Interviewed by Lina Abou-Habib
CRTD.A / WLP-Lebanon
Cairo, 29 June 2013
Less than 24 hours separate us from the large scale demonstration planned tomorrow in Egypt, calling for the departure of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi. Mursi was declared president in June 2013 following elections which were hailed in many parts of the world as being the first “free” elections in Egypt. However, and only a few months after his reign, disillusion and anger have swept into the Egyptian population who is challenging this new ruler as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. The President and his entourage is accused of incompetence and of failing the demands of the revolution.
I interviewed Dr. Amal Abdel Hadi this morning. Amal, a long standing feminist and political activist was amongst the voices calling for change, for justice and for equality. Two years after the sparkle of the revolution in Egypt, Amal, now preparing to go back to Tahrir square on Sunday June 30th talks about her hopes and fears during this turning point in Egypt history.
The build up to tomorrow’s massive demonstration is visible in the streets of Cairo. Amal is mostly worried about the show of force that the Muslim Brotherhood is putting up. For Amal, the Brotherhood is cornered. It can no longer defend accusations of incompetence and dishonesty. Furthermore, the country is far worse off today with a decline in economic performance and heightened use of brutality and violence. Already, the Brotherhood has instigated attacks in various parts of the country which have caused significant human casualties. She adds that the Brotherhood has barricaded its headquarters in anticipation of possible attacks. Although the popular opposition is unarmed, the Muslim Brotherhood does not shy away from deploying formidable armaments as well as threats to intimidate their opponents.
The three-hour long speech of President Mursi last Wednesday (June 26) had the effect, according to Abdel Hadi, to heighten discontent amongst the oppositions and mobilised larger segments of the population to partake in the demonstrations of June 30th. This was preceded by the abject killings of Shia reported some two weeks ago and which, according to Abdel Hadi, cannot be dissociated from the hate speech encouraged which has been all too common during the past few weeks. “People killing their long time neighbours is an unprecedented phenomena which merits serious attention” says Amal.
I asked Amal whether she thinks that Mursi will step down tomorrow especially now that the newly formed Tamarrad (in Arabic: Rebel) movement has succeeded in gathering 22 million signatures calling for Mursi to leave. According to Amal, neither Mursi nor the Muslim Brotherhood are like to give in without a fight, one that will involve a disproportionate use of violence. She reminds us that this is not the only time that the new regime has used intimidation and threats especially since that the Brotherhood has a vested interest in power. Not so long ago, the new regime has called those who would not endorse the national referendum to be atheists and against Islam and Sharia. This discourse is now used extensively as the Brotherhood is accusing the opposition to be simply anti-Islamic! But, and on the brighter side, Amal is confident that the Egyptian people “will not accept to be intimidated and blackmailed with religion especially since the new regime is using the same modus operandi as its predecessor”.
“The Egyptians have gone through a journey in experiencing what democracy is and is not” says Amal.
However, she thinks that the challenges are now greater. People are facing terrorism and women particularly are facing sexual terrorism. Yet, something remarkable has happened. Amal notes that it is “amazing that women are coming out to denounce their own experiences with sexual harassment and rapes”. Women are challenging both the regime and their families. This in itself is a turning point. Moreover, women are more motivated than ever to engage in political life and in political parties.
For Amal, the struggle remains that of rights. She calls for no compromises on women and human rights. Although the tension in Egypt and the sense of insecurity is at its height, she remains hopeful for a future as Egypt is now, according to her, “at a point of no return”.