Freed Activist Blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad on Egypt’s Future
The following excerpt was taken from The Daily Beast. To read more, click here.
Maikel Nabil Sanad, the first Egyptian blogger sentenced to prison after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, waged a 120-day hunger strike behind bars. He was finally released in late January and recently traveled to the United States for the first time. David Keyes sat down with the famed Egyptian activist to talk about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. policy, and the future of liberalism in Egypt.
Maikel, it’s been well over a year since the fall of the Mubarak regime. How has the last year been for you and Egypt?
The last year has been very hard because many activists died or were injured. We had perhaps 1,000 or 2,000 activists die within the last year, killed by policemen and armed forces. Nearly 50,000 activists were injured during the last year. Yet democracy and human-rights activists grew in numbers. Many people sacrificed their safety and lives to try to reform Egypt into a free country where citizens can live in a democracy with human rights and dignity.
During your 10 months in prison, what gave you hope?
What gave me hope was that I believe that my people will understand everything in the end, that the government wanted to silence me to prevent my people from hearing my voice. But they couldn’t do it because I was writing even from inside my prison. I gave my articles illegally to my friends to publish while I was in jail. Maybe people can’t have the sources of information that I had and have only media channels controlled by the state and by the Army, but gradually they understand. Every day I find more Egyptians who are talking to me and apologizing, saying I was right from the beginning and they were wrong, and they are converting to my side.
When my country and people had free elections, we voted for liberal parties. When Sadat held a referendum on the peace treaty, the majority voted for the peace treaty, not against it. So I believe in my people and that they seek development and peace. I understand that they can’t find free media channels to provide them with the good and right information needed to make decisions. But the Internet and new media are changing this. It might take years, but in the end they will realize the facts. And I know that no free country was born or created as a free country; people have to sacrifice for freedom and for human rights. And I am able and willing to make these sacrifices for the good of my people and for the good of humanity.
What is the biggest threat to human rights in Egypt today?
Dictatorship in all of its colors. A military dictatorship, an oligarchical dictatorship, and a religious dictatorship are all the same thing. It is someone prepared to sacrifice his own people for personal power. That’s the biggest threat to human rights in Egypt.
Why is liberalism so weak in Egypt?
It is not weak. When Egypt had a free election, liberals used it to gain a majority in the Parliament during the first half of the 20th century, from 1923 when the Constitution securing representative government was written. It lasted for three decades until the junta of 1952, when the Army abolished Egyptian democracy. For three decades, we had a free, liberal democracy and liberal parties. We had the Wafd Party, which used to get about 90 percent of the votes; Egyptians were voting for liberal parties. So I believe that liberals in Egypt are a majority under a complete oppression and continuous threat.
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