Alaa Abd El Fattah, Egyptian open Internet and political activist, speaking in his first interview since he was released last week after 115 days in jail.
In a Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with one of Egypt’s most prominent dissidents, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, speaking in his first extended interview after nearly four months behind bars. An open Internet and political activist, Fattah has been at the forefront of the struggle for change in Egypt for many years and has the distinction of having been actively persecuted by Egypt’s past four successive rulers. Facing a potential return to prison in the coming months, Fattah sits down with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous to discuss his case, Egypt’s future and its ongoing crackdown on activists. "They are on a sentencing frenzy," Fattah says of Egypt’s military rulers. "This is not just about me. It’s almost as if it’s a war on a whole generation." Special thanks to Omar Robert Hamilton and Sherine Tadros.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive. Egypt’s electoral commission announced Sunday the country’s presidential elections will be held in late May. At this point, the vote is widely expected to be won by Egypt’s former military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who announced his resignation from the military last week to run for office. Sisi led the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi last summer. Since then, some 2,500 people have been killed, and at least 16,000 people arrested.
In our global broadcast exclusive today, we spend the hour with one of Egypt’s most prominent dissidents, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, speaking in his first extended interview since his release from prison after nearly four months behind bars. An open Internet and political activist, Alaa has been at the forefront of the struggle for change in Egypt for many years and has the distinction of having been actively persecuted by the past four successive rulers in Egypt. In 2006, under the Mubarak regime, he was detained at a protest calling for independence of the judiciary and was jailed for 45 days. In 2011, he emerged as a leading face of the revolution that forced Mubarak out of office. Later that year, under the rule of the military council that replaced Mubarak, he was jailed again, this time for 56 days. His son, Khaled, was born while he was behind bars. Then, during the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, Alaa was issued an arrest warrant as part of a government crackdown on critical voices.
This past November, after the military’s ouster of Morsi and a brutal attack on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, the interim Cabinet issued a draconian protest law to further crack down on any opposition. Dozens of people were arrested the next day at a protest near Parliament, among them Alaa’s sister, Mona, who was eventually released. Despite the No to Military Trials activist group publicly admitting to organizing the protest, prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Alaa as the organizer of the event. He was jailed in the same prison ward as other leading activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel of the April 6th Youth Movement, as well as Ahmed Douma, whose health is deteriorating every day.
After 115 days behind bars, Alaa was finally brought before a judge, who released him on bail. His case is still ongoing. He says he expects to be convicted and sent back to prison. In the first interview since his release, Alaa discusses his imprisonment, the wave of repression in Egypt and the state of the revolution. He sat down with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who interviewed him in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Alaa Abd El-Fattah, welcome to Democracy Now!
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Thank you.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Let’s start by talking about the night of your arrest. Explain exactly what happened.
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: They broke into my house around 9:00 p.m. Like a foolish special forces squad [inaudible]—I don’t know, they looked like guys coming out of a Hollywood movie, like with their faces concealed and with heavy weapons and bulletproof vests and so on. And they just shattered the door and walked into the house, beat me and beat my wife. Fortunately, my son was sleeping, and they did not touch him. And then they started collecting all electronic devices, like mobile phones and laptops and so on, even though they did not have a search warrant. They only had an arrest warrant. The beating was because I protested this. And then I was blindfolded and transferred to a car.
Before they blindfolded me, I—they took me out of the house, and before they blindfolded me, I realized I saw them—they had like the whole neighborhood at gunpoint so that nobody would interfere. It was a massive squad, several cars and, you know, tens of people, tens of heavily armed policemen. And then they blindfolded me and transferred me—later on, I figured out that that’s the Cairo security headquarters forces, but I didn’t know at the time where I was. And they played tricks with me, like when they moved me from room to room, they would walk me outside so that it’d feel like I’m moving from a building to a building, and, you know, stuff like that. I spent the whole night there, thrown on a floor with my hands tied to my back, my eyes blindfolded with a very dirty rag that—I mean, I actually had an infection in the eye because of it. I was bleeding. I was beaten with the back of some weapon, I’m not sure which. But my head was bleeding. And it was quite cold. And they left me there for 12 hours in that condition. And then, they kept moving me several times at night.
