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Transcript: Egypt: Revolution in progress
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Last Modified: 08 Aug 2011 15:36

This is the transcript for the Empire episode Egypt: Revolution in progress (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Marwan Bishara

Hello and welcome to Empire. I'm Marwan Bishara. For most Egyptians, in the beginning was Mubarak and the rule was with Mubarak. Through him, things were done and without him, nothing was done that was done.  My guests, however, knew more than just Mubarak. They have lived through Nasser and were even jailed during the Sadat and Mubarak eras. Seasoned intellectuals and unrelenting militants for change. Novelist, doctor and teacher, Nawal Saadawi, sociologist and author, Saad Eddin Ibrahim and via satellite is doctor and Muslim brotherhood leader, Essam El-Erian, with whom I will discuss the unravelling revolution. Our starting point is Tahrir, Liberation Square.

The epicentre of Egyptian democracy, the heart of its revolution, its national public square. Here, in the centre of Cairo, where the modern Egyptian state is being created by men and women, young and old, standing shoulder to shoulder ... looking for real and radical change.

Voice of translator

We have a feeling that the revolution's demands have gone unrealised until now. We need retribution for the protestors that died during the revolution. We need just trials.

Marwan Bishara

This success didn't end with the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. His downfall was just the beginning. How did this come about so quickly? After all, anger towards the regime has been simmering for years. Events reached the boiling point late last year during parliamentary elections. Hailed by the regime as democratic, dismissed by everyone else as a circus.

Mohammed Badie (Voice of translator)

We were shocked to find out that these weren't elections that had some fraud. They were rather fraud with a hint of elections.

Marwan Bishara

Final results were depressingly predictable, but the arrogant regime has seriously miscalculated the mood of the people.

Gamila Ismail (Voice of translator)

We're here to educate people that we have to defend our rights. We have to stand up to any violations.

Marwan Bishara

A week after Mubarak was ousted, his inner circle began to crumble. Former interior minister, Habib el-Adli, former housing minister, Mohamad Ahmed al-Maghrabi, and former tourism minister Zuhair Garranah, major players in the regime, placed under arrest. Already el-Adli has been sentenced to a dozen years in the first of the trials against him.  And the list doesn't stop. Dozens of leaders in politics and business are now behind bars.

The new prime minister, hand picked by the military, yet seen as a Mubarak lackey, was forced out. Replaced by Essam Sharaf who will immediately Tahrir Square to be with the people, surrounding himself with opposition figures, including leaders of the Muslim brotherhood, sending a deliberate and powerful message.

Essam Sharaf

I am here because I get my legitimacy from you.

Marwan Bishara

Maintaining this momentum, protestors then raided offices belonging to the dreaded state security intelligence branch. Over the decades, allegations of widespread torture were commonplace. The next to fall was the patently undemocratic parliament.  It was simply dissolved.

Crucially, military spokesman announced plans to remain in power only as long as it would take to hold free and fair elections.

General Mohsen El-Fangary (Voice of translator)

We are looking forward to the peaceful handover of power within the free democratic system which allows an elected civilian authority to rule the country.

Marwan Bishara

To back that up, a constitutional referendum was held in March. Nearly 80 per cent of Egyptian people voted to completely overhaul the political system and for the first time, their votes counted. On 16th April, the national democratic party was dismantled.

Khalid Ali (Voice of translator)

Today's decision was important because it meets the demands of the revolution and essentially finishes off the Mubarak regime, following decisions by the military to dissolve parliament.

Marwan Bishara

Now, many of the old and NDP officials and their backers, some of the most powerful people in the country, have joined the ranks of common criminals. By late May, Mubarak and his sons were at last ordered to stand trial, but there are many now who worry that peace and reform is beginning to slip.

Debates are already raging about the new constitution and the role of the presidency and perhaps, most importantly of all, the future of the military remains unresolved as its privileges remain intact. Will the supreme council hand power to civilians and simply return to their barracks and will the pluralism that defined the revolution become the foundations of the new Egypt?

Dr Saadawi, now it's been five months ... 

