Morsi Opponent: Democracy The Path Out Of Violence

In Egypt on Wednesday, a judge ordered the release of former president and strongman Hosni Mubarak from jail. The move threatens to further roil political tensions in the country. For one view of Egypt's state of affairs, Audie Cornish talks with liberal parliamentarian, activist and political scholar Amr Hamzawy. Hamzawy is a founding member of the Egyptian Freedom Party.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

A court has ordered that former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak be released from jail, at least temporarily. The news adds another coal to what is already a white-hot fire in Egypt. More than a thousand people have died, most supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, in a brutal crackdown by government troops.

The Egyptian military has been running the country since Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood were toppled in early July. With Mubarak's release, the country could come full-circle, from his reign as a secular dictator who suppressed the Brotherhood to Morsi, a democratically-elected Islamist leader, and now to the collapse of his government. With Mubarak perhaps about to go free, it's Morsi who is being held and the Brotherhood once again on the outs.

We're going to check in now with Amr Hamzawy. He was a liberal member of the Egyptian parliament, an activist during the revolution that produced Mubarak's resignation in 2011, and a political scholar.

Welcome back to the program.

AMR HAMZAWY: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: Let's start with the order to release Hosni Mubarak. Do you support this move? And what do you think this could mean for the nation's already bitter politics?

HAMZAWY: Well, first of all it indicates the very fact that we continue to lack two and a half years after the (unintelligible) revolution, 2011, we continue to lack concepts and holistic program for transitional justice. Politically it adds to the fact of different contested issues, which we have in Egypt, creating a massive polarization in our political environment, an environment that is very difficult to pacify as of now.

CORNISH: We've heard many Egyptians say that the military intervention was justified, people who were dissatisfied with the leadership of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. But given the violence that's come after, do you see people rethinking that?

HAMZAWY: I hope so. I mean, I opposed the interference of the army in Egyptian politics, no matter how we differ or disagree in Egypt on evaluating the elected president's performance. And as far as I'm concerned, he was an elected president but did not act as a president for all Egyptians. I described what happened as a military coup. And I have been under attack in Egypt as one of the very few liberals who opposed that intervention.

CORNISH: Do you think the military can be trusted to put Egypt on a path towards a democratically-elected and civilian leadership? Do you trust them to turn that power over?

HAMZAWY: I trust in the capacity of Egyptians, hopefully not too late, to push once again for a democratic path. The military ruled Egypt between 1952 and up until 2011, and did not produce a democratic government. In the last two and half years, we have been pushed around. And here we are, once again, standing in a situation where human rights violations are being perpetuated and impunity.

CORNISH: At the same time, Mr. Hamzawy, you've suggested that this is a lonely position, that there are not very many people speaking out against the military right now.

HAMZAWY: It is. You know, I mean, you can count them on your two hands, in terms of the number of people advocating in the public space the position of pushing the country towards democratization, not accepting religious fascism, but not accepting military fascism as well and saying no to violence. Yes, we are very few. But my hope is that we will stick together.

We'll find a way to transcend the differences, which ruined Egypt's transition to democracy in the last two and a half years. We have to transcend that gap and see how we can push once again for a culture of human rights, protection of freedoms, and ultimately of democratization.

I myself, like many others, we are no longer welcomed guests to speak to Egyptians using television channels. So we are to an extent restricted, as well, in what we can say and how we can communicate. But we have to do it.

CORNISH: Amr Hamzawy, what's left of Egypt's liberal movement, when you look at Mohamed Elbaradei stepping down and obviously being - taking a lot of criticism for doing so. You described a hostile environment for your ideas. Is this a movement that has a future going forward?

HAMZAWY: You know, let me tell you that the majority of Egyptian liberals were willing to call in the army to interfere in Egyptian politics, and I've always said no. I believe that whoever welcomed the interference of the army, and whoever accepts to cooperate with that interference, has pushed Egyptian liberalism into dark and probably long-term crisis.

We are definitely in a crisis and there is not much left in terms of credibility for us in society. But our only bet is to continue to try and not to give up.

CORNISH: Amr Hamzawy, thank you so much for speaking with us.

HAMZAWY: My pleasure.

CORNISH: Amr Hamzawy is a founding member of Egypt's Liberal Freedom Party and a former member of the Egyptian Parliament which was dissolved last year.

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