And then, in the next morning, I found—they took me to meet the prosecutors. Now, the prosecutors are supposed to be part of the judiciary, and you’re—police are supposed to move you to them. They’re supposed to be independent, and it’s very important to set boundaries between them and the police. But what’s been going on for a while is that the prosecutors move the prisons, move the police stations, even judges. You know, there are hearings, there are court hearings, that happen inside prisons. Actually, most court hearings now are happening inside branches of the police academy. So the whole justice system now is explicitly, you know, not even in a secret way, but explicitly and overtly controlled by the police.
So, anyway, I faced the prosecutor and asked for my lawyers. They spent a couple of hours trying to convince me to cooperate without my lawyers, and then they gave in, and my lawyers were brought in. And I was questioned. Turns out I’m not just accused of protesting without permit, but also of armed robbery. And I was transferred to prison. Then, immediately, the treatment, in terms at least of bodily safety and so on, was improved, you know, so I was placed in a relatively clean and, by Egyptian standards, spacious cells, which means quite small, but at least I had it for my own. And I was allowed visits, and I was allowed access to my lawyers and so on, so the very basic rights were allowed immediately after.
For the first month, we were placed in—we were placed in solitary. We were basically placed in solitary, but for the first month we were not allowed out of our cells except for one hour per day. We were not—we were not placed close to each other, so, you know, we couldn’t talk and exchange stuff across cells and so on.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Explain what solitary is like. How do you occupy your time?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: You go crazy. You sleep a lot. So, you know, it certainly feels like clinical depression, which it might also be, clinical depression. But [inaudible] the time, so reading, writing.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The Australian Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste was also imprisoned in the same wing as you for a month before he was transferred to another wing of the prison complex. What did you discuss, the two of you?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Well, there was a lot of explaining. The guy, Peter, is obviously—I mean, he’s quite experienced writer. He worked in many crazy situations, but not this particular kind of crazy. And he had only spent, I think, two weeks in Cairo before he got arrested. So, we spent a lot of time just trying to give him enough context to understand what’s going on, also the legal proceedings that he is involved in and so on. But we also talked about literature, and we talked about Africa. I lived in South Africa. He lived in Kenya. And so, like just, I mean, either we discussed the politics of different sub-Saharan African countries or just, you know, imagined being in the savanna somewhere outside of this horrific context and this horrific place.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah speaking in his first extended interview since his release from prison after nearly four months behind bars. He’s interviewed in Cairo, Egypt, by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. When we come back, Alaa talks about the likelihood of being convicted again and sent back to prison. Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our exclusive interview with prominent Egyptian political activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah. He was released last week after 115 days in jail. On Sunday, he sat down for his first interview since his release, speaking with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: What is the likelihood of you being convicted and sent back to prison?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: It’s quite likely. First of all, this is—they’ve created these special terrorism courts. Now, they pretend they’re not special courts. They pretend they are regular courts, that it’s just that they’ve—that they’ve formed separate circuits that are, you know, completely free and dedicated for their imminent terrorism and protest law charges so that they could speed the legal process. Criminal procedures in Egypt—well, all legal procedures in Egypt are quite very slow. They tend to take months and months, if not years sometimes.
It’s a big case, even though it’s completely ridiculous, in terms of—you know, it serves—it has no purpose except, you know, serving the regime. There’s no sense of justice in it. I already have a suspended sentence, based on a very colorful case that was started by the military prior to Morsi’s election and then was dropped. The prosecutor dropped the charge for lack of evidence. And then, when we started complaining about human rights violations committed by the Muslim Brotherhood government, they would revive the case again. But the point is, I have a one-year suspended sentence, which means that if I’m—if I’m accused of even the smallest misdemeanor, I’m going to spend that year plus whatever else I’m getting. So, it’s highly likely that I’m going back to prison, or at least that’s their plan.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: How does that affect you? How does that affect your life, your family, knowing that you will probably be sent back to prison?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: It, of course—I mean, it’s quite horrific, obviously. Yeah, I mean, we have plans to fight this, both in court and out of court, obviously. I mean, these are not real courtrooms, this is not true justice, so you have to exert political pressures via protesting, via exposing the irregularities in the process and so on. So we are busy doing that. And also we’re busy planning a solid defense strategy. But yeah, but that’s going to be my life for a while, that I’m—because even if we get rid of that case, because of that suspended sentence, it remains hanging over my head for three years, at least. And also, it’s clear—I mean, I’ve been arrested before, but it’s—it was always clear in the previous times that they never planned to sentence me. It was like they used the pretrial detention as a form of punishment, as a form of executive detention. And so we always knew that, you know, it was just about stifling that voice for a while or about, you know, exerting punishment that would only last for a few months. But this time it’s clear.