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

Yes.

Marwan Bishara

The revolution has come a long way. Where are we do you think? In the middle? In the beginning?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

We are in the beginning, the beginning, the very beginning. Mm hm.

Marwan Bishara

And where do you think ... how ... how are we gonna go now to the next phase?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

It depends on the power of the people. You know, the whole question is balance of power. The power of millions, united millions, and the power of the military, the power of the government, Assam Sharif government, the power of America, Israel, Saudi Arabia, you know, external powers also supporting the old regime. But because the power of the millions is greater than all these powers, that’s why we are winning. So it's a matter of power.

Marwan Bishara

Yes, and it's a matter of time for the revolution then to achieve its objectives?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

It takes time, it takes time and also to keep the power of the people going on, not to go back to our homes, but to keep the millions in Tahrir Square, in streets, everywhere. There is no alternative.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Dr Saadawi spoke about also Assam Sharif's government.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Yes.

Marwan Bishara

Do you think it's inhibited ... do you think it has the authority today to effect change and reform?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

It has some authority derived from two sources. One, the supreme military council, which brought it in and the supreme military council itself was delegated power by the old regime. When Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down, he delegated the supreme military council which he had appointed himself. So they were hand picked and that probably explains the way they are treating him, with, shall we say, kindness, mercy. So you have still the old regime hasn't completely disappeared.

Marwan Bishara

So you actually think that maybe Mubarak has gone from the scene, but the Mubarak regime persists?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Sure. That is the consensus of every observer that the Mubarak regime represented by the remnants of the NDP , the old ruling party, even though it was dissolved officially, and the basis of that party still spread all over the country and you have the youth that is power, but not organised – they are not yet organised, and then you have the Muslim brotherhood ... and the Islamists, not just Muslim brothers, but all of a sudden we were kind of surprised by a new force that appeared out of nowhere called the Salafist. 

So we have all of these forces at work and I think in the next few months we will see contention between all of these until we have our first election and then things will begin to settle. It will take probably a year. All the revolution took time for the ... French Revolution took 18 years before they accomplished the slogan they raised initially. The Iran revolution took nearly 20 years and ... 

Marwan Bishara

So you're optimistic that we’re on the right track in Egypt?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

We're on the right track, but it's going to be a little bumpy road.

Marwan Bishara

Dr El-Erian, so as we were speaking, it's been five months, are you optimistic about the pace of change in the revolution?

Essam El-Erian

Yes, I am very optimistic  because this revolution was a surprise, even for the people who were behind it and planning for it, and it was a surprise even for the military and for the whole population in the region and there was a shock uproared in America and Europe about this revolution. So now the people who are against the revolution want to put obstacles in our way, but the power of the people cannot be overcome. The challenges is great. We are still in the start, but we are on the right way to have a new parliament, a new constitution, a new cabinet, elected cabinet, and a new president.

Marwan Bishara

But before, before we get to the parliament and the constitutions, here, Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim was arguing that the presence of the military council, the way it's been running almost have so much authority with the government, that maybe Mubarak has left, but the remnants or actually the presence of the Mubarak regime is still strong in Egypt.

Essam El-Erian

Yes, because Mubarak regime lasts for 30 years and it was a continuity of Sadat and Nasser regime, so we are facing the troubles which were made during 60 years. This cannot be overcome in six months and the challenges after building a democratic system we can meet the demands of the people and real development, real independence, real sovereignty on our resources, restoring our money and building a new independent free democratic Egypt. This is the big challenge for all Egyptians now, but we must now go to the way and we must open a dialogue with the military about the future of the rule of military and the police in a democratic state, this must be open and must be discussed, but it must be discussed in the constitutional committee which will make the constitution during six or one year.

Marwan Bishara

Dr El-Erian, are you committed to a democratic constitution for a future Egypt?

Essam El-Erian

Yes. All Egyptians are committed to a democratic constitution. All Egyptians know now that there is no future for any individual or any society without a democratic process, a real democracy, respecting all minorities, respecting all men, respecting all political diversity and this is our future now.

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

I would like to understand what do you mean by a democratic country?

