Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Revolt of the ‘lemon-squeezers’

One year after Egypt’s first presidential elections, the country’s homes at least seem less politically divided, writes Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Last year, Egypt witnessed its first free-and-fair presidential elections, with 13 candidates competing vigorously for the office. People and households were divided between those supporting the former Mubarak regime, those in favour of an Islamic or secular state, and those who were for or against some of the most prominent figures in the campaign, including Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa, Khaled Ali, Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsi.
One year after his election as the country’s first Islamist president, Morsi seems to have done little to heal the divisions of last year’s elections, with many people criticising him for not having done more to boost the economy, save the Nile, rescue the country’s tourism or even reunite Egyptians around a common government programme.
Last year’s elections saw a division between the generations, with many parents likely to vote for candidates belonging to the former regime, such as Moussa or Shafik, and their children and the younger generation more likely to vote for Ali, Sabahi or Morsi. When the battle commenced between Morsi and Shafik in the second round of the elections, debate in many homes was between the parents who chose Shafik and the children who chose Morsi.
However, there has apparently not been a similar domestic debate surrounding President Morsi himself. People are simply divided in their views on the president, with this division not necessarily taking a generational form. Simple as it might sound, the children vs. parents debate has been resolved under the Morsi regime, with the members of each generation free to make up their own minds.
Some members of the younger generation have, however, regretted choosing Morsi as president, and there has been a degree of regret or remorse. Yasmine Youssef, a 25-year-old teacher who took part in the 25 January Revolution that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak, said that “I wish I had lost my hand before I voted for Morsi as president. My parents pleaded with me not to vote for him, and we had a lot of debate about the matter at home at the time. They told me not to trust the Muslim Brotherhood, as they said that the Brotherhood put their interests first and those of Egypt second. I thought that they must have changed. I thought they would never be like the Mubarak regime. However, I was wrong. The Mubarak regime was much better than theirs.”
Ali Abdel-Rahman, a taxi driver in his 30s who had been standing in a queue for five hours when he spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly, said that “today we are living in the worst of times. I have been standing here for almost five hours under the burning sun in an attempt to buy petrol. I live in the Ghobrayel district, and we are now without electricity for hours each day. We are living in inhumane conditions! Yesterday, I watched the Islamist demonstrations in Rabaa Al-Adawya entitled ‘No to Violence’, and I could have screamed when I saw the buses and taxis loaded with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the affiliated jihadist groups. How did they get their petrol? How did they fill their tanks?”
“Are these things being organised at our expense and using the taxes that we pay? How come they have petrol and we don’t? They are asking who will be demonstrating on the streets in 30 June. The whole country will be doing so,” Abdel-Rahman said, adding that he had voted for Morsi in last year’s elections, something that he now bitterly regretted.
Abdel-Rahman is just one of many people who regret voting for Morsi in the elections. “I thought he was a devout Muslim who would take care of his people and not only of his group. However, all his policies have changed the love and hope we had for him into distrust,” Sayeda Hisham, a Cairo resident, said.
Hisham, whose husband belongs to the Brotherhood, said that her husband “always has an explanation for everything the president says or does. Though the electricity now cuts out at home for more than eight hours a day, he always has excuses for the blackouts. He always has excuses for every weakness in the Morsi regime. I am really fed up. We are always clashing because of the government’s policies — he even banned me from signing the Tamarod [Rebel] petition against Morsi, and he banned our 17-year-old son from joining the demonstrations. Our home has become divided as a result.”
“We are not divided,” claimed Moetaz Fawzi, an activist and lawyer who has managed to secure some 1,250 signatures for the Tamarod campaign. “The Egyptians are not divided. On the contrary, we are united, and they are only a group. Only the members of the fundamentalist religious groups now support them. How can we support a president who has broken every promise he made? He put Ahmed Doma and Hassan Mustafa, the activists who actually sparked Egypt’s revolution, behind bars just for saying no to the president and his policies.”
Fawzi is one of the many people describing themselves as “lemon-squeezers”, people who felt obliged to vote for Morsi because his main rival, Shafik, had been a prominent figure in the Mubarak regime, even though they did not want Morsi either. Today, Fawzi claims, “we were wrong to take the path of lemon-squeezers. We should have studied the Muslim Brotherhood’s history. We should have searched for alternatives and stopped them from ruling the country. I hope we can do better on 30 June as we have now learnt that lemons can’t be squeezed at the expense of a country’s future. Lemons are sour. Our condition right now is bitter,” he added.
Fatemah Mohamed, a 27-year-old tourist guide, said that “we had great hopes of the new president after the first-ever free elections, but we were shocked to find him talking to his group alone, addressing himself only to the Islamists and the jihadists, with the result that our position in the world has deteriorated. The last straw was when he appointed a former jihadist as governor of Luxor. Such decisions are a slap in the face of attempts to restore our tourism industry. Flights have been cancelled and our jobs are at stake.”
Kariman Mohamed, a 16-year-old gymnast who is taking part in the current protests in front of the Ministry of Culture, said that “despite differences at home and our own different ideologies, we are all going to protest against Morsi on 30 June. Last year, we had clashes at home about who to vote for. But this year, even though my sister and brother voted for him, they have now turned against the Islamists. No one can undo what those who call themselves the representatives of Islam have done to our religion either.”
Ahmed Saber, a 31-year-old technician, said that “I have shaved off my beard and stopped going to the mosque, especially after they changed our Al-Azhar sheikh for a Salafi one. I live in Al-Wadryan, and I saw my friends dying during the revolution. Morsi promised us that he would take revenge on those who killed our young people, but he has released the killers and imprisoned the revolutionaries instead,” Saber said.
The way things are going, it seems that Egypt’s homes are now less divided, with much of the country now rising up against what it sees as the government’s attempt to impose its ideology on all Egyptians despite the country’s centuries-old traditions of religious and political pluralism.

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