And it’s not just about me. I mean, there’s been activists in Alexandria who have been sentenced for five years, I think—no, two years. Two years. And the verdict was confirmed in the appeals process. There’s been several student groups that have been sentenced, anything from one year to five. These have been common. There’s also a couple of cases where students have been sentenced with crazy, like 14 years and 17 years and 11 years and so on. So, they are on a sentencing frenzy. I mean, this is not just about me. And it’s almost as if it’s a war on a whole generation.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Let me just switch gears and ask you about some of the letters that you wrote from prison. In December, you wrote a letter to your two younger sisters, Mona and Sanaa, which was delivered a month later. And in it, you write, "What is adding to the oppression that I feel is that I find that this imprisonment is serving no purpose. It is not resistance, and there is no revolution." Explain what you meant.
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Well, that was in contrast to the previous times in which I was arrested, in which I was arrested at a—either at a moment of, like in 2006, it was a moment of peak mobilization for the pro-democracy movement back then, or in 2011, it was immediately before a very strong wave in between two massacres. So it was clear, and in both cases there was a—there was a sense of urgency in the facts of my arrest. Like in 2011, the plan wasn’t to arrest me; the plan was to prosecute me, and they thought that this would make me—well, the military prosecutors—this was not civilian—they thought that this would, you know, shake me. So, back then, I kind of planned my own arrest, in a way. You know, I felt in control, and it was clearly part of a struggle. And there was a strong reaction on the outside that was, you know, supportive, and I felt that I’m being supportive of this strong reaction, you know, like I had a purpose there.
This time, it was very different. This time, it’s a moment of defeat, to be honest. Everything that’s been happening since—you know, at least since the end of July 2013, if not month before that, has been, you know, part of a massive counter-revolutionary wave that has compromised a lot of individuals and parties and political groups, deeply compromised them. But also, part of it was that that kind of crackdown, with the massive arrests and so on, it could have been broken if there was a strong enough reaction back then. This was the first case where they used the protest law. They’ve only managed to sentence people via the protest law. You know, basically, if you participate in a protest and there is a single individual in that protest, even if not known to you, even if that’s not part of the purpose of the protest, who happens to carry a knife, for instance, then you have committed a crime. So, it’s—so if there’s a protest, they can arrest you and sentence you, you know, not just—I mean, they’ve always been able to just arrest you on completely arbitrary, but it’s now possible to sentence you very easily, and judges could claim that this is, you know, the letter of the law, not—they’re not being—they’re not being ordered by the executive order or anything like that now. That’s not true, but still. So, the reaction back then wasn’t—you know, it could have been broken then. There was a much bigger window for action then, and it didn’t happen. So that’s what I was expressing.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Did you take part in the June 30th demonstrations?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Very reluctantly so. I—there was this—now, I consider it quite serious. There was this attempt to retain our margin, so we actually did a—all the people who were complaining about collusion with the military and with the police and so on were accused of being—well, accused by—you know, by our colleagues of being infantile, the infantile left. I think that’s a Lenin expression; doesn’t matter. But anyway, so, you know, we were supposed to be too stupid to realize the complex politics of it all and so on. So we staged a couple of protests that were under the—under the label and banner of the infantile left, where the point of them was to chant against the military and the police and the Muslim Brotherhood, you know, not—and to be confrontational and so on. But it was such a crazy time. The state was basically mobilizing people to go out. And so, any protest that you did was joined by tens of thousands who were out there because the state—practically, because the state told them to be out there. And so, even our protests were just joined by throngs of people who were saying yes to the military, yes to the police. And there was—you had no space, like your voice couldn’t be heard. So I participated in that.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Do you feel it was a mistake, given what is happening now?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: I don’t feel it was mistake, because it was already—it was already set in stone. I mean, this path was—I think we started warning of an imminent coup in December, because the way the Muslim—yes, I think it was in December, or at least January, and when the Muslim Brotherhood started not just depending on the police force for violence, but on their own cadres, and then when they completely adopted a sectarian discourse, inciting against Christians, and then allowing their allies—or allying, aligning themselves with Salafis and jihadis, it just became clear that they’re walking a path that’s going to just lead to the military taking over. And a few of us spent months trying to stop that, either by warning them or by warning those who were supportive of military intervention or by trying desperately to create a more grassroots movement, so that the complications that the Muslim Brotherhood regime was creating would be resolved via, you know, a more genuine, popular approach.
