Bump into any Egyptian passer-by on the street and ask about Abdel-Atty Kofta and he will either laugh or frown in a defensive manner. In both cases, he will probably relate to what has become known as Koftagate.
In February 2014, right before the presidential elections later won by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Egyptian Army Major General Ibrahim Abdel-Atty, who is not a physician, came up with what he called a “miraculous” device that cures AIDS and Hepatitis C virus through a Kofta skewer. Yes, you read right — Kofta, the minced meat dish, served in different Middle Eastern cuisine. According to Abdel-Atty, the so-called complete cure device draws blood from the body, turns the virus into a harmless protein, then ‘feeds’ it back to the patient as nutritious Kofta!
Abdel-Atty made the announcement during a Press conference which has been circulated on video far and wide:
“بناخد الايدز من المريض، و نرجعهوله صباع كفتة يتغذى عليه. هاخده على شكل مرض و أديهوله على شكل علاج، و هو دة قمة الغعجاز العلمي”
I will take the AIDS from the patient then give it to him as a skewer of Kofta to nourish him. I will take it away from him as a disease and give it back as a cure, and this is the greatest of scientific breakthrough
Not only did this declaration generate an outcry from the Egyptian medical community but also an outrageous, jointly hilarious, criticism from Egyptians on social media.
Egyptian Twitter Users React after the “Kofta Announcement” in 2014:
Ahmed Abdoallah tweeted:
تخيل ظابط كبير في الجيش الأمريكي يخرج يقول ان احنا بناخد الإيدز من المريض نرجعهوله هوت دوج
— أحمد عبدالله (@AAbdoallah) February 25, 2014
Imagine a major general in the US army saying: “We take the AIDS from the patient then give it to him like a hotdog!”
بناخد الايدز من المريض وبنيهوله صباع كفته يتغذى علية
أهوكدة —- تبسيط العلوم — وإلا فلا.
— ألوستيل إنترناشيونال (@osama555555) February 26, 2014
“We take the AIDS from the patient then give it to him like a skewer of Kofta to nourish him” YES! this is how simple science should be.. or else.. not!
Merkesh commented with sarcasm:
احلى كومنت عجبني ع حوار الكفته و الايدز ان الراجل قال بناخد الايدز من المريض و نديله صباع كفته طب لو المريض كان نباتي نعمل ايه ! :DD
— يابانــي xD (@Mekresh) February 28, 2014
The best comment I have read on the Kofta statement was: What if the patient is vegetarian? What do we do then?
And Mahmoud Alsoly said:
Egyptian army invent a device for the treatment of AIDS, which is a kofta kebab!, Suggest adding a salad so that the device works well#Egypt
— Mahmoud Alsoly (@mahmod_s14) March 25, 2014
In December, the same year, satirist and TV presenter of Al-Bernameg controversial show, Dr Bassem Youssef, criticized the state for ignoring the deadline announced for the device to operate which was supposed to be in June 30, 2014. He said in December 2014 on his Twitter account:
انتهاء مهلة جهاز الكفتة بدون اي رد فعل او محاسبة.الاستهزاء بالناس بقى شئ طبيعي.سلطة غير معنية بالناس و اعلام متواطئ ومنفصل عنهم
— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) December 30, 2014
The deadline for the ‘Kofta’ device has passed without any reaction or accountability. Mocking people has become normal — we have an authority that is not concerned with people and a media that is detached from them
But sarcasm never stops when it comes to the Abdel-Atty's device and the story is not going away. Earlier in 2016, a Twitter user, Rahma Alsourbagy, posted a photograph that was retweeted 100+ times to ridicule the Kofta invention:
مواطن.مصري بيتعالج من.فيروس سي 🙈😂😂 #جهاز_الكفتة 🔪😂😂 pic.twitter.com/mm0l559Iew
— استبحسة ✌ (@RahmaAlsourbagy) January 20, 2016
An Egyptian citizen getting his cure from Virus C
Kofta Device Anniversary:
Every year, as February arrives, Egyptians fail to overlook the Kofta device announcement that was made in 2014. This year #كفتة_تايم or #Kofta_time trended, as Bassem Youssef reignited interest in the forgotten miraculous cure. In turn, Twitter users filled our timeline with sarcasm and disapproval to the army's nonsensical discovery.
