Frontline Club panel optimistic about the future of Egypt

By Will Turvill

There was an overall feeling of positivity in the Frontline Club last night as the panel, chaired by the Observer‘s foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont, discussed what the future might hold for the Egyptian people after a year of military rule.

Indeed, despite recognising the number of challenges facing the revolutionary movement, each of the speakers expressed optimism for the future.

One of Egypt’s main problems, it was pointed out by a member of the audience, is its State-run media, controlled by the military, which has maintained strong support for the army, and contempt for the revolutionists. 

“State media is run as a State of misinformation consistently,” answered Hossam Abdalla, a political activist involved in Egypt’s student movement during the 1970’s. “It is not surprising [that] the army still hold more than 50 per cent of the country’s support, because of continued misinformation.”

He pointed out, though, that not long ago this figure stood at 70 per cent, and that support for the revolution is increasing. “Before 25 January, the revolutionary movement would have got 2-3 per cent approval, but now it is more like 20 per cent, and that will continue to rise.”

Abdel Latif El Menawy who, as the former head of the Egyptian State media, including for a period whilst it was under the control of the military, was in a perfect position to judge whether reform is needed, and whether it is likely to occur.

“It is required. But is it possible or not – that is the real question.” His “dream”, he explained, was for a media station designed for the public, but admitted the government did not have the power to do this. He said: “The challenge for the future is to create a public media, a tax payer public media.”

In spite of wide-spread military control of the State, Egyptian writer Tarek Osman, author of Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak, said that the revolutionary movement will succeed because of the number of young people in the country.

“If you look at Egypt in 1980, we were roughly 45 million people; today we are 80-85 million people,” he said. “So you have roughly 35-40 million people born in this time, two-thirds of them under 20 years old. [Their] grand objective, is trying to reject a generation of failure, to create a whole new State.”

Whether they are equipped to succeed, with a strong military power in place, is debatable but each member of the panel was confident of eventual success.

Ahdaf Soueif, author of Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, said: “I’m totally optimistic. Every time we talk about the revolution we carry thoughts of people who have been killed or injured, but they are actually a reason to be optimistic.

“They are a very powerful reason why nobody is going to back down, why the revolution will continue, and why it will actually achieve the goals which these people made their sacrifices for.”

Watch the event here: