The rise and fall of Egypt's Tawfiq Okasha

The rise and fall of Egypt's Tawfiq Okasha
Comment: 'Dr.' Taqfiq Okasha is one of Egypt's best known television personalities, whose inebriating career has seen many colourful, crude and controversial acts, says Mohamed ElMeshad
6 min read
14 Mar, 2016
Okasha’s ego began to grow with every accolade and title he gave himself [Youtube]

There was a time when "Dr." Tawfiq Okasha personified Egypt's counter-revolution. Using his own private television station - al-Faraeen - and talk-show, he spearheaded many smear campaigns against figures of Egypt's 2011 revolution.

After the ouster of Mubarak, he stood on his pulpit claiming to know about a combined US-Israeli-Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy, which he said was behind the 2011 uprising and was all bound together by mutual links to Freemasonry.

He seemed to be the originator (or at least the original disseminator) of many of the anti-25 January movement's most outlandish smear campaigns. He gave voice to anyone and everyone willing to do the same, at a time when attacks on revolutionary figures were considered taboo.

The "Dr." had so much to say about human rights activists, Mohamed el-Baradei and the Muslim Brotherhood that he would end his own programme - rants which could last anywhere between one and four hours - and then appear as a guest on the show of his Hayat el-Dardiryi.

Instead of him ad-libbing rants, he would wait for Hayah to lovingly ask for his "doctorly" advice on a subject. Of course, whenever he didn't like her question he'd give her a ritual tongue-lashing to put her in place.

University challenged

At least since 2012, the fallacy of "Dr." Okasha's PhD has been apparent to anyone with access to Google, and five minutes to spare. The university he claimed to have acquired his doctorate from - he showed the diploma from Lakewood Bradenton International University on one show- does not - and never has - existed.

Okasha's ego has grown with every accolade and title he gave himself.

Earlier this week, Okasha was ordered on a no-fly list by Egypt's prosecutor general due to a fraud lawsuit against him. There is no doubt that there is a valid legal basis for this. However, as is often the case in these situations, there appears to be an element of timing and the collusion of too many circumstances to make this purely a product of coincidence.

In the case of Okasha, it is all too clear. Driven perhaps by an unchecked and unjustified wave of narcissistic bravado, Okasha's ego has grown with every accolade and title he gave himself. Besides "Dr." he has given himself many other accolades including "the only man fit to be president", "the leader of two revolutions", and "fair and lovely without makeup".

It appears to have gone to his head and Okasha has started to forget what his bread and butter is, which has always been to pander to a higher "state" of power. During Mubarak's time, he claimed to hold the deposed president as "sacred". When he was overthrown he claimed to have been his worst enemy. He then turned on the Muslim Brotherhood after briefly trying to curry favour with group and joined calls for their extermination.

After being one of the most steadfast supporters of current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, he publicly stated that his former patron was "betraying the 30 June Revolution" -which, of course, Okasha claims to have led.

Okasha has started to forget what his bread and butter is, which has always been to pander to a higher "state" of power.

All the while he touted a national security agenda, which led to many believing that his real patrons have always been members of Egypt's secretive security apparatus.

He felt untouchable. To be fair to him, he did seem untouchable. For five years now he has been mainstay of Egyptian public life for better or for worse. He has dodged consistent allegations of domestic abuse and a slew of other personal lawsuits.

Somehow, Okasha managed to elude prison, even after being sentences to jail. His TV station survived many attempted closures. Whether his detractors (myself included) like to admit it or not, there was a lingering feeling that after a couple of years of national media presence. He seemed to graduate from being a passing pantomime anti-revolutionary statist to being a force in his own right.

I remember the horror of seeing a very large cafe off perhaps Cairo's busiest quarter, Ramses Square, being filled to the brim with patrons all looking towards a large screen projector with Okasha's talking head about to explode. He belted out utter lies that many of Egypt's most prominent human rights activists are actually enemy spies.


Prior to his travel ban, Okasha had been stripped of his parliamentary seat, after just three months in office. Humiliatingly for him, Okasha was made to sit outside the general assembly doors while the members deliberated his fate.

It turns out the one thing you cannot get away with if you're "Dr." Okasha is meeting with the Israeli ambassador. Let's choose to ignore the fact that since President Anwar Sadat, the Egypt's governments have been engaged in much more profound acts of normalisation with our proverbial enemy.

The mistake he made, was believing he had the authority to break from the pack and act like a head of state. In the Arab World, heads of state have for the most part utterly failed vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue, and many have formed warm ties with their Israeli counterparts. That is a privilege, the heads of state and their representatives enjoy, not talk-show host puppets. The "Dr." did not know that, and that was the straw that broke Okasha's back.

Egypt's governments have been engaged in much more profound acts of normalisation with our proverbial enemy.

On his first trip back to parliament after that visit, he was greeted with a boot to the head, in what was probably the most badass of shoe attacks since Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his footwear at former US President George Bush. In this case 75-year-old MP, Kamal Ahmed, walked up to Okasha, literally leaned on him for balance while he took off the shoe ended up squarely on the "Dr.'s" head.

Fall from grace

That was the first and probably most dramatic fall from from grace he has experienced, and there have been many.

His rhetorical style and self-absorption will no doubt lead him to saying the wrong thing or making the wrong moves one too many times. Then he will be seen as a liability to the government, and he will lose the support of the establishment.

The same could be said about a couple of of other public figures who have long histories of making caustic, divisive and libellous public comments. But for the first time in a while, it seems as though these people could follow Okasha down the road to ruin.

On Sunday, the justice Minister Ahmed el-Zend and MP Mortada Mansour come to mind. The former was fired on Sunday for accidentally making a libellous comment, while the later is also facing expulsion from parliament.

At the time this article was published, al-Faraeen was still closed, while Okasha is waiting for public acceptance. He might one day make a comeback, but for now is still searching for a niche in Egypt's new political landscape.

Mohamed ElMeshad is a journalist and a PhD candidate at SOAS, focusing on the political economy of the media. He has worked extensively in Egypt, Bahrain, West Africa, the UK and US. Recently, he contributed to the Committee to Protect Journalists' book, Attacks on the Press (2015).

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.