Dalia Ziada on Egypt’s Turmoil

Sep 04, 2013

            Dalia Ziada is an award-winning human rights activist and the executive director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, Egypt. She analyzed the ouster of the Islamists in the following interview.

How do you feel about the July 3 military intervention now? Do you view it as a coup?

      Not at all! I still believe it was the right move and I am grateful they intervened at the right time before the people start to take the fight on their own. It was going to be a civil war if the military had not jumped in the middle. 

How do you feel about the actions over the last week of August?

      It gets quieter day after day. Life is going smooth except for the curfew, which the people have happily adhered to. I have never seen the Egyptian people so obedient to an authority that asks them to go back home at 7 o’clock in the evening. But again, this proves how much the people are grateful for the military that saved them from the Muslim Brotherhood. The recent U.S. statements on attacking Syria are echoing loudly in Egypt, making people more and more willing to sacrifice anything to keep the involvement of the military in politics for as long as possible. 

How do you feel about the roadmap back to democracy? Is it viable? Will enough players sign on?

            It is going okay. Not as fast as I wish, but it is fine so far. The military is keeping itself out of political decision-making and is busy fighting terrorism, especially in Sinai. We have taken the first step already as the ten-expert committee made all necessary changes on the 2012 constitution. Now, the 50-representative committee is being formed and in two months we will have the final draft for referendum. Two months later, we will have parliamentary elections. Two months after that, we will have presidential elections. The interim president and the government are showing sincere commitment to the timeline of the roadmap.

Where are the political players in the middle? What are they doing, thinking, planning?

            All political parties in Egypt, except for three parts are happy for the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from political life. The three parties that are unhappy are the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party and the al Wasat (Center) party and the Salafi al Nour party. Although the al Nour party supported Morsi’s ouster, its members are still showing strong opposition to all the decisions made by the new government. This made the government and the people give up on them and not worry about their opinion anymore! So, actually they hurt themselves by trying to stay in the middle. They did not take the side of the Brotherhood as they always used to. But they are still unable to accommodate themselves with the liberal values of the new secular government! They are trying to play politics, but they are more naive in politics compared to Brotherhood. 

Who would you like to see as the next president? Do you have favorites?

            That is a very difficult question. I still do not know. But I know for sure, it should not be one of the names in the scene now. We need a fresh face.

What do you want to see happen to the Muslim Brotherhood?

            First, the leaders must be punished for what they did; i.e. inciting hatred and committing violence. Second, we should look for the good elements among them and see how to accommodate them, especially the young people who disobeyed their leaders in 2011 and insisted on joining us in the January 25th revolution. Those young Brotherhood members are not as brutal and violent as their leaders. They can easily practice politics and do whatever they like. 

A year ago, Egyptians took to the streets to demand that the military cede power. Would they do it again – and even could they do it again given current circumstances – if they should again view the military as not sharing power or turning power back fast enough?

            Yes, I think if the people realized at any moment that the military is not acting properly, they will get out against them. The Egyptians are determined to walk the path of democracy until the very end and never let anyone stop them, not the Brotherhood, not the military or anyone else. Egyptians have more political maturity now, which would make it very difficult for any leader to abuse power. 

How credible or representative is the transition government?

            It is very credible and very qualified, but not representative. Most of its members are technocrats and experts from Mubarak's era. But I think this is because those are the only people in the country who have the qualifications needed for running state affairs. They are doing a good job so far, especially with the massive financial support we got from United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 

You once liked Mohammed ElBaradei, the acting vice president who resigned in mid-August. How do you feel about him now?

            I am not shocked about his withdrawal. That is very typical of him. He always escapes at the critical moments. This time, he destroyed his credibility and the people are looking at him as a traitor. He cannot repair this image in the eyes of the people any more, no matter what he does. 

Dalia Ziada tweets @daliziada. Click here to read her blog.

 

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The Islamists Are Coming is the first book to survey the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties.  They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.

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