But the Muslim Brotherhood government was—I mean, they refused to give any concessions in anything, which made politics basically impossible. Like you couldn’t win even very localized—you couldn’t even reach a compromise in very localized struggles around, you know, issues of service delivery in specific small towns. They just balked, which made—which made the coup inevitable. By April, the coup was showing its face, right? So, yeah, I was already defeated by April. So, it didn’t really—there was hardly anything we could do. I mean, we kept trying, but there was hardly anything we could do. And also, the Muslim Brotherhood kept—I mean, they could not see the real threat. They kept treating us as the threat—which is not completely illogical, because we were a threat to their project. But the more eminent danger was the military, and they could not see it at all. So during these months in which the coup was being planned, Morsi’s prosecutor, the one he broke all constitutional rules in order to install, was busy creating cases for me and Ahmed Douma, as well. The only cases that he filed were against Bassem Youssef, me, Ahmed Douma, you know, a couple of people like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Egyptian political activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, speaking in his first interview since he was released last week after 115 days in jail. He is being interviewed by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo, Egypt. When we come back, Alaa talks about his family’s history of activism and dissent, including his father and his sister, how university students who have joined political protests have come under increasing attack, and about the future of Egypt. All in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue our exclusive interview with Egyptian political activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous spoke to him in Cairo, Egypt, this weekend in his first interview after being released from prison.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: There is a rich tradition of activism and dissent in your family. Both your sisters are very politically active. Your cousin is very politically active, and so are your parents. Your father was imprisoned several times, one of which your younger sister Mona was born during. This pattern was repeated when Khaled, your son, was born when you were imprisoned in 2011. I want to quote to you something that your father said in early January at a press conference talking about the crackdown on protesters. He said, "I’m sorry, my son. I’m sorry to your generation. We had dreams and ambitions to bequeath to you a democratic society that preserves human dignity. But you only inherited the prison cells that once confined me." Any comment on your father’s words?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Well, I did respond to them in this epic article I smuggled out of prison about what my inheritance is and which—you know, both my inheritance directly from my parents and also the collective inheritance we all inherited from the previous generations, with its murky—you know, and this whole military versus the Brotherhood thing is born out of the intra-World War era, and we have to pay its price now, and it’s just completely crazy. It’s like most of this country has been born after the end of the Cold War, and none of this makes any sense to any of us. But you have these people talking about Nasserism and neo-Nasserism, and you have these people talking about reversing the mistake of dissolving the Ottoman Empire.
But, yeah, I also worry that—like, what is Khaled, my son, going to face? Because it’s not just that we—we hand over the prison cell; it’s also the things that are actually getting worse. The state institutions have lost any semblance of doing their advertised function. Like, if you spend any time in prisons in Egypt, it makes you wonder, I mean: What is the function of the criminal justice system? And it has absolutely nothing to do with security or confronting crime and so on. Most people in prison are there for very petty crimes. A very, very massive number is there for debt. There’s hardly anyone in prison that’s a danger to society in that sense.
But you could extend that to, like, the public hospitals are—most of them are not functioning at all. Like the smaller ones are really not functioning at all. They’re just empty shells. The ones that do function, it’s quite random what you’re going to get there. You know, the doctors are trying hard, but there’s absolutely no resources, and it’s so corrupt. Basically, there’s a very high possibility that, you know, the treatment you get there is—that you’d be better off not getting it.
