Interview With An Egyptian Protester
The Propagandist's Contributing Writer Niklas Anzinger interviews protester (and first Egyptian conscientious objector) Maikel Nabil Sanad, who faced the repression of a desperate police state clinging to power up close over the past few days.
Q. Maikel, you have just been released from the Egyptian intelligence. What happened and how are you right now?
They arrested me while I was heading to El-Tahrir square. They said that they were preventing anyone to go there to end these demonstrations. They took me in a military Jeep No. 440700. The officer in this jeep beat me a lot. Then they took me to an intelligence office at Rabaa El-Adawya in Nasr City were they beat me again and sexually harassed me.
I was hearing screaming voices of people being tortured all the time. These were the most horrible days of my life.
Q. It is not the first time you got the attention of the state apparatus. Tell us about why you are consistently faced with aggressive attention of the Egypt state.
Political activists got arrested in Egypt on a daily basis. This is a normal thing when you are living in a country run by a dictator. I usually got arrested because of my political activity, except when I was arrested last November because of my refusal to perform military service (I'm the first conscientious objector in Egypt.)
Q. How did the revolution start and when did you start participating in it? Was there kind of a "Tunisian moment"? Why didn't it happen when when the Iranians protested against the Islamic Republic?
Let´s say that we were trying to reach this point from 2004 on, but usually we don't succeed in getting together a good number to face the police. This time we made a bigger campaign, and lots of people joined us.
We started on 25 January. Sure, the Tunisian revolution inspired us. Politics is filled with surprises, and you can't find answers to lots of such questions.
We can say that the Iranian protests failed to remove Ahmadinejad, but the Tunisians succeeded in removing Ben Ali, so the success of the Tunisians gave us hope that we could succeed.
Q. The people in the Western countries, especially in Israel, are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood could takeover the revolutions cause. We have a picture of the Iranian Revolution in mind where leftist and secular forces led the protest but chose to use Ayatollah Khomenei as a front figure. After their takeover the Islamists launched mass executions and cleansing of the political opposition to establish an Islamic theocracy.
Hamed Abdel-Samad, an Egyptian intellectual who lives in Germany, participated in the protest and is sure that the young generation could lead the revolution and marginalize the Islamists. Yet we see the Muslim Brotherhood as the most eminent political opposition with grassroots network reaching major parts of the Egyptian people, while the secularists are not well-organized and have no strong backing in the people. How reasonable are our fears of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Revolutions change the beliefs of the people. In the 1919 revolution female demonstrators were wearing the niqab, but after a few months they took off their Niqab for the first time in centuries. There are lots of secular slogans in El-Tahrir. There is no separation between sexes (and this is against beliefs of Islamists). This is the reason why I believe we are heading toward a liberal secular democracy.
Why is everyone talking about the 1979 Iranian revolution, and forgetting the secular 2009 Iranian demonstrations? We are in 2011, not 1979. The Islamists are losing all over the world. What the world is doing to support dictators like Mubarak makes Islamists stronger. Democracies aren't a suitable environment for Islamic brutalities, while dictatorships are. I'm sure that if this revolution succeeds, we will have liberal and conservative parties, not theocratic ones.
Q. An Israeli friend told me he sees the uprisings in Egypt with two miknds. One is with deep sympathy for the people´s uprising for freedom and against authoritarian rule. The other one is with the fear of an Islamist-influenced proxy state that could strengthen the control of Hamas, while Hezbollah has already gained control in Lebanon. What would you tell the Israelis? How would you reassure them that the Egyptians can keep the anti-Israeli forces from torpedoing the peace treaty or allow Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to operate against them?
Well, I sent a message to Israelis minutes before my arrest. Actually, when Israelis support Mubarak, they are convincing Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood was right in saying that Israel is their enemy. If Israel supported the Egyptian revolution, this would make Egyptians believe the liberals who are saying every day that Israel is a friend.
So, Israel now is helping the Muslim Brotherhood to reach power, by the political stupidity of Israeli rulers. But I think that we still have time. People here who are part of the revolution still want peace with Israel. I hope this don't change because of the stupid actions of Israeli politicians.
Let Muhammed Badi die. No one listens to him (Muhammad Badi, the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme leader, called for Jihad against America and Israel. When Muslim Brotherhood activists started to shout Islamic slogans in El-Tahrir, they were beaten by the demonstrators.
Q. How can the Western states support the opposition?
Firstly, they must stop selling weapons to Egypt immediately. These weapons are used against civilians. Furthermore they should stop all military aid to Egypt and insist Egyptian ambassadors leave their countries immediately. [The UN] Security council should send a direct message to Egyptian Army, ordering the army not to attack civilians. The United Nations could refuse presentation of Mubarak's officials, as they lost their legitimacy, until there is a free election in Egypt.
Q. Tell us, what would you see as the best outcome? And what is realistic to expect?
Mubarak should leave. Then we will open a discussion with the authorities to make a free election, and bring new leaders.