Facebook activists maintain support for ElBaradei despite photos

The Facebook page that featured private pictures of Mohamed ElBaradei’s daugther in swimsuits and claimed she was agnostic has provoked a storm of cyber outrage among the former diplomant’s supporters who posted hundreds of messages dismissing the photos as an attempt by the ruling regime to discredit a potential condenter.

“How much money did you get from the state security apparatus to publish this?” wrote Ashraf Abddo, who denounced the page’s creator as “a whore”.

Last week, the page titled “The secrets of ElBaradei’s family” was created by an anonymous facebook user who claimed to be a close friend of ElBaradei’s daughter. “I have been friends with Laila ElBaradei for a long time. I was surprised when I learned that Dr. ElBaradei wants to become president. I was shocked when he visited mosques and prayed given that he and his family have no religion. This is what drove me to speak out and tell the truth,” wrote the page’s creator on the social networking site Facebook.  

The page displayed at least thirty photos of ElBaradei’s family showing his daughter in swimsuits at the beach and at events where glasses of alcohol appear to be present.

The page’s architect has also posted a screen shot of Laila’s alleged Facebook profile page showing that she identifies herself as agnostic.

“Even if ElBaradei turned out to be an extra-terrestrial alien, I will back him,” wrote Ahmed Maher Rashad in response to the pictures on Facebook. Many of the nearly 1600 users who added the Facebook page to their profile are now calling upon each other to quit the page as the best strategy to downplay the campaign.

“All respectful people who dislike this charade that seeks to destroy the reputation of a respectful person should leave this page right away,” wrote Maha Ezzelarab. “Otherwise they would be giving it more fame for nothing.”

In an interview with a local paper published Saturday, ElBaradei accused President Hosni Mubarak’s regime of waging a campaign of “sheer lies” against him with these photos.

"This is typical and the only way the regime responds to those calling for democracy, political reforms, social justice and preserving people's human rights," he was quoted as saying.

Earlier this year, ElBaradei made headlines after he announced that he would run for president if genuine reforms were introduced to allow independents to run in the presidential poll slated for 2011. Hundreds of young activists and renowned opposition figures rallied around the former diplomat who find in ElBaradei a credible alternative to Mubarak. Since then, ElBaradei has become the de facto leader of a reform campaign that seeks to convince millions of Egyptians to sign a petition with a set of reform demands.

“You should be NDP agents," wrote a facebook user who identified himself as a Mostafa Pentagram as he addressed the Facebook page's sponsors."Is Mubarak a saint who has never tasted wine? Is Gamal [Mubarak] an Imam? I am telling you; you will lose..the end is very close. “

This Facebook page stands as the latest episode of a media campaign that has targeted ElBaradei since he entered the political limelight in February. The state-owned media has dismissed the former head of the UN atomic agency as an outsider who has lived most of his life in the west and knows very little about Egyptian social and political realities.

In April, Abdallah Kamal, editor in chief of Rose al-Youssef daily and an outspoken supporter of Mubarak’s regime, questioned ElBaradei’s faith and wondered if he observed the five Muslim prayers in the wake of a rally that he held at a mosque in a Delta province. In the article titled “ElBaradei and religious hypocrisy”, there was an early mention of ElBaradei’s daughter as Abdullah wondered about her religious leanings.

According to Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, professor of political science with the American University in Cairo, these photos might be used by the government to further discredit ElBaradei in a highly conservative society.

“The photos of his daughter whether they are genuine or not would serve the [government’s] purpose of discrediting him as a good Muslim,” said Mostafa. However, he downplayed the impact that these pictures could have on ElBaradei’s popularity.

“Supporters of ElBaradei will not take this seriously. The sources of photos are not very credible and Facebook is not a very reliable source of information. It is quite possible to fake pictures,” al-Sayed added.

Many of ElBaradei’s facebook supporters voiced the same doubts over the integrity of the pictures and contended that they must be fabricated.  “Photoshop can do everything. I am telling you…this is orchestrated by the state security,” wrote Hossam Mohamed.  

But a few viewers expressed their disillusionment with the reform figure after watching the pictures. “I am shocked by the pictures. I used to support ElBaradei but after seeing these pictures and knowing this information, I say no to Elbaradei,” wrote Ahmed Said.

Elbaradei is expected to hold two meetings this week–one with his young campaigners and another with workers. 

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