Essam El-Erian

Democracy means ... 

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

A democratic country means ...

Essam El-Erian

Yes. Democracy means ... 

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

That men and women are equal ... 

No differences, no reference to religions, no complete secular government, complete secular state, secular family code, all people in Egypt are equal in front of the law and the constitution and nobody, nothing is religious.

Marwan Bishara

You don't think the constitution should refer ... 

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

At all, at all.

Marwan Bishara

To sharia law or religion?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

At all, at all.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim, you've mentioned, you've written that by nature a religion, a party based on religion or race could not be democratic. Would you then not accept the brotherhood's argument for democracy?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

No. I would accept it so long as they recognise three things. One, equal rights for women; two, equal rights for non-Muslims; three, freedom of artistic and scientific research and pursuit. If they agree to these three ... 

Marwan Bishara

Question of minorities ... and so on, so forth?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Sure, sure, then of course they are entitled as citizens to compete for power as everybody else is.

Marwan Bishara

What do you think of this formula?

Essam El-Erian

Democracy is democracy. Women and the men, Christians and the Muslims, all are, have political rights and duties. They are citizens in a state of law and the state has a rotation of power, free and fair elections, independent judiciary system, preserving human rights, all human rights are preserved, but we must respect that the people know their way, nobody can have ... superiority for teaching people what they want to do because the people are accepting their constitution or rejecting the constitution. The power of people cannot be challenged at all.

Marwan Bishara

Dr El-Erian, let me take all of this to Dr... Dr Saadawi, are you convinced by the arguments presented by Dr El-Erian on the question of rights for all?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

No. No.

Marwan Bishara

Why?

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

Democracy means that all people equal. I am not equal in the eyes of the Muslim Brothers, they do not consider me equal. It's not just because he said political democracy. Democracy is not political. Democracy start in the home between the husband and the wife and the children. If there is no democracy at home in the family, there is no democracy in the parliament. So I would like to ask Dr El-Erian, do ... if they have the power, are they going to change the family code so that the wife and the husband equal, that we have a secular family code, not a Muslim family code that the man can marry four wives. So we must have justice in the family, democracy in the family, in order to have justice and democracy in the state.

Essam El-Erian

It is not up to me and not up to Dr Nawal.  It is up to elected parliament who represent the people. This is rule of the parliament who legalise and stabilise the society, and Dr Nawal has some issues, it is up to her.

Marwan Bishara

Let's, let's take this then to Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim, what do you think democracy for Egypt is going to mean? Is it the rule of the majority or is it the rule of democratic values?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Well it is both. When I and probably others insist on basic bill of rights, that will ensure complete equality of gender, complete equality of citizens regardless of religion and race, these are extra constitutional, these are part of the bill of rights that will ensure that even if there is a rule of the majority, that the majority will be bound by these more universal principles and that is something that the Muslim brothers and other Islamic forces in the country have to recognise and have to assert their respect for, otherwise there will be always question about how sincere some of these religious base forces are. Not so worried, so much worried about the Muslim brothers who have been on the scene for 80 years, but I am more worried about people on the right, the so called ... 

Marwan Bishara

The rise of the Salafist.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Salafist, that came out of nowhere, did not participate in the revolution, claimed for long time that they are apolitical, they are Wahhabi based. These are the ones that frighten any genuine democrat. If there is any danger of hijacking the Egyptian revolution it is from this kind of forces as much as it is for the remnants of the NDP and of the military itself.

Marwan Bishara

Essam El-Erian, could you please answer this specific question about the rise of the Salafists who do embrace a Wahhabi interpretation of society and the role of Sharia.

Essam El-Erian

Sharia is the main ... guarantee for all Egyptians because Sharia preserves the all rights, equality, freedom, sure of the democracy, development, encourage people to fulfil their faith, committed to their faith, our Christians, Egyptian Christians, are more keen about Sharia because they are keen about their family law.

Marwan Bishara

Go ahead, Dr El Saadawi.

