As the Egyptian voice has become more and more silent due to interesting European analyses that swallowed its substance obviously, to understand one aspect of the protest culture in Egypt through young Egyptians expressing their views on the recent democratically elected former President Morsi‘s overthrow is necessary. Sana Amin is Egyptian from Cairo. She is a member of the 6 April youth movement Egyptian activist, pro-Palestine activist, pro-Syrian revolution activist, and supporter of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement. Naji Ismaïl is a famous Egyptian Filmmaker and Director based in Cairo. He produced Om Amira a documentary about a woman who sells potato sandwiches in the street. “It’s the story of the struggle of an Egyptian woman for her family and her life” and directed The Story of the Revolution.
Interview by Lilia Marsali
Sana Amin: The biggest protest in Egypt began for a number of reasons. First of all, after Morsi only won 51% of the votes in the final round against a prominent member of the former regime. So after winning a shaky election, he made a number of promises in his 100-day program of reform. None of those promises were ever fulfilled. He pushed through a constitution that limits freedoms and is ambiguously worded. It does not protect minorities or basic civil liberties. He also failed to build the inclusive administration he promised, with both Coptic Christians and women among the disappointed constituencies. He has attacked the independent media, the judiciary and the arts industry. He has closed ballet schools and attacked the Cairo Opera House, limiting freedom of expression even through art. And even if the people tolerated their freedom being taken away and the lack of democracy after the 2011 revolution, they could not tolerate how bad the food, water, fuel and energy crises had become. Electricity and fuel had become more of a problem than ever before throughout this past year. The Egyptian pound also witnessed a devastating depreciation. National debt increased by 243 billion Egyptian pounds!!! All of this in one year!!! People could not tolerate living under such bad economic climate any more. Also, Morsi has become more and more Mubarak-like addressing all his criticisms as a “conspiracy” rather than actually addressing the substance of the arguments, and resorting to the tactics of intimidation and illegal detention to deter his opposition.
I personally worked with Tamarod (the UK branch) as a member of 6 April youth movement. The main role of Tamarod, in my opinion, was bringing people together and giving them hope. It was a very democratic and civilized way to express an opinion. What could be more democratic than a petition? The number of people who signed gave people hope and the courage to take to the streets. However, one cannot say that Tamarod did this on its own. No one group or campaign could have brought about demonstrations that large on its own. This is the work of all of the Egyptian people, not one movement, campaign or group. Tamarod simply gave the spark of hope. You can check out the UK branch of Tamarod which is the one I worked with on our facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/TamarodUK?fref=ts
Naji Ismaïl: I think the economic crisis is one of the big reasons behind these huge demonstrations now. This crisis caused by the Muslim Brotherhood’s thrive for authority, neglecting the needs of the people and the demands of January 2011’s revolution; which unfortunately in a way gave Mubarak’s regime a way back to the political scene. These economic problems were also one of the main reasons behind the revolution in 2011. Tamarod is an initiative led by Egyptian youth who were looking for a peaceful way of protesting “signing petitions” (since most Egyptians do not lean towards violence) and it was very successful gathering more than 20 million signatures, and it led to a call for these huge demonstrations.
2) Is it a “coup d’Etat” or a real revolutionary process? What does your analysis reveal from Tahrir place?
S.A.: This is definitely a real revolutionary process. Calling this a coup means that you are forgetting the 22 million people that signed the Tamarod petition and the 33 million people that took to the streets. Also, you are forgetting all the other institutions that stood against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood: Al Azhar Islamic institution, the Coptic Church,and the police institute. And of course we must not forget the common people.
In Tahrir, you can find all sorts of people…Christians, Sunnis, Shiites…you can find young politically aware youth and common simple people….you can find young and old, rich and poor….the Muslim Brotherhood have turned everyone against them, including people from all faiths and all walks of life. The point is that everyone is unhappy with their rule, not just the military. By stepping in, the military prevented a great deal of bloodshed, and they have promised that they are not seeking political power, and, so far, they have kept that promise.
N.I.: Since January 2011, the police forces and SCAF in addition to Mubarak’s regime have been facing many big demonstrations due to the crimes they were responsible for. So, what happened neither can be called a complete coup nor a purely revolutionary wave. It was a meeting point of interests between people who are disappointed from the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood and those powers related to the old regime that would like to improve their image.
