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Reem Ghaleb/the Gauntlet

Gauntlet Q&A: Sarwat Nafei

Former Egyptian senator talks about the nation’s troubled politics

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Egypt has endured political conflict since the Arab Spring protests in late 2010. A revolution in early 2011 ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year regime, leading to elections with Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood winning the vote. However, a year after coming to power, a coup ousted Morsi and placed civilian and jurist Adly Mansour as the interim president, although the military still maintains
control.

Protests and riots intensified after the ousting of Morsi, leaving Egypt split along sharp political lines. The Gauntlet recently spoke with former Egyptian senator and committee of national defense and international affairs member
Sarwat Nafei to understand the current situation.

The Gauntlet: What was your role in the revolution?

Sarwat Nafei: I was part of the revolution in 2011. I shared, like other Egyptians, in the demonstrations. We’ve been attacked by the police. They fired bullets and tear gas at us until we managed to oust Mubarak. I was always an activist and pro-democracy for Egypt. Then I became a senator for the democratically elected parliament.

For the first time in the history of Egypt, we were reviewing budgets for all the institutions, including the military, police forces and all other institutions that were prevented from being audited or reviewed in the past. Although I was not pro-Morsi or Muslim Brotherhood, I supported establishing democracy in Egypt. So I didn’t mind that they would be in power, as long as we could audit them, and as long as we could have the freedom of opposition and the freedom of speech. And I think we were heading in that direction during the year where Morsi was the president because we had the freedom to oppose him and his policies. There was real freedom of speech in all aspects of the media and the parliament and in the streets, so there was no oppression or police state as the Egyptians used to have in the past 60 years.

G: Can you tell me about the coup and why it happened?

SN: In my view, it was all prepared since the 2011 revolution against the Mubarak regime. I believe that the military did not accept the idea of Egypt becoming a democratic state. They were doing their best to prevent any progress for establishing a democratic state within Egypt.

They started by dividing the relationships between all the factions that took part in the revolution and, from there, they planned to have a coup in case any type of democratic election were to occur. It was clear that they were working against the democratically elected parliament, along with other institutions who were against the revolution from the start. So for me, the coup was not a surprise. The surprise was that Morsi did not actually establish or implement the objectives of the revolution by reforming and restructuring the main institutions within the Egyptian system.

G: Why do you think the military is opposed to the idea of democracy?

SN: Because it will deny them the privileges and benefits that they have been taking for more than 60 years. If you have a democracy, their budget and their privileges would be reviewed by the parliament. And all of that will be democratically scrutinized and reviewed and audited.

G: How did the coup affect the Egyptian people?

SN: I think everything now is being stalled. The economy is in very bad shape. Security in the street is in very bad shape. An emergency law has been declared since the coup that was extended two weeks ago for another couple of months. There is also a curfew which has been instated before Rabaa [the protest against the coup], I believe, and they extended that too. There is no tourism. There is no improvement in the economy. The debt is going up. There is no stability and there are no international relationships, so there is no state.

G: Some people are calling this another revolution, not a coup. What is your opinion?

SN: No, it’s not. I don’t think it is a revolution. A revolution would not be supported by the army and the police and the regime that was ousted a year before. A revolution would not be dividing the Egyptians. The real revolution was in 2011 when all the Egyptians unified against the tyrants and against the dictatorship and wanted freedom and democracy for Egypt. It is not a revolution when the military removes a democratically elected president and dissolves a democratically elected parliament. You can’t call this a revolution. It is a clear coup.

G: Do you think the coup could have been prevented?

SN: Yes, it could have. It could have if Morsi had actually established or imposed the objectives of the 2011 revolution by restructuring and reforming the major institutions in Egypt, or at least started to, and did not let [the military] capture the minds [of the civilians] with their propaganda machines which were all financed by the old Mubarak regime.

G: What do you think will happen in the future and what do you hope for?

SN: It’s very hard to predict but we have only two routes now. Either we go into another decade of tyrants and dictatorships as we have had over the last 60 years before Morsi or people will realize that what happened was a real coup. It was a drawback to the revolution of 2011 and [Egyptians should] unify again against this coup and attempt to re-form and re-establish the democracy in Egypt.

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