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

Yes. Democracy is not just elections or majority rule. We ... I am a thinker, I am a novelist, I am not a politician. Politics is the art of the possible. I am a writer, creative writer. The revolution is the art of the impossible. So let's go up to the dreams of the revolution, you know. Freedom means I am free like him, he's a doctor like me, I am a doctor like him, so let's look at that. We need a constitution that make everybody equal, number one.  Then we need new laws for political parties to bring the revolution and to be represented in those political parties.

Marwan Bishara

We will, we will address this very particular ... 

Dr Nawal El Saadawi

Yes.

Marwan Bishara

Point that you just raised after we come back from a break, but before we do that we're gonna do a bit of a balance sheet on Egypt's economic performance.

Dima Khatib

Tahrir Square came alive with calls for an end to Mubarak's rule, but also with complaints about unemployment, food price inflation and low wages. It wasn't only about the state of emergency, but also about the state of the economy. But the revolutionary demands of the working classes have yet to be met.

Ahmad Galal (Voice of translator)

I understand the people are suffering, but they shouldn't think that it would have been better without the revolution.

Dima Khatib

Poverty is a core problem in Egypt where 40 per cent of the population lives on two dollars a day or less and following IMF policies, poorer Egyptians have seen living standards consistently eroded. So the new government has taken radical steps towards social justice and minimum wage has been implemented.  Subsidies for the poor will rise by 20 per cent and income tax for top earners have increased and there's been no shortage of offers to help Egypt. The UAE pledged three billion dollars for social assistance and projects to promote job growth. The G8 countries recently offered 20 billion dollars for Egypt and Tunisia but the small print said this was for what it deemed suitable reform efforts. American business interests were not far behind.

John McCain

I'm here with a group of American industrialists who want to assure the Egyptian people that America ... America is ready to invest in jobs, in opportunity, and we continue to support their efforts for democracy and freedom.

Dima Khatib

But whilst there's much less to do, Egyptians are wary of the strings attached to some of this largesse. The finance minister recently announced that Egypt did not need the world bank nor IMF’s money, and turned down a standby loan of three billion dollars. Is Egypt's refusal a sign of economic sovereignty, or a short term measure designed to appeal to the protestors?

Dima Khatib

On Cairo, a high level conference attended by the military saw the presentation of a plan to achieve for Egypt the kind of transformation that Malaysia and Turkey have experienced in the last 15 years.

Mahathir Mohamad

We were able to say no to the IMF and the world bank. We not only have to be paying for money, but we had to hand over our economy for them to manage.

Dima Khatib

If Egypt wants to become and economic tiger, it might be time for new Egyptian economic thinking with ideas from Ankara, Brasilia or Kuala Lumpur.

Marwan Bishara

Welcome back. The popular committees that planted the first seeds of the Egyptian revolution a decade ago mobilised Egyptian youth on Arab issues, starting from the Palestinian intifada in 2000, through the war in Iraq in 2003, before they and their affiliates shifted their focus to domestic issues. The Egyptian youth were as angry with the regime as management of foreign policy as they were with its management of the economy.

Narrator

For 30 years, the leader of Egypt advised the good, the bad and the ugly. But, as Mubarak's hold on power began to slip, the regime was desperate to make sure he didn't seem to be on the sidelines. Images were doctored so Mubarak appeared to be front and centre, but it wasn't always so.


Under the pan-Arab leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt had maintained its position as the power centre of the Arab world, a catalyst for the non-aligned movement, an inspiration to Arabs everywhere.


The signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 was the major turning point in Egyptian foreign policy.
President Sadat set in motion a series of events far more complex than simply establishing peace with Israel.

From the moment the deal was struck, the regime knew it was secure, backed up by billions of dollars each year from Washington. Mubarak was more than happy to follow in his predecessor's footsteps, embracing the role of Washington's favourite Arab.

Joe Biden

I would not refer to him as a dictator.

Narrator

But as quickly as the president rose to prominence in the west, Egypt's regional influence began to wane.
The Arab spring has heralded a fresh start.

Nabil Al-Arabi

We would like to have permanent, comprehensive just peace in the area, which would include the Palestinian, the Israelis and everyone else.

