Tuesday, December 23, 2014

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"The Revolution is Completely Unfulfilled"

Think Africa Press talks to Egyptian Activist Ahmed Naguib.
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Ahmed Naguib emerged as a leading activist, organizer and spokesman from Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution.  On January 28, 2011, Naguib mobilised a group of five people to march to Tahrir Square in Cairo. By the time the group had walked 20 kilometres it had grown to 30,000 people. But his optimism for real change is dimming as he speaks to Ben Judah for Think Africa Press.


What impact has the West had on events since the revolution? What is the situation in Egypt today?


At least the Europeans have taken a more positive position to the Middle East and all the changes that are happening there than the Americans. The Americans are falling behind, completely behind and are not brokering real democracy. They are not a positive force but a negative player. They are doing nothing. They have kept the Military Council off-guard and are letting it do whatever it wants. The Military Council is getting away with great human rights violations - such as the virginity tests of protestors, arresting protestors, arbitrary arrests, torture and subjugating the protests. Then there are the military tribunals and 3-5 year sentences on protestors. There is a great deal of mystery as to what the military Council's final intentions are. However the US did make a very good move with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton choosing to open a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, finding out what they are for themselves.


What about the European Union?


Europe is in limbo. The only country that supported the revolution from the beginning was Britain and in particular David Cameron who made some very early, very good and very strong statements. This is compared to some other countries that were very slow. France was reluctant to support the change and make statements. The Scandinavians though were welcoming change. Despite this no real measures have been taken. Nobody is putting pressure on the military council. Nobody in the entire world knows how decisions inside the Military Council are made. Nobody in Egypt nor anybody in the outside world.


Is the revolution unfulfilled?


The revolution is completely unfulfilled. The situation is very frustrating for the youth that led the protests, came together and were there on Tahrir Square pushing for change. The youth are unorganized and have been pushed out, co-opted and fragmented into different groups. So we are disenfranchised and disappointed - maybe even more disenfranchised then before. I blame the US for not taking a strong stance on the Military Council - but I cannot just blame them completely. The revolutionary forces have not organized their demands or brought together their activities. There are over 70 political parties being created, there are over 210 coalitions of which only 5 or 6 are efficient. The scene is very fragmented and all over the place.


Who are the winners of the revolution?


The winners are the Muslim Brotherhood - but I am not scared of them. Why should I be? The liberals are using rhetoric like that of the previous government against them to try and keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of politics. They are trying to scare the West. Therefore I think that Hilary Clinton took a good step in taking the initiative to start a dialogue with the Brotherhood and find out for herself and the US what they really are. The Brotherhood now knows they will make it to parliament with a majority - they will take 30-50% of the vote and with their supporters it will come up to 65% of the vote. However they understand responsibility. They don't want any drastic, dramatic changes in the social scene - there will be no enforced Hijab law or anything of the sort.


What will this mean for foreign policy?


I am really sure that they will respect all peace treaties Egypt has. They will however remove or renegotiate certain bilateral deals with the US and Israel. For example the QIZ free trade with the US forces trade within to have an 18% Israeli component. So these are the kind of agreements that the coming government will stamp out. They will not abrogate the peace treaty with Israel - but the new government will amount to a new more conservative foreign policy towards Israel.


What is the worst case scenario for Egypt in five years time?


The worst case scenario's more optimistic variant is that we will have a democratically elected President, more or less, from the same culture of the old regime but under a lot of scrutiny from the people and majority in parliament from the opposition. Our system in Egypt is semi-parliamentary and hopefully in five years time it will be fully parliamentary. The worst case scenario's pessimistic variant is a military candidate for President and a total military takeover. That's likely.


Why do you think that is a likely outcome?


The fact is that the Military Council does nothing about the security situation. This casts doubts on their behavior - like in 1954 when Nasser and his gang sent the thugs down to the street shouting 'down with democracy,' begging the military to seize control of the situation. This is a possibility. People are more and more frustrated. People are more and more concerned by the security situation. There is revolutionary fatigue. People do go out on the streets on some Fridays but they are less confrontational. The Military Council has convinced the people the Military Council is the last line of defense.


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