt together. It seems that Egyptians have had enough of the background movers and shakers, one of the latest mysteries being the emergence of posters of the General Amr Suleiman, another potential Presidential candidate, with no one claiming to be behind them.
It therefore seems that the ‘anonymous friend’ may not be as successful as planned. The alliance that the online poster aimed to damage the most, ElBaradei’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, seems to be unhurt, with the Brotherhood dismissing the accusations as unimportant. In an article on their website they said that, “Freedom and democracy are more important than Laila ElBaradei’s bikini.” A feeling likely to be shared by the people of the Nile.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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