3) What do you think about the censorship of the Egyptian Broadcasters and the wave of arrests among Muslims Brotherhood members?
S.A.: I wish that closing the channels did not have to happen. I am against limiting someone’s right to say their opinion, regardless of what this opinion is. However, the truth is that we are not under normal circumstances, and these channels incite violence and urge people to go to “jihad” or “estesh-had” (martyrdom) for the sake of Morsi’s alleged “legitimacy”. This would lead to more bloodshed on our Egyptian streets. As for the wave of arrests, the only ones that should be arrested (and to the best of my knowledge, these are the only ones being arrested) are those who are found with weapons, who have committed violence or who are inciting violence in the community by urging others to go fight violently and to die for Morsi’s alleged “legitimacy” – a legitimacy which he lost a long time ago …..
N.I: The Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist group/regime that supports oppression that is facing a military regime that is fascist as well in how it deals with civilians. Unfortunately, the revolution with its values did not get to be in power and rule yet, the 2 mentioned regimes belong to and represent the old regime people revolted against.
4) What has changed in your environmental work and society in general during democratically elected former President Morsi‘s mandate?
S.A.: Well, I personally was not in Egypt the entire time. But I was there throughout November and then again in January, and then again throughout March and from what I saw, economic conditions kept getting worse and worse. People became less and less able to feed their families and to find the necessities of daily life, and they became more and more frustrated and less and less happy with the outcomes of our 2011 revolution. Hopefully, after 30th June, 2013 this is changing now. What is certain is that the general sentiment among the Egyptian population is much more positive and hopeful.
N.I.: Nothing new, on the contrary the new constitution did not support the laws related to liberties, and also the censorship law remained as is. Usually fascist regimes, like the Muslim brotherhood, don’t show a real will when it comes to enlightening people to make it easier to control minds
5) Politically engaged young Arabs in France think that the Egyptians are falling in the army’s trap. What do you think?
S.A.: Our military is already powerful. They already control almost 40% of Egypt’s economy. They do not need to grab power in the political sphere and I personally do not think that the military are on a political power grab. Besides,as a member of the 6 April youth movement, I can tell you that we will not tolerate military rule and that our aim is a civilian democracy. We will continue to pursue that aim. But, just to be fair, I personally think the military has not given us a reason to think they are trying to grab power, and as I mentioned before, they do not need to grab power.
N.I.: The long history between the people of Egypt and the military institution (since Mohamed Ali to Gamal Abdelnasser) makes it difficult to convince the people that the military as any other institution in the country needs to deal with corruption issues. This battle would even be longer than fighting islamist’s fascism. I also think that this restricting and of the military institution should come from within through the youth in this institution.
6) What are the lessons learnt from your political experience?
S.A.: Honestly, the biggest lesson I have learned is the power of nonviolent political defiance. In the face of dictatorships, it seems to be the only thing that works. Mass nonviolent resistance and mass political defiance – such as peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience. Our strength is in our nonviolence and in our numbers and unity. For the future of Egypt, I personally think it is important not to let one faction of the society control everything and not to exclude any factions of our society. Everyone needs to have a say and no-one should be left out. They key is in co-operation and building an inclusive system that does not cause segregation, discrimination or divisions.
N.I.: I don’t believe in “politics” and I don’t participate in it. We are making a revolution against regimes that justify killing, but when things move from revolution to politics we take a step back and observe what is happening, is it really what the revolution demanded or is it only about compromises and political gains. And at the end of the day, the streets are always there for us to go back.
7) Are the Egyptians divided now? Are they endangered? Could you explain why?
S.A.: They are divided, in the sense that there are pro-Morsi supporters who are still adamant about restoring his power and will go to any lengths to do so. However, there is mostly a spirit of unity among the rest of the Egyptian people….the police, military and civilians are united…people of different religions are united…even people of different ideologies and political opinions are united. It is only the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters who have isolated themselves from the rest of us, as if they are a different race of religion or class of people, and I really do wish that was not the case. I really do wish they would stop isolating themselves and integrate themselves back with the rest of their people, back into the Egyptian family where we all belong.
“Supporters of ousted President Morsi hold up a blood soaked Egyptian flag at rally calling for his reinstatement on a day the military killed 40+ of their supporters”. Picture of Ayman Mohyeldin all rights reserved.