Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A conversation with a young man in Tahrir Square | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Away from what is being said outside Egypt, especially by those – regardless of whether they are Arabs or foreigners – who are seeking to portray the crisis using elaborate and ready-made analysis, I spoke with one of the young Egyptian protest leaders in Tahrir Square via telephone, and he spoke logically and rationally about the “Our Egypt” project.

The first words that the young Egyptian Ahmed al-Asily said to me were, “we need the voices of wisdom now more than ever, we need to build democracy in our country, we know that this will not happen overnight, but what is important is that our journey has begun, and that is why we are in Tahrir Square.” Of course, my first question to him was: who is leading you, and what do you want? He replied “nobody is leading us; we are aware that in Egypt there are forces fighting for power, and there are opportunists, but we only want somebody to achieve our demands.”

Regarding the West’s championing of Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, al-Asily said: “There may be people who support him, but there are also others who do not want him. Of course, we saw how the Egyptian opposition denied that it had authorized ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime.” He added “external forces are promoting ElBaradei because he is a known face, and they are reassured by him. We understand that, but for us there is no difference, whether ElBaradei comes to power, or Omar Suleiman, or if the President remains to the end of his term, so long as our demands are met…there are those who disagree with me, but the principal objective is for our demands to be achieved.”

As for the protestors demands, al-Asily said: “It is very simple…Firstly: we demand that electoral voting is conducted on the principle of national identity, rather than using ‘electoral cards’, which are currently distributed from police stations at specific times. Secondly: two constitutional amendments must be made, namely the [constitutional] article regarding who has the right to run in the presidential elections, and a [constitutional] article limiting the presidency for a maximum of two terms, regardless of whether these [presidential] terms last for 4 or 5 years. Thirdly: (and this is something that al-Asily says has already been achieved) we must not be subject to oppression again!”

Al –Asily also said “we know that it will take some time for our demands to be met, and we are trying to calm the people. We do not want chaos, and we know that building a democratic country takes time, but what is most important is that we have begun.”

The above conversation portrays a different picture about what is happening in Egypt than what is being depicted by some deceitful satellite channels, or by the West and its media. The youth movement in Egypt is aware of the internal power struggle within the country, just as it is aware of the existence of Western-backed opportunists, and the presence of some who wish to rub salt on Egyptian, and even Arab, wounds. However the youth movement is without a leader and this is a potential danger. As one observer told me “politics is like theatre…the moment the curtains go up the actor must look out upon the audience, and the fear is that the audience will look up at an actor without the necessary credentials”.

As long as the Egyptian youth are saying that it doesn’t matter who brings about the change, whether it is the President, or Omar Suleiman, then it would be best for the regime to embrace this movement, and transform it into a reformist movement under the umbrella of legitimate institutions, for the good of Egypt. This would be a more favorable option than giving power to the opportunists, who do not want the best for Egypt. If the regime is able to embrace these protests, then you might say that the protests were a “blessing in disguise”.