Narrator

The first concrete sign of a shift in Egyptian foreign policy came less than a week after Mubarak was ousted, when the supreme council of the armed forces granted permission for two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal.

Meir Javedanfar

The crossing of these ships through the Suez Canal show us that we are dealing with a new Middle East.

Narrator

Israel described the move as "a provocation."

Binyamin Netanyahu

Iran seeks to exploit and is seeking to shut down the lights and create another era of darkness.

Narrator

Egypt also got to work brokering a deal between the two warring Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah… pleasing some…

Translation of Khaled Mashaal

Today's new Egypt embraces the Palestinian reconciliation. We, as Palestinians, give thanks to God.

Narrator

…Displeasing others.

Binyamin Netanyahu

What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism.

Narrator

And then came relief for the people of Gaza, as Egypt eased a ban on crossing the Rafa Border.

Mustafa Barghouti

As Palestinians today we are thankful to Egypt and thankful to the Egyptian revolution that changed the situation of complete siege and blockade on Gaza.

Narrator 

These moves clearly illustrate that Egypt is gradually redefining its foreign policy on its terms. So how will Washington react to this new Egypt?

For 30 years, the US has paid $2 billion annually to keep Mubarak on side, the bulk of which was used for military hardware. The generals are happy to keep the deal, but are the people happy to keep the generals?

It doesn't seem as though American influence will continue to dominate for much longer. In a recent national poll, four out of five Egyptians admitted they have an unfavourable opinion of the United States. So perhaps this new Egypt is ready to leave the Arab world once again…

Translation of Mohamed Elbaradei

We start a new phase, a new Egypt.

Narrator

 ... this time on Egyptian terms.

Marwan Bishara

Joining us to broaden the discussion regarding Egypt's standing in the region and beyond, is Max Rodenbeck, author and Cairo-based chief correspondent for The Economist. Max, thanks for joining us. Before I come to you, I just wanna ask Dr Saadawi about a comment she made recently when she said, "Revolutionaries were in Tahrir Square fighting for Egyptian independence".

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

Yes.

Marwan Bishara

Egypt is not independent?

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

No. We became an American colony since Sadat. We became an economic, political, cultural colony of America and Israel. And in fact independence is not only political, it’s economic, political, social, cultural, everything, and specially economic, specially. Because now we have more than 45 per cent of the Egyptians under the poverty line. This is the result of the open door policy of Sadat. We started to import and export our food. Out of five loaves of bread, we import from America four. So independence mean, to us in the revolution, that Egypt produce what we eat and eat what we produce. That’s in economic independent is very important for the revolution.

Marwan Bishara

Max, what do you think? What’s the chances for Egypt to be economically independent?

Max Rodenbeck

Well I think it's going to take some time for Egypt to really build a strong economy, which is the first precondition for a greater degree of independence. Egypt has been, to some extent, dependent on the United States, although that dependence has lessened actually over the last 30 years, starting from the point of Camp David when Egypt was extremely dependent on America. It's partly a result of declining American influence in the Middle East in general. America just doesn’t have the power and influence that it had.

Marwan Bishara

And declining Egyptian rule in general also in the region.

Max Rodenbeck

And perhaps partly because of Egypt's alignment with the US has reduced Egypt's regional role. But at the same time it’s not as if Egypt’s economy has struggled and failed, I mean Egypt’s economy has grown. But relative to other states in the region, it hasn't performed very well. I mean other states have come up much faster, so Egypt's relative size has suffered. But I think it's simply a matter of time before Egypt regains a kind of natural role as the largest of Arab states, as a geographically pivotal country, as a culturally very influential one. All this will happen.