Here is a sneak peek from the Twitter hashtag #Kofta_time that went viral:
Youssef shared a video of the head of Armed Forces’ engineering authority who was calling upon the critics to wait until June 30, 2014, in case they didn't believe him:
#كفتة_تايم يا سلام ذكريات. بلاش بلبلة اللي مش مصدق ييجي يشوف العلاج حيبتدي في ٣٠/٦ https://t.co/qjsC32MR34
— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) February 6, 2016
Oh! Memories! No criticism. Whoever doesn't believe, wait and see! The treatment will start in June 30 #Kofta_time
Youssef also invited his followers to send him photographs of themselves through the #Kofta_time hashtag after posting an Instagram picture with a caption that read:
شاركونا في الانتظار اللانهائي للاحتفال بذكرى الإعلان عن جهاز الكفتة
Join us in waiting until forever to celebrate the anniversary of the Kofta device announcement
Hundreds of users replied with pictures, full of irony and sarcasm, as follows:
Waleed Besher said:
@DrBassemYoussef أنجز بقا يا عب عاطي انا في مكة ومستني #كفتة_تايم pic.twitter.com/1wNkpANBr5
— waleed besher (@waleedbesher1) February 6, 2016
Hurry up, AbdelAtty. I'm in Mecca and waiting for the kofta #Kofta_time”
While, Imad Samara replied from the US:
@Studio79 @DrBassemYoussef waiting for the Kofta on the train from Chicago to Orland park #كفتة_تايم pic.twitter.com/h2ROazEVJH
— Imad Samara (@samara_imad) February 5, 2016
Moataz Moniem shared a video while preparing Kofta from the US in a reply to Youssef's tweet:
@sandraanka @DrBassemYoussef @megkurdi انا بجهزها اهو من امريكا. pic.twitter.com/LgU2MVBXoF
— Motaz Moniem (@MotazMoniem) February 5, 2016
I'm preparing Kofta from the US
And Youssef continued to rally his 6.47 million followers on Twitter to send in more photographs:
اوكيه يا جماعة، استمروا في ارسال صوركم على هاشتاج #كفتة_تايم شكله بقى تريند. اشوفكم بكرة بصور جديدة
— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) February 4, 2016
Okay, guys. continue sending your pictures on #Kofta_time. It seems it's trending. See you tomorrow.
Wael Ghoneim and Islam Hussein Support Bassem Youssef:
Egyptian political activist, famous for creating the We are Khaled Saeed Facebook page that had a leading role in mobilizing mass protests in January 25, shared his picture in #Kofta_time or #كفتة_تايم with Islam Hussein, an Egyptian research scientist at MIT. As both Egyptians reside in the US, Ghoneim tweeted:
#كفتة_تايم بنجيب مريض الهوم سيكنس ونعمل له كفتة يتغذى عليها. الصورة مع المحترم @_islamhussein أول من فضح عبدالعاطي. pic.twitter.com/tENlqAvV7M
— Wael Ghonim (@Ghonim) February 6, 2016
We bring the patient suffering from homesickness, and prepare a Kofta skewer to nourish him. A picture with Islam Hussein who first exposed Abdel-Atty's discovery
Reactions were not only Ironic:
A wave of rage and contempt broke over social media as many citizens harshly criticized the army, not only for this scientific scandal, but also for promising millions of ill people an imaginary cure that doesn't exist.
طب يا جماعه محدش ناوي يحقق مع عب عاطي لاختراعه ( جهاز الكفته الوهمي ) لسخريته من الشعب المصري بالكامل
— المُهنّدسٌ الآلّدغّ (@AhmedPepsi42) January 27, 2016
Is anybody going to interrogate Abdel-Atty for inventing the imaginary Kofta device and mocking all Egyptians?
And Sveriges Radio Middle East correspondent, Cecelia Udden, wondered:
World AIDS day. Does anyone know what happened to Mr Abdel Aati Kofta? @moftasa? http://t.co/79WO8q9bFx
— cecilia udden (@ceciliauddenm) December 1, 2014
While it is true that Egypt is a low HIV-prevalence country, there are approximately 40,000 deaths from Hepatitis C and approximately 165,000 new cases in Egypt every year, according to remarks made in July 2014 by Dr Henk Bekedam, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Egypt. That is thousands of dashed hopes across the country.
In an article published in Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, blogger Mostafa Hussein wrote:
The Ministry of Defense did not keep its promise of a cure to millions of HCV/HIV patients by June 30, which is an embarrassment, yet until today there are no guarantees that this will not happen again. No public apologies were given, no investigation was announced, and the only signal that the army may have realized that something went wrong is that very recently the head of the Engineering Authority was promoted to a higher position with no responsibilities. Yet, we still do not know if that decision was because of the wasted money, credibility, and the dashed hopes of its most vulnerable citizens or because of the public ridicule and failure to silence critics.
AbdelAty likewise is the egyptian that did most to inform thé crowd about the danger of hepatitis. No one will die of such irreal announcement. But if people continue to act according to ‘this happened only to others’ , many will. Many get infectés AND reinfected while prévention is just to act wisely.