In conversation with Yosri Fouda – Egypt after Mubarak

Report by Nigel Wilson

“These are tear gas canisters made in the USA and this in my opinion epitomises the whole story in the Middle East in the last few decades.”

Renowned broadcaster Yosri Fouda began the evening recounting a pivotal moment in the Egyptian revolution. On the 1st of the 18 days of protests that engulfed Cairo, when he stood with this evening’s host Lyse Doucet and watched protestors re-launching tear gas at the Egyptian police.

“That was the most important day in the Egyptian revolution. The so-called Friday of wrath, the day when Mubarak’s forces were defeated by the people… the real story began from that day on.”

Moving beyond the giddy euphoria of Mubarak’s deposition, Fouda acknowledged concerns over the recent election of an Islamist President, but stressed that the revolution continues.

“We still have a revolution. I understand the frustrations of many people both inside and outside Egypt. But this is a revolution. Revolutions take years and years.”

Referring to the split between the revolutionary forces in Egypt, Fouda described a diverse set of aims.

“The trouble is that we have three main parties in Egypt and each main party has their own concept of what Egypt’s revolution is all about, or must be about. We have the army, the Islamists and the hard core of Tahrir Square. For the army it was about getting rid of the cronies. For the Islamists it was about reaching the Assembly and that’s it. But for the hard core, they have their own idea of where the revolution should end.”

Whilst some members of the passionate Frontline Club audience expressed their fears and mistrust of these forces, Fouda sought to allay concerns and stated that diversity of opinion was critical for Egypt’s future.

“Egypt will never lend itself to only one force. We’ve been learning this and I think this learning process will remain for a long time to come. Egypt, before the revolution, was like a house consisting of five or six rooms. Everyone was living in their own room locked up and they didn’t know who lived in the next room. Suddenly, something big happened that forced everybody out in to the living room. And everyone’s saying “Who are you?”…Until today each force flirts with the idea that they can have all of Egypt and it’s going to take some time before we realise that Egypt is big enough for everyone.”

In an animated Q&A session, Fouda responded to worries over religious freedoms for minority groups and fragmentation within the country with a message of hope.

“We don’t want a President to teach religion. If I vote it’s because I want a President to serve me, not teach me about religion… I’m interested in simple concepts. Justice. The rule of law…To change a culture and mentality will take time. A third of Egyptian’s can’t read or write. What’s most important is working on the ground, opening doors.”

Watch the full event here: