Egyptians must work together
Egypt has been in a lot of turmoil ever since the Arab Spring arrived. The country&’s first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Mursi, was ousted by the Army in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and protests by pro- and anti-Mursi camps have rocked the country over the past few weeks, even as authorities cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The country’s ambassador to India, Khaled El Bakly, spoke at length about the current state of affairs within Egypt in an interview with SIMRAN SODHI. Excerpts:
What is happening in Egypt? There are reports of massacres in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood protesting and a brutal crackdown by the government forces.
I do not accept your question. I wish you would rephrase your question and then I will answer.
Okay, what is happening in Egypt today?
What we are seeing is a state of change that&’s underway in a big country like Egypt. Changes take time and do not happen in a day. The revolution that began in January 2011 is still going on and we want this to be an inclusive process. There were two mainstream thoughts—one called for the constitution to be implemented, and second wanted elections first. The Muslim Brotherhood won the elections and the process of polarisation started in November 2012, when President Mursi made a constitutional change, putting himself above the law. The changes made to the constitution by the Muslim Brotherhood were done without taking into confidence the other political parties and it was also done overnight. So a movement started, calling for early elections, since many believed that President Mursi was representing the Brotherhood and not Egypt. They collected about two million signatures.
President Mursi refused to call for early elections and that led to clashes between the Brotherhood and others. The President refused to join others in finding a political solution to the problem. They underestimated the power of the Egyptian people and then clashes started in the streets between the Brotherhood supporters and the others.
What led to the current scenario?
President Mursi refused to call for early elections as demanded by the people and said that it&’s either him or blood. At this point, the Army, which is in charge of the national security, said that damage to the country will happen and they called on everyone to come, sit down and find a way out. The President refused to join this meeting and another meeting that was called later on. At this meeting, a consensus was arrived at that President Mursi has to go and a civilian government has to take over. Even today, what you have in Egypt is a civilian government presided over by a head of the Supreme Court.
There have been reports emerging of the security forces shooting at Brotherhood supporters?
It was the Muslim Brotherhood supporters who first started shooting at security forces when they tried to clear the demonstration areas. They wanted confrontation. After one of the areas was cleared, Brotherhood supporters took to the streets and started shooting civilians as well. They also threatened that if Mursi is not released, there would be killings all over Egypt. The government of Egypt could not allow this to go on, as peace and security is the responsibility of the government.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood likely to be banned?
Nobody will be banned. But nobody should be carrying arms and ammunition on the streets, as per the constitution. The government of Egypt is saying that the future of Egypt is for everybody, but on one condition—that they renounce violence.
Who do you think is funding the Brotherhood?
I don’t know, it&’s for the courts to decide.
Why has the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Baddie, been arrested?
There are allegations of incitement to violence against him. He has his lawyers and he will get a free and fair trial. Everybody is equal before the law, nobody is above the law. No one is going to interfere with the judicial process.
The recent release of former President Hosni Mubarak seems likely to inject another element into an already volatile situation in Egypt.
The release of Mubarak is a decision of the courts. No one should interfere with that and it should not be a part of the discussion now. The time of Mubarak is gone.
Some have pointed out that some faces of the Mubarak regime seem to be making a comeback again.
We want to work towards a real inclusive society, not denying anybody the right to be a part of the future.
All the sons of Egypt have to work together to build the country and if there are those who have an expertise and worked during Mubarak’s time, why should they not work again, as long as there is nothing against them?
Saudi Arabia has emerged as a key supporter of Egypt at this point. Why do you think that is happening?
We have a lot of friends and we appreciate the friendship of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Also, the stability of Egypt is their own stability. What many people do not understand is that the al Qaida has been on the streets of Egypt, carrying the al Qaida flags.
Do you fear that the US and EU might cancel their aid to Egypt?
Egypt has always had friendly relations with everyone. We want to maintain the friendships. But people outside Egypt have to understand the aspirations of 30 to 50 million people who want change. The desires of the people must be understood.
Do you think al Qaida has mixed with supporters of the Brotherhood?
That is for the courts to decide.