Schools, universities—and now, this year, universities have just become not places of learning, but places of conflict and places where—and it’s the whole discourse from the state, and even from the university staff and so on, is about how youth are a problem that we need to control. So, now Al-Azhar University, Al-Azhar has a higher percentage of Islamic students. There are more Azhar students—you know, more students from Azhar in prison than from any other university. More students from Azhar have been killed in the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in than from any other university. So they’re just treating Al-Azhar as—even the staff that works there, they’re just treating the Azhar students as a security threat. And so, now it has massive walls that look like the apartheid wall in Palestine. They have armed anti-riot police present in—you know, around the university, ready to intervene at any moment in time, if—and students have been killed inside their dorms.
I think it was going in decline for a long time, but it has become a completely dysfunctional state with coercion and oppression as its one and only tool, not just its main tool. Even the Mubarak regime was a much more complicated organism. And it’s not just terrorism that people—that they’re trying to treat with only, you know—with security measures only. It’s everything. It’s like housing they’re trying to—you know, people are building—[in Arabic], how do you say that?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Informal?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: Yeah, so like, you know, people are building informal settlements, because the housing prices are crazy now. There are many well-documented reasons for why we have a housing crisis and how—and there are many proposed solutions and so on, but they’ve been doing nothing about it for years and years and years, and people have been basically just inventing their own solutions. But people have been inventing their own solutions. This usually entails, you know—informal settlements could be dangerously built, or they—it could be that they’re built on agricultural land, which means, you know, that we have less space to grow food and so on.
So they decided to solve this via security measures. They just go in, storm the place, demolish it and arrest people. And so everything—I could cite probably six examples of economic or social problems that are being solved just via security, and that’s it. So if this is what Khaled is inheriting, then—and I think that’s what motivates me, that this is a completely untenable and unlivable situation, and it’s why it’s worth fighting against. But we had a couple of years in which we felt that it was possible to make major victories, that a dignified life is possible, a different world is possible. And it looks very bleak right now.
Right now I have to tell people that all state institutions are completely corrupt and need to be dismantled. And this scares them, because—so, you know, what do you do after? And obviously there are also other threats that they’re scared about, that they think, reasonably so, that the vacuum created by even diminishing the power of things like the military is quite dangerous. Armed insurrections by Salafi and jihadi are happening around our borders. People see Sinai as a threat. Obviously, Sinai is a state-created threat. It’s been—you know, there is a war there now, where the state is—where the military is using tactics that we’ve only seen from—well, I was going to say only from Israelis, but from the Israelis and the Americans and the British and so on, but, you know, from an occupying alien force, where they—I mean, it’s almost as if they’re copying from the Israelis. They actually uproot olive trees, demolish houses—you know, when an attack against the military happens, they go and demolish the houses of the families that are related to the people they accuse of the attack. They’re fighting this war with Apaches, you know, not with [inaudible]. And things have been that in Sinai for years and years and years and years and years.
And so, obviously now, where the state only aligns via Hellfire missiles, it becomes a space where human trafficking and drug trafficking and arms trafficking and also terrorism and jihadis and so on flourish. But then you use that fact to make people live in fear, fear of Sinai, which is part of the country, which is a part of the country that we went to war for and, you know, people died for. And now it’s being treated as an alien threat. And now it’s being—it has become—I mean, they have mismanaged it until—I’m not—I mean, there is a real threat. Yes, there is a real threat. They created it. But now we’re stuck with it. And so, people are scared of change.
