Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

As bad as it gets

In the buildup to major protests planned for 30 June, the first anniversary of the Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi taking office, Al-Ahram Weekly asked 15 Egyptian cultural figures what they expect of the day

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Mohamed Abla, b. 1953, artist

If the people who are peacefully protesting against Morsi remaining in office are faced with aggression and violence from Morsi’s supporters, they will be forced to defend themselves; they too will resort to violence. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) will never rule Egyptians by force, and the current anger on the Egyptian street is testimony to this, as well as the demonstrations against Morsi’s regime in a number of Egypt’s governorates. It is obvious that they’ve already failed at ruling Egypt. And 30 June is just a declaration that this regime has failed to provide Egyptians with their basic needs, so they will revolt against it. The price of freedom is very high, and I think everyone realises this enough to accept the fact that there will be victims. Egypt is the hero of a very long novel that has many chapters and this is one of them. I am going out on the street on 30 June and I expect that a lot of people will be doing likewise.

 

Ibrahim Abdel-Fattah, b.1959, vernacular poet

A great number of people will take to the streets on 30 June now that the religious fascism of the MB has been exposed, and even the simple and poor classes who used to support them at first are now aware of their limitations. I guess the regime will try to distort the image of the protesters in many ways but I think Egyptians have gained a lot of experience in the last two and a half years. The fear is rather regarding the use of violence but I think with protests against them all across Egypt’s governorates it will be very hard to control the protests using violence. Still, 30 June might only be the beginning of a battle that might take a long time and hopefully this will be the end of political Islam in Egypt; it was certainly in our favour that they turned out to be so politically incompetent.

 

Yasser Abdel-Latif, b.1969, writer

I don’t have any particular expectations for the 30 June protest. I hope the MB rule will end by 30 June and afterwards I would love to see serious special trials for all who committed political crimes against the Egyptian people.

 

Akram Al-Magdoub, b.1958, architect and artist

Egyptians will participate in the 30 June protests in large numbers, but in order for the protests to bear fruit, they should stay on the streets in large numbers until all their demands are met. The mistake that was made after the ouster of Mubarak must not be repeated. I don’t think there will be a lot of violence or rioting if people joined the demonstrations in huge enough numbers. If Morsi is removed, a presidential council should be formed in preparation for early presidential elections to be supervised by an international and dispassionate organisation.    

 

Adel Al-Siwi, b.1952, artist

I can’t predict, and I’m not even concerned with what will happen on 30 June. What makes me optimistic is the young people who have regained their energy once again. This is embodied in the Tamarod (Rebellion) campaign, which is believed to have collected 15 million signatures calling for Morsi’s removal. Tamarod is the major turning point, not so much for the protests on 30 June as such, but because it reflects that young people are back after their absence for two years from the political scene. There is a new generation that led the 25 January Revolution in 2011, but they were excluded by all parties controlling the political scene, whether it is the National Salvation Front, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or the MB. The campaign has revived the spirit of the January Revolution and the voice of the young is raised again in a very civilised, peaceful and non-violent way. That said, I am sure there will be massive numbers of Egyptians standing hand in hand in Egypt’s squares and streets on 30 June.

 

Salah Eissa, b. 1939, political analyst

Whoever is keen on this country and its future should participate in the 30 June protests. Egypt cannot be led from one dictatorship to another. But what these gatherings will lead to depends on the number of groups and the response of Egyptians to the calls of Tamarod, and on the political leadership coming up with a scenario for the events on that day, because if the Islamists gathered on the same days as they have done before, the result will be a disaster. I have no clear idea of what will happen on the day but it partly depends on the speech the president delivers: whether he announces a state of emergency, putting more pressure on the opposition, or attempts to absorb and contain their demands which may further raise the bar of those demands.

The main obstacle that I am concerned with is Ramadan; it will be a very exceptional situation due to so many people fasting at the same time. But taking into account our experience with the young who managed to transcend all possible calculations and forced Mubarak to step down, it is important to realise that the situation is exceptional and will probably lead to exceptional results. I personally am concerned about the violence that might happen but I am gambling on the young who have gained a lot of experience in the last two and a half years and matured enough to protect their gains.

 

Hisham Gabr, b.1972, conductor and composer

After over two years of division between Egyptians, harsh polarisation and demonisation of the other, on 30 June millions of Egyptians will gather for one unified goal which is removal of the MB from power. It has become very clear who supports change and who is looking after their own interests. The latter party is undeniably the MB, whose rule over the last year has negatively impacted people from all across the social spectrum. That’s why there is a very strong unity against them: rich, poor, educated, simple, left-wing and liberal all agree that the MB ruling Egypt represents a palpable danger and the situation will turn from bad to catastrophic if they are not removed. Putting an end to the MB regime has become an important step in achieving the goals set by the January 2011 Revolution, which have not been sought since.

