Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – During the Tahrir Square demonstrations which lasted for 18 days the Egyptian protestors attempted to make the best of it, exchanging jokes which were later reflected in some of their slogans and chants calling upon then-President Mubarak to step down. This humor and lightheartedness did not end with the success of the revolution, and in fact has only grown stronger. The most recent subject of humour and jokes in Egypt can be found in the historic speech issued by then Vice President Omar Suleiman, announcing the resignation of former President Mubarak. During this historic speech, many Egyptians – despite the gravity of the speech – found their eyes inexplicably drawn to the mysterious figure standing behind Omar Suleiman. Questions were raised about the identity of this man, especially as his features were set in an extremely grave and serious expression, and his eyes shifted from side-to-side a number of times during Suleiman’s speech, which did not last for more than a few minutes. This has made many people curious to find out, just who is the mystery man standing behind Omar Suleiman?
A number of Facebook and Twitter pages have been set up dedicated to “the guy behind Omar Suleiman” with fans exchanging speculation as to his identity, in addition to jokes and even playfully doctored pictures of this man in different historical and fictional settings. There have been speculations that this man is Omar Suleiman’s personal security, or a member of his political office, while others have asserted that he is an Egyptian army officer. Jokes have also been exchanged referencing this mysterious figure, for example one twitter user wrote “Breaking news: After the fame of “the guy behind Omar Suleiman”, Omar Suleiman has decided to change his name to become “the guy in front of the guy behind Omar Suleiman” and another joked “Egyptian State TV [says]: There was no guy behind Omar Suleiman.” Facebook and Twitter user have also uploaded doctored images of “the guy behind Omar Suleiman” depicting him as a career-ending angel of death, standing behind figures such as deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, deposed Egyptian monarch King Farouk, and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Other doctored pictures showed him in more fantastical situations, such as standing behind Hitler, and appearing behind Al Pacino in the movie Scarface.
However jokes such as this have aroused the anger of many people, especially after it was revealed that “the guy behind Omar Suleiman” was none other than Egyptian army Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif, commander of Group 64 of Egyptian Special Forces. Lieutenant Colonel Sharif’s son identified his father on his Facebook page, and called on people to apologize for their remarks.
This is indeed what happened, with many people responding to this plea and apologizing for their comments, and a Facebook page was set up called “an apology to Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif and all his family” which had 47,000 members at the time that this article went to press. In this group, many Facebook users expressed their regret for ridiculing the army officer, and paid their respects to him, writing “this man is an honorable army officer and deserves all the respect” and “”we respect all the armed forces for protecting the revolution and protecting the homeland” with a more lighthearted poster wrote “he [Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Sharif] is the greatest, and I wish I was the guy standing behind Omar Suleiman!”