Post-Tahrir Cairo, Day 1

Bill the spouse and I had an informative, short conversation today with the longtime MB spokesman Dr. Esam El-Erian, who is also the deputy head of the newly emerging, MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party. (You can find descriptions of interviews I conducted with Dr. El-Erian in early 2007 and early 2009, and a lot of other useful background on the Muslim Brotherhood and other aspects of Egyptian politics, here.)
The Muslim brotherhood were major participants in the democratic uprising that toppled Egypt’s 30-year president, Hosni Mubarak, from power back in February. From 1954 until the end of last February the MB was banned from operating as a political movement. Sometimes its people were “allowed” by Mubarak to run in the notably constrained “elections” he staged– but they had to do so as independents or in the framework of another party. Meanwhile, his regime launched successive waves of arrests, financial expropriation, and other grossly abusive and intimidating acts against the MB. Dr. El-Erian is one of many MB leaders who spent many years in Mubarak’s prisons– that, though the movement definitely renounced the use of violence back in 1982.
The most intriguing points in today’s conversation were:
~ Some of his observations on Egyptian political developments in the run-up to September’s parliamentary elections:

    “We’re hoping to go into the elections with a broad coalition of the forces from the revolution… Yesterday we had a good meeting with the leader of the Wafd Party…
    “We face a number of very big challenges. The role of the military is a big one, but we are delaying dealing with it because they were our partners in the revolution. Secondly, there’s the role of the police, who were the main supporters of Mubarak for the past ten years. We have to figure out how to establish a new form of policing appropriate to a democracy. The first challenge that we’re able to deal with is to get all the politicians together in a new coalition. It’s true, we will need to discuss this with the military. Currently, they hold the presidential powers, but they’re going to have to step back and allow a new face in… And we need to find a better balance between the presidency and the parliament…
    “Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, was the first head of state to come and visit us after the revolution. He told us in a meeting I was in that he thought Egypt could have an even better democracy than the one they have in Turkey– because, he said, at least in Egypt the military was with the popular movement, not against it…
    “I have not had much contact with the military leaders here– there was just one meeting I was invited to. But on the ground, out around the country, the brotherhood has good relations with the military. For example, right now, the tawgihi (school-leaving) exams are being held nationwide and with the collapse of much of the police, security would have been a big concern, except that we and other parts of the popular movement cooperated with the military to keep the whole process safe.”

~ A degree of opposition to the policies of the Saudi government that I found surprising:

    “Without a change in the policies of Saudi Arabia, these current revolutions won’t succeed… In Egypt, Saudi Arabia is the main force of counter-revolution. They’ve been pushing and pushing to keep Mubarak out of prison. He was a pillar of their policy. But Mubarak will go to prison…”

~ A nuanced form of outreach to Western countries:

    “I am asking Europe and America for an apology. For the last 150 years they have blocked any development in this area… We believe that we have a lot to contribute to world civilization in terms of spirituality and values, but we want the help of the west in allowing our democracy to flourish. We want an apology that they supported dictatorship here for so many years, and then when the revolutions challenged the dictators, they tried to find a safe exit for some of the dictators…
    “So please don’t intervene in ways that corrupt our new politicians. Westerners corrupted so many of our local NGO’s and even human-rights organizations in the past. (But I want to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did a great job! They are my friends!)”

El-Erian said the Brotherhood, which has long been shunned by many Western countries, has started since the revolution of January-February to have some contacts with European parliamentarians, diplomats, and business executives. But he was eager to strengthen its contacts with Americans, too, and made a special pitch for American tourists to return to Egypt in large numbers.

7 thoughts on “Post-Tahrir Cairo, Day 1

  1. ali

    The Saudis r the new players in the post Arab revolution. The Us has been using it as a proxy..but the Salafism that will interfere with politics will be a disaster in my opinion…..

  2. salah

    With recent troubles ME, before going in full passion about it, which is now more and more thing folding what motivating these Arab Springs in the region.
    Although there are, a lot of suffering, frustrations injustices people in the region feel they need to do something sadly they used again in bad game called Arab Spring
    These are few of thinks need to addressed:
    1 Facebook Bloggers faked reporting /blogging
    US man sorry for ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog hoax (AFP) – 2 days ago

    LONDON — A US student based in Scotland apologised on Monday for writing the fake “Gay Girl in Damascus” blog, saying he feared the hoax could harm the efforts of real-life opponents of the Syrian regime.

    Tom MacMaster, a bearded 40-year-old Edinburgh University masters student and Middle East activist, confessed that he was “Amina Abdallah Arraf”, supposedly a Syrian lesbian writing about the crackdown in the country.

    The Arraf character became a media sensation with her reports on the movement against President Bashar Al-Assad, posting as “an out Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on”.

    Then last Tuesday someone claiming to be her cousin wrote on the website that Arraf had been arrested, prompting supporters to set up a “Free Amina Abdallah” group on Facebook that attracted nearly 15,000 followers.

    2- The Religious speaker in Egypt who is behind the Cairo Tahrir turned up he is MOSSAD employee US citizen working in Egypt

    CIA And Mossad Behind Egyptian Riots And Destabilization Of Mubarak Regime
    Well, today is the day of reckoning for the Egyptian revolution. So far it appears that even though there has been a near record crowd that gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo demanding the brutal dictator Mubarak’s immediate abdication, it seems that he is still hanging on to power…But just barely!

    When the Egyptian Riots, which have now led to a full scale revolution, first broke out back on January 24th, I had serious questions in my own thoughts as to what or who actually was behind the entire movement. My hopes have been that this has been a rising up by the Egyptian people themselves asking only for their freedom from tyranny. However, my suspicions quickly fell on the Israeli Mossad as well as the American CIA as quite possibly the perpetrators behind the entire Egyptian revolutionary movement! But why?

  3. Salah

    The Saudis r the new players in the post Arab revolution. The Us has been using it as a proxy.
    The NEW US hidden proxy in the region is IRAN not the old long friends in ME one of them Saudi.
    The reality not far to be prove that in Iraq in Afghanistan and for more my useful to check this

  4. KNB

    Your claims at the beginning of this post that the MB were “major participants” in the overthrow of Mubarak make the rest of this post impossible to take seriously. The MB were not organizers, they were not part of the movement, they were slow to endorse it, and those MB that did take part in the protests did so as Egyptians and not as part of the MB political movement. Placing them at the forefront of the movement is both inaccurate and unhelpful and diminishes what people in Egypt who sought to overthrow Mubarak hoped to accomplish– and are still trying to accomplish now.

  5. Helena

    KNB, I don’t agree at all with your statements that The MB were not organizers, they were not part of the movement, … and those MB that did take part in the protests did so as Egyptians and not as part of the MB political movement. I agree that they were cautious (in the view of many, slow) about throwing their weight into the anti-Mubarak campaign; but once they had decided to do so (as they announced on January 27) their nationwide organizing heft assured the success of what otherwise would almost certainly have been a considerably weaker and less resilient campaign.
    I assessed the importance of their January 27 announcement in a blog post on that day itself, and I think the judgments I expressed there on this point proved completely correct and have been borne out by all the developments since then.
    No surprise that the MB people participating in the #jan28 and other “Ir7al” actions all did so under the national flag. So did everybody. It was one of the big strengths of the movement.
    What is your evidence for the claims you make about the (absence of) an MB role?

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