As an Egyptian and an artist I have two strong motives to join the protests. I stand for all the goals of the January Revolution, which demanded civil rights, freedom and social justice, the state of which has grown much worse under the MB. I am also joining the fight for freedom of expression which has suffered under the MB, reaching unimaginable deterioration — a level not even known under the ousted dictator. We will continue our struggle for freedom of expression and independence in decision-making regarding Egypt’s cultural institutions.

The Egyptians’ anger has reached unprecedented levels and it is snowballing towards 30 June in an unstoppable way. I believe that after 30 June the situation will be completely different, whether the protests prove 100 per cent successful or less. Even if we do not achieve everything right now, 30 June is an important step on the way to the main goal. We will definitely gain considerable ground. The strong blow that the ruling clan will receive on 30 June will, no doubt, have a lethal effect not only on their grip on power but also on their existence as a political force in Egypt. But 30 June is only the beginning of a long process that will eventually achieve the main goals. The MB is not a party that can contribute to the healthy development of this country and as such it is an obstacle that needs to be removed. Once this is done, Egyptians will have the opportunity to continue building a country where human rights, justice and democratic values are all respected.

 

Ahmed Maher, b. 1968, filmmaker

There is an agreement that intellectuals will gather at the Ministry of Culture on 30 June and head to Al-Ittihadiya Palace in Heliopolis from there. Here at the intellectuals’ sit-in there has been an ongoing debate on whether we should leave the ministry or we keep occupying despite the 30 June protest. I had the idea that we should invite veteran and older figures to stay at the minister’s office while the rest of us should go to the protest and come back. I feel the danger of being overtaken is before and after 30 June, not on the day itself. I think there will be no problem on the day itself, with the revolution’s camp minus the Islamists and plus people who weren’t eager on the revolution in the first place, including those who were positively against it, all participating. I do think that people who didn’t participate in the revolution are totally against this regime and of course those people are much greater in number.

I feel the MB and Islamists won’t be able to make an appearance in this protest simply because they always rally based on two things: they gather their supporters from all the governorates to one place so that they look like a mass of people, and the military have declared that they will secure all the highways, monitor and stop any mass transportation; and on this particular day they can sense the danger due to the huge number of protesters. I feel all this talk of defending Al-Ittihadiya palace with their souls is mere bluffing. They might take to the streets on 28 or 29 June but not on 30 June, and if they do demonstrate on 30 June they will be confined to the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque area. That said, I can’t speculate about 1 July: if people manage to hold on till Friday 4 July I think something might change but if not, maybe there is worse to come.

This is the first time I’ve sensed such real anger in the streets: we used to gauge the pulse of the protest scene from Facebook and Twitter but this time the streets are clearly mobilised. I believe that a greater number than those who signed the Tamarod petition will participate, and Tamarod has broken the 15 million barrier. This time it is from the bottom up, not the top down.

 

Amir Ramses, b.1979, filmmaker

I don’t have any expectations. I regard this as one of those situations where your only option is to wait and see. But one thing I know is that it’s going to take a while, huge numbers of people will have to participate and neither of the two poles of the battle will easily let go easily. However, I do hope people will manage to stay in the streets for days because things might start happening this way.

 

Hany Rashed, b.1975, artist

I am very worried about what will happen on 30 June, especially after watching the MB youth training, using weapons and shields. In the first place, it is very odd that people who are satisfied with Morsi’s regime should demonstrate; it seems logical that only the opposition should demonstrate because they object to the powers that be. Unlike the January Revolution, what is more, this time we have two camps of Egyptians facing each other: one represented by Tamarod, which is a movement that adopts peaceful means; the other is used to relying on violence. I am not going to Al-Ittihadiya palace on 30 June because I have lost my faith in anything and everything going on on the political scene, I don’t feel this is my country anymore, how could anyone have predicted the scene of Morsi speaking at the stadium as if we are not part of this country?

I do think there will be aggression and violence, I think huge numbers will participate and they will probably move from Al-Ittihadiya palace to the MB headquarters in Muqattam. Any clashes will mean only bloodshed and more casualties than we’ve already had. It is true that, if people stay on the street for several days they will be in a better position to achieve their goals, but the only thing I am certain of is that, whatever comes out of that Sunday, it will not be worse than what Egyptians have seen in the last year.