Marwan Bishara

What do you think, Dr Saad Ibrahim? Egypt as a client, so-called, of the United States did lead to a certain diminishing of its influence in the Arab world.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Of course it has, and that is partly the challenge for any new regime is to restore Egyptian autonomy from western powers, and to establish again all the pillars that will give that independence a meaning. And I think the economic grounds for that independence is very important. And I think Egypt has now both the manpower and the class that could lead that independence. And I am encouraged by models in the region, like Turkey, that should be a role to follow. And I think Turkey, over the last 40 years, came from a position very similar to what Egypt is now, and therefore we have reasons to be optimistic about an evolving role, both economically, politically and regionally.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Erian, you must be quite optimistic of the evolution of the Turkish model, especially with the AK party being, what some like to call, Islamic Light Party in control there and the improvement in the economy. Would you be following on their footsteps if you get into the National Assembly?

Essam El-Erian

That is a proper time to support Dr Nawal's speech about the independence. I agree with her in this point and, of course, independence means independence on all aspects of life, it is not a political only. It is in all aspects, cultural, social and economical.

As for your question, I think the Turkish model is a good model for Turkish people. It can be discussed and investigated to have the main item. The main item is the political decisions which make the success in the economical aspect. This was the main factor which give the Turkish economy their support and life again. But we have many models also all over the world. We have Malaysian one. We have Chinese one. We have Indian one. We have many. We can choose. But we are going to make our own model of success in economy because our problems are different than those people. This is very important for us. We are facing challenges in the economy and in security now.

Marwan Bishara

So I guess free market, private property and so on and so forth.

Max Rodenbeck

I suppose so, yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean I don't think that there is a modern Islamist challenge to universal economic principles that are accepted everywhere.

Marwan Bishara

So will they be adopting a liberal capitalist system?

Max Rodenbeck

It seems very likely, yes, with a stronger element of social justice perhaps.

Marwan Bishara

And you think that it's possible without being totally in reliance on the west today?

Max Rodenbeck

It's very possible. It's extremely possible. But on the other hand, I think it's a bit dangerous to assume that any economic relationship with the west has to be subordinate or reliant. I think, you know, Egypt is a pivotal country in the world and, to its own best interest, it should have very strong relations with western countries, as well as with its own region, as well as with the east. I don't see that there should be any contradiction between those things.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

We are inspired by other experiences, but we don't adopt the model. The revolution of Egypt was creative, unique, so we must have our creative economic policy. We live in Egypt on four per cent of our land. We can develop all. It needs creativity, not adopt Malaysia or Turkey. We are inspired by them, but we have to do our own economy on our creative mind. And also interdependence is different from dependence. I am against dependence. I'm against capitalism, harsh capitalism. We need a mixture of socialism, private property, estate control, you know. We need to look at the benefit of the majority of the people and to have social justice, equality in economy, minimum wages, and also to put a limit, a ceiling, to the maximum wages. So we must look to social justice to the millions of people and we need to use our mind.

Marwan Bishara

In so many ways, Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt is not only an influential country in the region, but also a model for so many Arabs, and has been over the years. And a success in Egypt will probably be quite inspiring for the rest of the Arab countries, that are now in the midst of trouble. What do you think are the chances for the kind of social justice and kind of growth that we’ve been hearing about?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Well I fully agree that Egypt has, for the last 200 years, been a role model for the region. And ... 

Marwan Bishara

Also in bad times it was.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Well sure.

Marwan Bishara

Badly inspiring in times. 

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Well I don't know who’s inspired by its bad experiences, but we know ... 

Marwan Bishara

Certainly in the last ten years, we’ve been living a lost generation of sort led by Egypt.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Lost generation? No generation is lost.

Marwan Bishara

OK.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

What you saw in Tahrir Square ... 

Marwan Bishara

Yes.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

 ... these are all people under 30, so all of those guys who are revolting could not be said as a lost generation, that very creative assertive generation. But every generation asserts itself in its own way and therefore there is a continuity, and there are lessons to be learned, and I am optimistic.

Marwan Bishara

I wanna ask Dr Saadawi and Dr Erian, the generation that has been leading the revolution in the Tahrir Square speaks of post-ideology, speaks of a certain pluralism. That might have been good to lead the revolution, but do you think that will remain to be realistic after the revolution, At the end of the day, they will have to either be Islamist, liberal, Marxists, I don't know what.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

No. I think that, because I lived with those young people, I cannot call it youth revolution, it was the revolution of all sectors in Egypt, including the old ... 

