Diary of Dictator M, aged 82¾: a panicked call from Tunisia

As uncovered by Khaled Diab

In the first leaked extract from President M's diaries, he calms an alarmed fellow dictator in .

4 February 2011

25 December 2010

After an exhausting day of sending out Christmas wishes to all my friends in the West, I got a late night call from Zine. What a panic he's in – and all because of some protests in a tiny little town I've never even heard of. He couldn't believe that a nobody from nowhere special could turn a whole city against him. Yes, what a curious case, I reflected. “Truly, he places His secrets in His weakest creations,” I mused.

“A pest, a parasite trading without a licence gets caught by the police, who do their job and punish him and what does he do? He burns himself alive, like a spineless coward, without a thought for the sacredness of human life,” he fumed. “And what do people do? Rather than criticise his cowardice and say what he did was haram, they celebrate him as a hero. Now, I'm afraid the flames he ignited will spread across the country.”

“Your eminence, calm yourself, cool down,” I counselled, privately thinking that this man whom I'd long admired looks like he may drown in an inch of water. “Some rabble rousers taking to the streets is nothing to lose sleep over.”

“But what if it spreads to the rest of the country?”

“Who said it would spread? You are the envy of the region; you have the quietest, most respectful population in the whole of North Africa,” I reassured him.

“But what about that other idiot who electrocuted himself a couple of days ago? People are also holding him up as some kind of ‘martyr'. What if these maniacs continue their suicide attacks against me?”

“Don't worry. You can easily contain the situation. The boy who burnt himself is alive, right? Well, just visit him in hospital to show sympathy with his plight and, by extension, that of all poor, young Tunisians,” I recommended. “Then, things will calm down, and the waters will return to their natural channels. And if they don't, you're no stranger to cracking down hard.”

“Wise words, Mr President,” he said, cheering up. Then he remembered something, and his tone darkened. “But how can my people side with some out-of-work riffraff over their leader who has done so much to bring wealth and stability to them?”

“Some people are such ingrates,” thinking of my own unthankful opponents. “Don't let it get to you. The vast majority of your people love and respect you. You are, as your name suggests, the cream of Tunisia's worshippers.”

“Thank you, Hozz,” Zine replied, making me cringe at his informality. No one uses pet names with me apart from Suzanne and then only in private after I've checked my room for bugs. “You, too, are the living embodiment of your name: you are blessed and a blessing upon the great land of , the Mother of the World,” he added, deflecting my annoyance at his casualness with me, and filling me with a warm feeling.

“I know that I can always count on your appreciation, my valued colleague in arms, it's just a shame that my people are not as respectful, after all the sacrifices I've made for this nation during six decades of public service, in the army, on the battlefield, as vice-president and as president,” I complain to what I know is a sympathetic ear, before we say our goodbyes.

After all that, the wretched opposition keeps on asking for my resignation, as if I'm president for the fun and games; as if anyone of those losers could do my job, could carry the burdens of this thankless and trying and exhausting trial. They're just power-hungry and greedy – and they call me corrupt. Any personal gains I've made on the job, I've ensured that Egypt has reaped a hundredfold.

“The bulk of the Egyptian people are still behind me,” I comforted myself before turning in for the night.

Don't miss the next exclusive extract. Coming soon.


  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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