An attempt to bring all Egyptians under a banner of cooperation turned into an embarrassing snafu this weekend, when an actual banner promoting a new constitution didn't feature many actual Egyptians.
Amr Moussa, a long-time national politician, is in charge of the committee drafting a new Egyptian constitution, after the last one was essentially ripped up during a military coup. Moussa headed up a news conference on Sunday intended to win popular support for the draft, but any discussion of the text was upstaged by the banner hanging behind the committee panel, which immediately struck viewers as being very, very wrong.
Of the five people featured in the banner — under the worlds "All Egyptians" — three are not Egyptian. And two images of actual Egyptians (only one confirmed) were apparently used without permission. Here's a quick who's who of the banner stars:
This man, according to the LA Times, also appears in an advertisement on a very unofficial-sounding website (ehowtogetridofstretchmarks.com) that sells stretch mark removal treatments. Here he is an a lab coat, on that site:
This woman is reportedly a stock photo model. Her image, which is licensed for use by Getty, also appears on a business networking site for Irish women. Here she is dressed in a power suit, on that site:
This man appeared in an article on a clinical trial for down syndrome patients in Arizona Business magazine, according to the Los Angeles Times. A cursory web search shows his image attached to a number of articles about down syndrome, many of them on eHow.com. Further research shows that you can purchase this stock image, "Portrait of a Man With Down Syndrome Working In an Office," on photos.com.
According to Egyptian news site Ahram Online, this photo was apparently taken by Polish photographer Frantisek Staud and used without attribution. The person featured at least appears to be an actual Egyptian farmer.
And, finally, this image of an Egyptian soldier was taken by an Ahram journalist Rowan El-Shimiin in 2011 and used without her permission, according to the site.
The banner prompted sarcastic responses on Twitter:
LOL-"We are all Egyptian" poster full of non-Egyptians. Someone took the "mother of the world" idiom too literally. http://t.co/UyUzwcIA64— Ahmed Kadry (@AhmedKadry) December 16, 2013
That's not all that's wrong either. There has also been criticism of the banner for only showing one woman, and one who isn't wearing a hijab, the head covering that most Egyptian women wear in public.
And arguably the worst mistake of all? Arabic readers quickly pointed out that the word for "Egyptians" ... was misspelled. The The Los Angeles Times reports:
To make matters worse, the slogan on the banner contained a spelling mistake in the Arabic version, with one letter missing from the word for “Egyptians” -- “Masreyeen.”
The website CairoGossip.com adds that the error changes the meaning of the word significantly:
... the spelling of 'Egyptian' in Arabic is - somewhat ironically - spelled to mean a different word altogether; mosireen (not to be confused with the Downtown cultural hub) can mean insistent or nagging, which quite honestly encapsulates the entire population a lot better.
The Egyptian government quickly apologized for the spelling error, but not for the poor choice of images.
The draft constitution will be voted on in mid-January and received mixed reviews when it was first revealed over the weekend. Critics say the new constitution grants too much control to the Egyptian military, which is already seen as the most powerful organization in the country. They already threw one elected government when former President Mohamed Mursi was ousted in July. This draft is an update on the constitution written by his government, but if the banner debacle is any sort of omen, Egyptian politics will continue to be a mess for some time.