This is an extract of the POMEAS (Project on the Middle East After the Arab Spring) interview.
Mahmoud Makade, a resident of Cairo and the general secretary of Tomorrows Youth Liberal Organization answers our questions about the Egyptian uprising of 2011 and the path that re- created an elevated form of authoritarianism in the country.
To start off from an individual point of view, how can you describe the uprising, were you part of the movement then, how was the first mobilization setting off from the streets of Cairo?
I was the general secretary of Tomorrows Youth Liberal Organization since 2010 he was a university student in Cairo. For us the demonstrations did not start in 2011. We prepared for protesting before 2010, with the 6th of April movement. There were also people in support of different figures, Muslim
Brotherhood, socialists. There were various active political groups before the revolution. They were preparing huge protest for reforms in 14 January 2011.
When Bin Ali ran away from Tunisia and we heard about the Jasmine revolution impatience rose in Egypt. We were ready to ask for more. So we felt that we had the power at 25 th of January to march. We made banners in public areas around Cairo trying to ask people to make a demonstration against Hosni Mubarak.
We were surprised because we didn’t accept this turnout.
So why do you think they joined the protest, then?
First, in the last ten years there was a certain date for protesting in squares with a demand. This started with 9 th of April 2003 when American invaded Iraq. It was the first time when Egyptian people protested against the regime. This was the first time after 1952 they started to chant against the head of government.
Then what happened in 2004 remained crucial. The Kefaya- كفاية (Enough) movement said no for extension and no for heritability. There was a new opening in 2005 when Ayman Nour was a candidate of the Liberal Party against Hosni Mubarak. But the conclusion was the fraud elections and then they
arrested him for 5 years.
6 April Movement was one of the most important social protests but still, it was not massive. So, 25 January came like a carnival for us. It was a result of the struggling of almost 7 years. In 2005 we weren’t more than 200-300 protestors when we were chanting against Hosni Mubarak. In January we were 250 000 in
60 minutes at Tahrir square.
The popular congestion came with the high prices and the non-changing rates of poverty and unemployment. 12 million Egyptians live in the suburbs and they were upset and had enough. So we used these problems against Hosni Mubarak.
We used another technique, which was really important. It was the slums they are not organized by the government. So we tried to communicate with youth groups that are not related to political parties. We used it for football fans and we succeed to communicate with them. Al-Ahly and Al-Zamalek Ultras fans, we
couldn’t have this revolution without them.
The difference from any protests since 2005 to 2011 was that 2005 wasn’t a mass movement. The mass movement made a revolution. What about the influence of workers on the revolution?
The workers have their story with strikes since the 1970s; they had a lot of important strikes since 2010 until the military coup until 2013. The 2013 coup repressed the worker movement like any other movement in Egypt. Between the strikes of the 1980s and now there is a difference. The slogans were different. In
The 1970s there were chanting for democracy and freedom now today they only say functional slogans, not for broader ones. Their outlook is a certain target.
Strikes took place in Mahalla textile workers In Mahalla 2008 they smashed the statue of Hosni Mubarak with their shoes. During the 18 days of the revolution, they used civil disobedience, most of them didn’t go to work.
The Copts have supported the revolution and experienced the military-policy brutality in and in the aftermath of the fall of Mubarak like the Maspero events.
How about their position now with the Sisi government? It is said that the Copts support Sisi. Can you name some of the reasons for this support?
In the Tahrir uprising, the head of the Coptic church Pope Shenouda III told the Christian Egyptians not to join the protests against Hosni Mubarak. The pope was really popular and they really liked him, but the Christian youth kept sharing videos on the Internet that meant ‘we respect the pope we got his orders but we are Egyptian and we have the right of revolution and be against Hosni Mubarak’.
The Christians were one of the main actors of the Egyptian Revolution. Unfortunately, many accidents happened. From the radical Islamists in many cities there were attacks and also they destroyed a church in Cairo. They cut an ear of Christian man. When a Christian governor was elected in Qena they protested in front of his office and because of the protests, the government replaced him. There were speeches from people around Morsi with negative statements.
That is what made them stand by anyone who will topple the Muslim Brotherhood. They didn’t want Muslims to reach authority. Until 1952 there was no difference between Muslims, Jews, Christians. For more than 60 years the military rule they destroyed this togetherness. The huge part of the Muslims in
Egypt sees Christians just as guests and they should leave and I am not kidding they have monsters in church for attacking Muslims.
On the other hand, Christians think that they own Egypt and the Muslims came from Arabia and they forced Egyptian people to convert to Islam and Egypt is a Christian country once the Muslims will leave it will be Coptic again.
