The 32-year-old Egyptian youth leader—part of a coalition that's trying to set the agenda for the future of his country—talks about the roadblocks to democracy that lie ahead
You've met with the military now. How is that process going?
We had just one meeting with them, a preliminary meeting just to organize ourselves and learn what they're thinking about. It wasn't a give-and-take meeting. And we said, "O.K., we need to meet you again because we now know what you're thinking, but you need to know what we are thinking." They welcomed that. They said, "Give us a call, and we'll try to meet you again later this week." We did give them a call. And they didn't give us any new timing for our next meeting. We're beginning to worry a bit.
You don't think they're interested?
We don't get that feeling. They just need to tell the public that they spoke to the youth.
What comes next?
We're looking forward to another meeting to tell them what we think is the plan for the near future. And especially that we have a lot of differences with them. If I may point out one or two: The first is the Cabinet. They're leaving the current Cabinet [in place] for some time. Most of it's from the former NDP officials, around 15 ministers are NDP members. [The National Democratic Party was in power without interruption since 1978.] And the public has not accepted that. The other thing, from our last meeting, they said that they're not planning to change that anytime soon, maybe three or four months, which I think we can't tolerate.
If you feel that things aren't going the way you expected them to, what do you do?
Well, as a matter of fact, today we are beginning to get this vibe, because this is the second time that they postponed the meeting. So if we don't get anything this week, we will get worried. We already have planned that there should be a gathering of a million in Tahrir Square this Friday [Feb. 18]. And it is going to be kind of celebrative, you know, for the revolution. But if we still get that vibe, and we don't get any positive feedback, we'll probably try to step it up a notch and maybe start demonstrations from different places in Cairo. Our most famous motto of our revolution was that the people want this regime down. That's our primary motto on Friday.
The Egyptian people are recapturing their dignity. What was it like being part of that?
We wanted to get out of the tyranny that we suffered from. We were fed up with a dictatorship, we needed to govern ourselves, and we really did need our dignity back. We all felt it when we were in the revolution, that we finally can get our heads up. And we were so powerless during the last 30 years that we thought that anyone can come and rule us, anyone can even give us away, inherit us like [Mubarak] was planning to give us to his son. But what happened on the 25th and especially on the 28th of January is that we said, "No, our dignity is good enough to resist all this. We're good enough for a better future."
Will this be known forever as the January 25th Revolution?
Probably, but we do have a problem, and I really need to tell you about it. Former NDP officials have nothing to do now, they are out of their jobs. So what they're thinking of right now, especially the latest secretary general, Hossam Badrawi, is forming a new party called the 25th of January's Revolution. They want to just seize that name and put it on a new NDP. That's one of our greatest fears now, because we don't want any person to steal the date of this revolution—it belongs to all the Egyptian people, from the far right to the far left, whatever their ideology is, because all of them have contributed some way or another.
Is anyone emerging as a leader you and your colleagues can support?
[Mohammed] ElBaradei was supposed to be one, but he denied any intention of running for president. I really can't guess now, but there is another important thing I would like to point out. This military council has suggested that they really want a quick handoff of power. And that means that they're going to do parliamentary elections within the next three or four months, followed by presidential elections. Doing that is going to be devastating for Egypt. It might seem that this is what we want—democracy as quick as possible and the military out of the picture—but I really beg to differ because the only organized political institution now that can run efficiently within three to four months is the Muslim Brotherhood. We don't want them winning the elections and then the army coming back and saying, "We'll have to come to power again." We're begging them to give us a chance, nine months at least, so that we can build ourselves and make up for the previous 30 years.
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