Fact: There have been no confirmed cases of H1N1 in Egypt.
Fun Fact: That doesn’t stop the government making poor decisions and adding to the international crisis of crazy.
The mandatory slaughter of Egypt’s around 300,000 pigs was more than a step against the infection of the Egyptian community by this (common, highly treatable, blown out of proportion, other suitable adjectives inserted here) virus, and is a political move to reinforce the social, economic, and political marginalization of already poor communities within Egyptian society.
Egypt is a mostly Muslim nation, about 90% of the population, the remaining 10% are members of either Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, Catholic, or Coptic. Now while the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Egyptians are, on the whole, fairly wealthy, Coptic Christians are split between the upper-echelons of Egyptian society and the absolute lowest, one of which is the zabaleen, the Garbage-Collectors of Cairo who live in a small section of the city called Menshiyat Nasr, or Garbage City. This community is by far the poorest and most disenfranchised in the entire capital, and it is often cited as a result of the members of the community being Coptic and raising and eating pigs, an act prohibited by Islam. The pigs serve as both assistants in the disposal of the organic waste that they collect, and a food source, and by killing the pigs they are only furthering the divide between Muslim and non-Muslim society, keeping the poor poor, and adding to the panic that people are facing on an international level. This targeting of this community creates a further mistrust in the State, which after all these years of being confined to a smaller and smaller physical space while participating in demeaning physical labor, is both expected and counter-productive. This community needs schools and opportunities to participate in the direction of their own development, not pig slaughters and police violence.
On another note, the Association for the Protection of the Environment, an NGO that I have briefly worked with during my time here, works within Menshiyat Nasr, providing a health center, a daycare, a primary school, and a craft center that uses recycled cloth and paper to make everything from embroidered tapestries to wedding invitations and handbags. And, randomly, these handbags are now selling at Marc Jacobs’ flagship store in New York City. Though, in my opinion, they picked the ugliest ones possible.