The regime of Sisi is playing with fire and is double-faced. It says that it is protecting Copts from Muslim groups but Sisi was arresting people who were eating at Ramadan, at the same time he is arresting Christian people and accusing them that they are Muslim Brotherhood.
What about the popular faces that appeared after Tahrir? Bloggers, alternative media and revolution were an important point of discussion. Where are those people today?
They were a lot of public figures like Yusri Fuda, Moataz Matar, Reem Majid, Basem Yousif who were really speaking with the voice of the revolution. These voices are silent now. Some of them were depressed, felt helpless and they saw their selves like they did something wrong they are disappointed that the
revolution ended like this. Some left Egypt, some are in Turkey, some are banned on TV.
In Morsi era the media-revolution relations were different. He tried to push the public figures and make them close circles but he didn’t arrest them and put a censor on them but the Sisi regime is doing it directly. He is doing it directly to the public figures not to show their ideas.
What were the new parties that were born from the movement of the revolution and were crucial for the movement itself?
I think the most important one was ‘No to Military Trials for Civilians’. University students like Mona Seif led it. She was a 19-year- old student now in the jail for 3 years. They charged her with the protest law.
A lot of feminist groups started since the revolution and it was very important for women. The problem of the movements was that they didn’t work well together that is why we are seeing this picture now.
Most of them lay on the ground in front of the tank or depressed in their home or dead or prison in his cell. Some of the parties who showed up in the revolution led by businessman Naguib Sawiris and also Amr Musa today they are today pro Sisi.
We know that under the Sisi regime not only Muslim Brotherhood but also people from different groups are arrested like fans, students what kind of organizations do they come from what are they sentenced for?
What is happening in Egypt now is arresting anyone who is trying to think, anyone with creative ideas from every part of the society. It can be said that it was the same in the 1952 military coup. There is a resemblance between the eras. They prepare the charge before each one is arrested with no investigation.
When they judge someone they put the label the terrorist organization.
The regime is judging with terror even pro Sisi people are getting arrested. So in your opinion would there still be a coup no matter who governed like if there wasn’t an Islamist government would there still be a coup? I think that who ever controlling Egypt after the revolution would have the same faith. It wouldn’t matter if it is leftist liberal Islamism. But Morsi made mistakes with rebels and the national coalition. The Egyptian revolution made this coup easier.
On the other hand Morsi trusted Sisi, which turned out to be one of his main mistakes. When Morsi made the ministries he was thinking Sisi agreed with theMuslim Brotherhood. He was saying that the Muslim Brotherhood Sisi made Islam entering the Egyptian army.
In this atmosphere is there a place for free jurisdiction?
In 11 February 2011 our problem was the police till killing arresting and torturing us. Before, we trusted the army and courts more or less. Today we don’t trust anyone nor the court and the army and it is a huge problem that Egypt faces.
After the coup the trust between the people army and court is over. I don’t know where it will take us for sure there are honest judges but the problem is the system itself. Judges working in the Mubarak regime are still in power. The stability of all our ministries was necessary for a victory. So it was clear that the
revolution was not finished in Egypt we need independence of judges we need to have main government organizations to change army and police.
Political activity in Egypt stopped at 3 July we do protests sometimes we try to protest and invite people to continue the revolution each time we protest the government arrests most of our group.
The vice president of our organization was shot by a gun when he was protesting he is still in the hospital. The Egyptian government attacked our main office and throw our stuff at the street now they are pushing us not to open office again. The political is linked with the economy there is no economic development without
democracy there is no democracy without freedom there is no freedom without being safe and there is no safety for Egyptians before national consensus. For that there has to be unity among Egyptian people, there has to be transitional justice.
Sisi after the 2nd of June 2013 became a main part of the problem, the only solution is him leaving. Sisi is trying to calm the people down but there will be a spark that will start an explosion. Maybe this explosion will be kind of a hunger revolution and I hope that won’t happen as a hunger revolution with high
consequences. Or maybe this explosion will be the national consensus between the rebel parties that was separated in the Egyptian revolution.
There are millions who adore Sisi but every day he loses support. That was clear when he was candidate people didn’t go to box. Every political, economic, social failure feeds the unpopularity. The problems increased after the revolution but in Sisi time it got worse. He said that he would build building units for people in the slums, but nothing. The economic situation will destroy Sisi because it is not
sustainable. All the rebels are arrested and there are more than 40 000 political prisoners, the government here doesn’t build houses but jails.
So as a last word national consensus is a must. This was our mistake in the revolution. This is what we will try to reach first.