By Daniel Alan Kennedy
The 2011 revolution in Egypt raised hopes that democratic institutions would replace Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. The recent removal of President Morsi by the Egyptian military and the violence on the streets that followed has instead left Egypt facing an uncertain future.
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor and renowned Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda met at the Frontline Club on 12 August to attempt to shed some light on recent events and on Egypt’s political future.
Fouda explained that the Muslim Brotherhood, whom many had seen as the most well-organised political faction in Egypt had overreached, causing their administration to quickly lose popularity:
“I think the legacy of more than 80 years of working underground; they were subjected – and we have to always remember this – to all sorts of oppression and exclusion, and torture in some cases, got them a little bit ahead of themselves and they wanted to not only form the government but to actually reshape the state.”
Fouda also claimed that while the Army had chosen to remove Morsi following massive street protests, it was not done out of pure economic self-interest, as many had claimed, noting that:
“The army had more privileges under Morsi compared to even what they had under Mubarak.”
He also explained that the army had found the year-and-a-half period of directly administrating the country after the fall of Mubarak unpleasant and did not want a return to martial law.
I went to a celebration with some military people and some civilian people… to my left was the Commander of the Artillery. There were some young officers with their families, every now and then shouting the famous slogan… “The army and people are one hand“. And every time they shouted this the Commander of the Artillery said, “Never again!… What did we have in the end? We were shaving in the street, going to the toilet in the street and we were called names by kids!”… So they too had a very bad experience with us and they too have been trying to learn something from it.”
Responding to an audience question on how the Muslim Brotherhood could be included in any future liberal democratic form of government if they subscribe to an Islamic ideology, Fouda emphasised the dangers of excluding them again:
“In my opinion what we do not want to have is going back to the time when many forces… particularly Islamic, had to work underground… you really need to accommodate and it’s not going to be perfect, it’s going to be painful and it’s going to take time but it is much better than driving anyone underground.”
Bowen fielded a similar question on why Western governments had chosen to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood despite their alleged ties to terrorist groups and why Western media had chosen to frame Morsi’s removal almost exclusively as a coup d’etat.
“The Americans and other Western countries attach a lot of great importance to elections. They believe that the way of establishing a new Egypt was through a democratic process, so well there’s an election… it produced the result it produced. I think they felt obliged to say, “Well alright. Go ahead. See what you can do.””
Fouda received a round of applause from many of those in attendance, by stressing the importance of building genuine democratic institutions if Egypt is to move forward through its current political turmoil:
“What you are really after is the rule of law… if we manage together to lay the foundations for a healthy society that goes by the rule of law, then the revolution will have succeeded.”
Daniel is a freelance journalist and researcher specialising in foreign affairs, with an emphasis on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Twitter: @danielabkennedy
Watch and listen to the event here: