They socialize at luxury villas and country clubs. They cruise through dilapidated Cairo neighborhoods in chauffeured cars. Some have seen their assets frozen and their travel restricted, but that appears to have had little effect on their day-to-day lives.
Mubarak and his two sons are among at least 15 prominent figures from the old order who are in prison. But some, including Mubarak, his sons and his reviled former interior minister, are facing retrials — and the renewed possibility of acquittal. Only two of the nearly 170 police officers charged with killing about 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising are in prison. Many were acquitted.
For most, including Hosni, who was acquitted of corruption charges in January, the world goes on. “In a way, I feel like my life hasn’t changed,” he said on a recent afternoon in the vast living room he uses as an office, surrounded by classical sculptures and books on interior design. Even as culture minister, he said, he spent much of his time painting and reflecting. “I was always a thinker,” Hosni said.
Like many other fallen elites, Hosni is bitter about the way the term “felool” has been used by Egypt’s emerging political forces to sideline the old guard. “Are these remnants just a group that people are referring to, or are they millions? Of course, there are millions who worked within the system,” he said.
To a conspiracy-minded public, the new Egypt looks increasingly like the victim of a cruel collective joke. Islamists are in power, to the dismay of many, and the economy is in a tailspin. And, as before, there is little transparency in politics or justice. Activist groups that oppose the new Islamist order did not celebrate the second anniversary of the revolution on Friday. Instead, they called for nationwide protests to mark the occasion.
But the fallen elites — cast by Islamists and liberals alike as the masterminds of street violence on some days and as obstacles to Egypt’s economic and political progress on others — say they are the victims, the scapegoats of a popular movement, the innocent targets of the deluded and ignorant masses.
Ex-official claims innocence
“All the people I punished before the revolution were against me after the revolution,” Zahi Hawass, Mubarak’s longtime antiquities chief, marveled on a recent afternoon at Cairo’s elite Gezira Sporting Club, where wealthy residents go to mingle, swim and play tennis. He said the media attacked him for being famous — Hawass has starred in documentaries and a reality TV show — and he accused rivals of paying protesters “millions” of dollars to chant against him in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.