The Fire Is under Control!

The Fire Is under Control!

Fire was devouring the historical building of Egypt“s Shura Council when a parliamentary official appeared on television, behind the lights and in front of the cameras, standing between the firemen, to announce that “the fire is under control.” The building continued to burn for hours after this, until the fire spread to its three floors, leaving the building without floors, rooms or halls.


After the fire had died down and some smoke remained, once the tragedy, the extent of the damage and enormity of the incident were revealed, another official appeared to announce that “the fire had been under control” since the early hours of yesterday morning. After a few cameras had toured the place, it became clear that the fire remained in control of the building, without anyone getting it under control.


The fire completely destroyed the building, leaving behind some rubble, debris and papers that had all turned black, in addition of course to the smell of destruction that dominated the place. Regardless of the reasons behind the fire, and of the results of the investigation undertaken by Egypt“s general prosecutor, the events have revealed the methods employed by some officials in dealing with such cases. Their priority is to keep responsibility away from themselves and from those around them, to deny suspicions of neglect or corruption, and to always give the impression that the issue is simple and can be controlled. Later everyone finds out that it was a major issue, that neglect is rampant and corruption widespread.



Great disasters will continue to happen as long as officials start by clearing their own names before looking for reasons and taking measures to ensure such disasters do not recur. Fate is the “scapegoat” which always bears the responsibility, so everyone gets away and society”s ails and disasters are never dealt with. Ever since the Cairo fire on January 16, 1952, in which many died or were wounded, and which spread to many cinemas, hotels and shops, in addition to residential apartments, great fires broke out in buildings, trains and theaters.


The ancient historical opera house was destroyed by fire on October 28, 1971, and those responsible have still not been identified. The one conclusion that was reached was that of blaming fate. When Beni Suef Theater burned in September 2005, a few junior employees paid the price, and not any of their superiors, whose job was to justify the disaster before the media and to discuss their interest in setting firm bases and taking necessary measures to ensure it would not happen again.


Of course, the “control” of the authorities and state apparatuses is a constant, whatever the disaster, be it a fire or earthquake. Control is always there, and this is what shakes people”s trust and makes them suspicious of any control. Whatever the sentiment of Egyptian opposition forces, their stances regarding the nature of the work of the Shura Council and the People”s Assembly, which together constitute Egypt”s parliament, and their reservations concerning the electoral law and the methods of debate within the two houses of parliament, the feelings of grief and sorrow at what has happened to such a historical legacy have reached their climax. Governments come and go, and the opposition changes and switches, but historical Egyptian buildings remain, preserving an architectural and cultural value that exceeds that of the events they host.


The ruling National Democratic Party”s parliamentary majority may impose its positions in the parliament, and opposition MPs may complain of what they consider to be the “dictatorship of the majority.” However, the stances of such MPs will always remain under control, and the leaders of the ruling party can always boast of controlling “parliamentary fires.” As for actual disasters caused by fire, which have increased in number and destroyed many historical buildings, they certainly are not under control, even if some officials claim to have control over them.