Marwan Bishara

Yes.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

 ... the middle ages. The youth started ... 

Marwan Bishara

Yes.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

 ... initiated, but 20 million were in Tahrir Square and everywhere.

Marwan Bishara

They a bit over-exaggerated the whole youth thing, didn't they?

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

Yes. What made a difference was that all Egypt were in the streets ... 

Marwan Bishara

Yes.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

 ... not only the youth, or their Google, or their Net, or their Twitter.

Marwan Bishara

But they do come from different ideological trends.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

Yeah. What do we mean by ideology?

Marwan Bishara

Islamists, liberal, leftists.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

Yeah, I don’t believe in this called post-ideology, because ideology means ideas, ideas.

Marwan Bishara

A world vision.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

It can be socialism. It can be Islamism, Christianism, Judaism, ideas. Political people lack creativity and creative ideas. Because they go, you know, in the trend, but the revolution, we are here because of the revolution.

Marwan Bishara

You want revolutionary ideas.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

We are here because of the revolution.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

All revolutions, yes, are made by young people. No revolution, in history, was made by middle age or older people. It is always a prerogative and it’s always an imperative of the young. They are the ones who take risks. Now, the rest of the population, as Nawal said, could support, could rally to them, because after all they are the children, the grandchildren, of older generation. But Egypt is no exception to the French, the British, to the Iranian, all revolutions were initiated by the young.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Erian, some worry that perhaps since you are so well organised and that you are been there of course of some 80 years in Egypt, that you might even hijack this revolution with a narrower view of what Egyptian future should look like.

Essam El-Erian

First of all, all Egyptians were in Tahrir Square. I met families in Tahrir Square, a husband, wife, daughter, sons and maybe granddaughters and the grandsons. All generations were in Tahrir Square, so there is no division between Egyptians in the revolution. And all of them forget everything about their backgrounds, poor or rich, rural or urban.

Marwan Bishara

But you are now gonna go and compete in the next elections.

Essam El-Erian

All were there.

Marwan Bishara

You will go on and compete in the next elections, and that's the normal thing in a democracy.

Essam El-Erian

And in the referendum there were 19 millions of Egyptians, about 99 per cent of them were the first time for them to go to the ballot. Now nobody can hijack the revolution. And nobody can dare to say that he make the revolution. The revolution cannot be hijacked because it was the power of the people. This is time of coalition.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Saad Eddin, you think it's time for a coalition, or a concurrence ... competition?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Well let me just make a point, revolutions have been hijacked in the past and I have two examples. One was the Russian revolution, in which the communists, when it started in February 1917, were a tiny minority. Comes October, they move from Mensheviks to Bolsheviks, from a minor to a dominant force.

Marwan Bishara

And were hijacked again by Stalin later on.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Sure.

Marwan Bishara

And how about the Iranian revolution?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

The same thing with the Iranian revolution, it was people like Tahrir who staged the revolution. But came the Ayatollah from Paris, from Baghdad, from everywhere, and they hijacked it.

Marwan Bishara

So are you worried about the Egyptian ... ?

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

I am worried. I am worried about the Salafis hijacking it. The Salafis who said anybody who voted against certain things should pack up their suitcases and leave the country. When you hear that kind of thing for a liberal-minded democrat, who had fought for democracy all his life, it makes me worry.

Max Rodenbeck

It's quite natural right after a revolution, that you have this enormous diversity of expressions that come out all at once politically.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Yes.

Max Rodenbeck

But what strikes me about Egypt actually is the strength of the middle. I mean it may be represented by 30 different parties, but the actual middle, the ground for consensus is very, very large, including with the Muslim Brotherhood. I mean I find that it's actually the Egyptian centre which is, although represented by many parties, it's at the beginning of a political process, it's actually very strong. And what you'd expect after a few years, is you get parties that are much more broadly representative of the Egyptian centre, which agree on many of the basic issues. On the need for democracy, pluralism ... 

