Egyptian Activist Discusses Recent Elections
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Dalia Ziada is a 29-year-old Egyptian human rights activist and blogger. She's also a candidate for parliament, part of the new Eladl Party founded by young revolutionaries to promote a moderate religious and political agenda.
Dalia, welcome to the program.
DALIA ZIADA: Thank you. I'm happy to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: And how does it look for your candidacy?
ZIADA: You know, before an election, especially in my district, we were expecting that the people will vote for the young revolutionaries, but the probability of winning a seat is getting lower and lower. But, still, I'm happy for the Egyptian people. I believe that this is the real success for me, that the things that I have been fighting for for years as a human rights activist and civil rights activist is now happening: to see the people going to the polls, voting, believing in their country and in their future.
BLOCK: I'm curious. When you look at the results that are coming in and we're seeing the dominance, not just of the Muslim Brotherhood, but also of the ultra-conservative Salafi groups, the Noor Party, are you worried about what that might mean for Egypt, and also, in particular, for women in Egypt? Does it worry you?
ZIADA: Of course, it worries me very much. How they will behave regarding women. We have seen, especially the Salafi, you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, at the end of the day, is a political group and they keep changing according to what the people want. They don't really stick to religion as much as the Salafis. Salafis are extremists. And as we have seen during the election, they did not even want to put the names and the photos of their women candidates on the posters.
If this is the way we are acting with the women candidates, how we are going to act with other women in this society? It's already like a red flag.
BLOCK: Well, what's your understanding of what these Salafi ultra-conservatives intend for Egypt? When they talk about instituting Shariah law, for example, what do they mean?
ZIADA: Let me tell you some of their rules. For example, there are things that all women should be covered in niqab, which this (unintelligible) goes from head to toe. They believe that women should not be involved in any public activity. They should not be educated in anything which is not related to housekeeping and feeding of the children.
So if they really got control over our constitution, they will not accept articles that encourages women to be more involved and to be more active.
But so far, I, you know, want to rush into judgment. (Unintelligible) is now turning into a political group. Let's see what they are going to do.
BLOCK: I wonder, Ms. Ziada, as you think back as somebody who took part in the revolution from the beginning in Egypt, looking now at these results coming in, do you worry that everything that you were fighting for in Tahrir Square was in vain, that in fact things may end up worse than before? Or do you not see it that way?
ZIADA: Yes. Definitely, I'm worried, but you know, as someone who really believes in democracy, I have to respect people's choice. It's our very first experience with democracy since the time of pharaohs, since 7,000 years ago.
But, at the same time, I believe that civil society groups, young activists who came from Tahrir Square and were calling for certain rights and were calling for dignity, Egyptians should keep fighting to prepare for the next election. At that time, I'm sure people will be behaving better. You know, this thing about democracy is that it fixes itself.
BLOCK: You're saying democracy is able to fix itself?
ZIADA: Yeah. I think we will not stop here. This election is not the end of the world, but I think it's the very beginning.
BLOCK: Dalia Ziada, thank you very much for talking with us today.
ZIADA: Thank you.
BLOCK: That's Egyptian activist, Dalia Ziada, in Cairo. Earlier this year, she was a protester in Tahrir Square. She was on the ballot in Egypt's parliamentary elections to represent the neighborhood that includes Tahrir Square.
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