And I somehow have to find a way to explain to people why we need to dismantle the state and build a different one and appease their fears and actually find a way of confronting all the chaos that they are unleashing right now and all the chaos that they will continue to unleash and all the chaos that will be unleashed when they collapse. And they are going to collapse. That current military regime is—I mean, it could last for years and years. But this current state of emergency is not temporary. I mean, that’s—violence is the only thing they have. They’re absolutely incapable of even producing discourse that young people, even young people who are not revolutionary, you know, or radical in any way, just even people who would love to believe them, and they keep alienating them. They keep alienating them. It was very clear in the referendum when basically most—almost all young voters did not show up. The discourse they use is so poor, you know, that it’s just—and you’re talking about most of the country if you’re saying young people. But even—even the people who believed them, the people who rallied to Sisi and, you know, created the Sisi cult and so on, they were being promised security, stability and food and work and so on. And they have absolute—and they have an energy crisis, which they’re going to solve with coal, which is going to create a massive environmental and health crisis. The healthcare is in collapse. Education is in collapse. Staples are completely dependent on—we’re completely dependent on imports for food staples, which means that we’re very dependent on hard currency. And, you know, their plan is to just borrow a lot of money from Saudia and Emirate, and that’s not going to last.
And when they collapse, it’s going to be scary. It’s not going to be—you know, when Mubarak collapsed, it was beautiful. And there were months in which the regime was so—I mean, they never lost complete control, but there was—but the revolution was so strong, and the regime was so weakened, that at least in public space and in the street and so on people were liberated and could imagine a completely different world. The moment even when they collapse, unless we do something about it, you know, the sense that is going to prevail is not a sense of liberation but a sense of fear. And that’s going to get the worst reactions out of people. We’ve seen that when Morsi’s rule collapsed. Everybody was scared of everybody. Everybody was being paranoid. And so, for a couple of months during July and—most July—July and August, there was civilian-on-civilian violence. I think something around 200 people were killed in civilian-on-civilian violence that had absolutely no logic and was so chaotic and so—so scary. Even though the police and the military were all over the place, police completely collapsed in January 2011, and we spent months with no authority on the ground. But they were safe months. You know, people were not killing each other. There wasn’t a wave—there wasn’t a crime wave. Prisons were opened. All the detainees were out in the street, and nothing happened, nor not much happened; while you had these months of absolute military control, but people were scared and paranoid, and so we had chaos. And I think we’re going to get more of that, unless we do something about it.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: You’ve said the word "defeat" a couple of times. Do you think the revolution is over?
ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: No. I mean, I don’t know if the revolution is over or not. That’s a—you know, the revolution is a historical process that you—you can really only talk—I mean, when we talk about the revolution while living it, we are talking about a dream, you know, a wish, something that we’re trying to fulfill, something that we’re trying to create. But you can only talk about it as being over or not and so on in the distance, you know, while you’re looking back. And so, when I say "defeat," I mean, you know, in a sense of in a battle.
But we’ll continue to exist, and since we’ll continue to exist, there will continue to be other struggles and so on. It’s not like you have a choice. I mean, an individual might have a choice, if they have a way out. But most people don’t have a choice. You know, we cannot all emigrate, and it’s not like migrant labor gets a good deal anywhere in the world. So, I mean, if what you’re trying to do is to achieve a life of dignity and safety and prosperity for yourself and for your loved ones, then you have no choice. But even if you’re just trying to live, the current situation is so bad that, you know, you’ll end up struggling. Like these waves of strikes that are just happening right now, they’re mostly by people who probably were very supportive of the overthrow of Morsi, but also of Sisi. You know, they’ve joined in these—I’m guessing, obviously. I’m saying it just fits the pattern. But then they have to go on strike because their wages are not good enough. And, you know, the unemployed—so, you have constant flow of unemployed youth. What are they going to do? I mean, if the revolution is defeated, they’re not going to cease to exist, so they will continue to resist. They might resist by joining the informal economy, which means that they’ll have to confront the state constantly, you know, and violently to fight for a piece of the street in which they could sell something or, you know, set up something. They might resist through politics, you know, and protest politics, essentially, because party politics is not going to get them anywhere. But they’re not just going to disappear.
But for it to be a revolution, you have to have a narrative that brings all the different forms of resistance together, and you have to have hope. You know, you have to be—it has to be that people are mobilizing, not out of desperation, but out of a clear sense that something other than this life of despair is possible. And that’s, right now, a tough one, so that’s why right now I talk about defeat. I talk about defeat because I cannot even express hope anymore, but hopefully that’s temporary.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s one of Egypt’s most prominent political activists, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, speaking with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in his first extended interview since his release from prison after nearly four months behind bars in Egypt. Special thanks to Omar Robert Hamilton and Sherine Tadros.
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