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Absolutely, but they're not organised.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

Yes, the revolution in Egypt can be hijacked by the Salafi and Muslim Brothers and Islamic groups and Christian also, and America and Israel. There was not an Islamic slogan in the January revolution, it was all dignity, justice, secular slogans, no Christian or Muslim slogan in the revolution. Then after that ... 

Essam El-Erian

But we have an argument about this.

Dr Nawal el Saadawi

 ... we found an Islamic man, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, speaking to the people, so it can be hijacked. What I would like to go, we have to go to the power of the people, to the real power of the millions who are not Christian, not Muslims, not Jews, not anything and they want real justice. Let's go to them.

Marwan Bishara

But Dr Erian go ahead.

Essam El-Erian

All will be represented. We have a democratic coalition. Twenty-eight parties, most of them are new parties, are in the coalition, and they agreed to have a regulation of the transitional period. Some of them can have an electoral coalition alliance and go together, no serious threats. The serious threat is from foreign interference in our domestic affairs, shifting our foreign policy to parties supporting Israeli and interests of others for one, or two, or three years 

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Don't keep throwing America and Israel like she does, let us concentrate on the domestic scene. What is a percentage of the Muslim Brothers in that proposed coalition?

Essam El-Erian

The percentage that, due to the coalition. If we go to the election alone, we achieve or target about 30 per cent only.

Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim

If you confirm you save the 30 per cent, that's fine.

Essam El-Erian

But the other are now come together to have a majority with us and, of course, it can be reduced. Our per cent can be reduced, because you have many other parties.

Marwan Bishara

Essam. On the question of independence and the question of where Egypt moves ahead, just one last talk from you, Max. If Egypt does sever its relations with Israel, and the Muslim Brother do become a potent force, in Egypt what relations there will be with the United States?

Max Rodenbeck

Well I think that that speculation is probably wrong. I mean, even under a Muslim Brotherhood led government, it's unlikely that Egypt would actually sever its relations with Israel. I mean, Egypt's strategic relations and interests haven't changed. And, in fact with this revolution, it's remarkable how little Egypt's policy has actually changed, some small marginal things but Egypt has long term interests. And, you know, opinion polls in Egypt show that the average Egyptian is not against the peace treaty with Israel. They don't like Israel. They don't like Israeli policies, they reject them. They feel much more sympathy with the Palestinians, but they don't actually reject peace with Israeli. The Egyptian Army certainly doesn't reject that. They're not in a position to go back to a state of war. So I think that it's not actually a realistic question.

Marwan Bishara

You don't think post-elections, post-revolution, in a sense that in a year or two Egypt becoming more independent will have a far more radical position on the question of its Arab neighbours, specially on the question of occupation?

Max Rodenbeck

I don't think necessarily, no. No. No. I think already we have seen that the power of the public opinion is certainly on the side of taking a more sympathetic attitude towards the Palestinians.

Marwan Bishara

Dr Erian, tell us once you're in the National Assembly, what is it exactly that you're gonna change, in terms of policy towards Israel?

Essam El-Erian

I think the whole people all other the world must be keen about the Palestinians, not keen about Israel. Israel have about 200 nuclear bombs, but Palestinians are now about six or seven millions refugees. And then democratic states you’re not going to rush to war at all. But democratic states in Egypt and Syria and Jordan and Lebanon will solve this old conflict between Arab and Israelist.

Marwan Bishara

Gentlemen, Dr Saadawi, thank you for joining Empire. And I will be back perhaps on a lighter note.

Marwan Bishara

It is Egyptian parochial humour that has best portrayed Mubarak's unrelating hold on power. Egyptians from all walks of life joked and poked at anything related to the Egyptian autocrat. Regarding the absence of a Mubarak deputy, one suggested that Egyptian leaders have generally chosen less intelligent vice presidents. Hence, Nasser chose Sadat. Sadat, in turn chose Mubarak. And three decades on Mubarak, well, was still looking. And my favourite is when his time had finally come, Mubarak's aides suggested that the president prepare a farewell speech to the people. Surprised, Mubarak asked, why? Where are the people going? Well, that's the way it goes.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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