 

Azza Shalabi, b.1958, screenwriter

I have no doubt about the masses to be seen on 30 June: it will be huge, there are already signs of it on the street and more owners of small shops and café waiters planning on being part of the protest than I’ve ever seen. Despite the US position, which for so many reasons is the one crucial factor, it is on the streets that the future ultimately depends: after the last protest at Al-Ittihadiya palace, for example, US Secretary of State John Kerry asked to meet with the opposition. If the 30 June is strong enough it will create a new situation. My concern is rather with the opposition itself and how it might formulate the protests into political action; a figure like Mohamed Al-Baradei for instance, in spite of my admiration for him, continues to engage in dialogue with proponents of Sharia or Islamic law (which has been in all of Egypt’s constitutions including that of 1971), and what this means in practice is giving the Islamists credibility and contributing to their influence over a non-issue. On the other hand I do expect violence from the MB, more in the governorates than in Cairo and Alexandria maybe, and this will be particularly disastrous if they manage to appear in police or army uniforms.

 

Yasser Shehata, b.1954, artist and art historian

The Egyptian revolution has two chapters: the first involves the toppling of Mubarak; the second started when Morsi was elected president. I used to say that the MB should be given the chance to rule so that Egyptians can discover their reality; they lost their credibility in a single year, faster than I could ever expect. The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood means the collapse of the idea of the Islamic state. Morsi is worried about the repercussions of 30 June, which may be anything from civil war to the peaceful relinquishing of power and early presidential elections. It seems Egyptian history, culture and even the Egyptian character are against the idea of civil war. My prediction is that on 30 June there will be violence from the side of the MB and we should therefore not be very optimistic, but if the people of Egypt manage to pass the dark tunnel of the MB, they will reach a bright future.

 

Bahaa Taher, b.1935, novelist

I can’t predict what will happen on 30 June, I only hope they will be dealt with peacefully without violence. I hope the other side, the side of the MB, will demonstrate in a peaceful manner because this will be for their own good and the good of the entire nation. These protests should result in early presidential elections. I truly hope all Egyptians from all social strata will participate.  

 

Nael Al-Toukhy, b.1978, novelist and humourist

The 25 January 2011 Revolution was the first for me to live through but it seems it is not the last for many of my generation. It seems that we are going to have a very big and mysterious event on 30 June, but I cannot predict what will happen. What 30 June is about seems to be outside the scope of prediction. People are unified against the government and the regime, but they are not controlled by any of the political forces or parties, in which case we might have had a predictable scenario. Even if we look for similarities between 30 June and 25 January 2011, we find none. I think there will be some violence like what happened in the Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Al-Ittihadiya palace clashes. It is easy to predict the situation when it has to do with political parties, the political parties’ youth or the elite, but when it comes to the people in the street all over the country then it is very difficult to know what is going to happen. I’ve been going to watch what is going on in the sit-in staged by the intellectuals at the minister of culture’s office in Zamalek and I’m going to participate in the 30 June demonstrations, but still I feel what is going to happen on that day remains mysterious. All I know for sure is that there will be a surprise, I don’t know what but I’m sure there will be one.

Nonetheless some scenarios are possible to imagine. I was never in a committee of the MB so I can’t imagine how they might face a situation like this. All that’s known for sure is that residents of the big cities have a deep desire to get rid of the MB. If the MB are intelligent enough they will let the opposition demonstrate smoothly, avoiding clashes; then the fast during Ramadan might make protesters go home on their own accord, or maybe we’ll have “a fasting revolution” — if the people’s desire to follow Ramadan TV doesn’t prove stronger than their desire for regime change. On the other hand, the opposition is on edge and protesters may start the violence themselves, which will prompt the Islamists or the police to respond; it is easier to predict that it will be the police and what they’ll do. There is a very serious intention among the people to replace the political leadership and they speak with confidence, but whether this will take some time or be accomplished within days is impossible to tell. In the early days of the January Revolution I thought people would get bored, that it was a series of demonstrations like any other, but things didn’t happen that way. Today people are very upset and the government is paying no attention to their demands, so…

 

Essam Zakaria, b.1962, film critic

I can call the 30 June protests a major battle that we need to be prepared for, sometimes the opposition make plans or more probably they prepare some kind of scenario and that isn’t always successful or correctly timed but what’s also important is to know the MB’s plan. Of course they never have any brilliant plans but they always manage to spoil the plans of the opposition. We were proud at first that it was a popular revolution without a leader, but this is something that has a negative side to it which is reflected in the absence of an organisational skeleton for the revolution and the opposition representing it.

I think the protests need people to protect them, monitor their performance and maybe write reports to be more organised. One thing I know for sure is that the sit-in that starts on 30 June will take a while and that gives the MB time to do what they have in mind, which as yet we don’t know. The opposition has to be ready to deal with all the various situations, it should be ready with groups to protect the sit-in against violence or interference and to deal with any crisis that might come up.

 

 

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