“Mubarak is a dictator and a killer. His acquittal doesn’t change that”


In June 2013, widespread popular dissent and the intervention of the Egyptian army forced President Mohamed Morsi to step down. It marked the premature end of the country’s first democratically elected administration, following the uprising that ousted three decades of the rule of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Today, almost four years and two presidential elections later, the newly-elected president and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been accused of ruling Egypt as the revolution never happened. Equal Times spoke to the leading democracy and human rights activist Esraa Abdel Fattah to find out what Egypt under al-Sisi looks like.


How has the opposition responded to the al-Sisi administration?

The activists who took part in the 2011 revolution are playing a crucial role within the ranks of the opposition. They have different roles – they are active during demonstrations, taking to the streets of Egyptian cities. They also organise campaigns and form pressure groups to engage with the current government’s policy and decision makers.


The former president Hosni Mubarak was recently acquitted on charges of killing protesters during the 2011 revolution. What does this mean to you, as someone who was a rather iconic figure during the occupation of Tahrir Square?

Hosni Mubarak is a dictator, a corrupt president and a killer. A court sentence saying he is innocent won’t change what he is.


In Egyptian politics today, what is the role of movements such as April 6th and Tamrod?

April 6th and Tamrod are two movements which were born in different moments of Egypt’s recent history. Tamrod was the mass movement that put pressure on Mohamed Morsi to resign in June 2013. Tamrod is now the movement that is a true authority. The April 6th movement built the framework to spark the street-protests in 2011, against the then-president Hosni Mubarak. This latter group still opposes the regime through campaigning but it has not had much success. There is a no-holds-barred defamation campaign against them.


After Mubarak’s absolution, members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined the protest despite being officially banned. What is the importance of the Muslim Brotherhood in contemporary, post-revolution Egypt?

The Muslim Brotherhood was not a revolutionary group as others we saw in January 2011, when the Egyptian revolution actually kicked off. Once they came into power in 2012, they revealed for what they were. They cracked down on activists, journalists and protesters who were opposing Morsi’s rule and tried to silence any form of political dissent. Also, after 30 June 2013, when the Morsi administration was dissolved by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), they were responsible for terrorist attacks all over Egypt, opposing the ousting of the president. In my humble opinion they should be kept away from the Egyptian political conversation and democratic process until they admit their faults.


How is life in post-revolutionary Egypt, under Al-Sisi, for workers and society as a whole?

What I can say from what I witness in my everyday life is that the majority of the population feels safer under al-Sisi – they see him as a hero. Clearly, he is more popular than Morsi, but I’ll be honest: Egyptian people are compromising their human rights and personal freedom in the name of the government’s counter-terrorism policies and attempts to protect national security. And the status quo.


After Morsi’s ouster, you wrote a letter to the Washington Post which said that “true democracy is the result of a process that ends, and not begins, with the ballot box”. What did you mean?

We really can’t say that Egypt is a real democracy. Of course, we had the chance to vote for in the presidential elections but when citizens cast their votes, giving power to institutions and the political class, the state is expected to oversee the free and fair functioning of these institutions. So far, we haven’t had that. We have only taken a first step, by scrapped the old constitution and drafting a new one.


Many Western commentators defined the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ as failed a democratic experiment. Are they right?

The great issue with Western political commentators is the narrow perspective they use to look at the Arab revolutions and the Egyptian uprising. They should consider how many years it took to complete any of the European revolutions. The French Revolution did not have a truly positive outcome until many years after 1789. Same thing with the American Revolution before that. We can’t really judge whether the Egyptian Revolution has failed or been hijacked. We can’t say it has ended after just after three or four years later. It will take time.