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Interview Transcript Interviewer: Mohamad Nagi Interviewee: Omar El Sabh Omar Sabh: Hi I’m Omar El Sabh, I’m twenty years old. I’m uh AUC student. I know Mohamed because um I’ve taken a class with him before and um he approached me to ask me if I could participate in an interview with him because I’ve actually shared with him revolution stories that I’ve contributed to. Um I’m a political science major trying to double major and get into IMC. Uh, I live in Maadi, uh, and um, yeah. Mohamad Nagi: Okay first question: Do you view this revolution as positive change to Egypt or negative change? Omar El Sabh: Definitely positive, the revolution is going to usher in a new era of structural change in all domains whether economic, political, social, cultural, we are going to witness the birth of uh something new. I’m not really optimistic and I’m not really pessimistic, I’m realistic for now trying to be pragmatic. Uh, because uh, just have to see it day to day how it’s going because as we’ve seen the revolution, Mubarak stepped down and we still have a lot to do. Uh, so yeah all in all I think it’s definitely positive change because when something that big happens you just wonder why it happened and towards which goal it’s going to and it’s good to see that people have a voice right now. Mohamad Nagi: Did you participate in the revolution in any way, however minor? Omar El Sabh: Um ever since the 25th of January, even before that I was trying to call, me and Mohamad actually, me and, I remember me and you were trying to set up something to influence our friends to come down to Tahrir on 25th of January. So uh Khaled Said’s group page I was on that page like ever since the beginning of January, 25th of January Tahrir and until yeah until Mubarak stepped down just every day going there. And also trying to go around Wust El Balad not only stay in Tahrir, a’ashwi’yat trying to see what’s going on over there, get people’s opinions, even though it was very dangerous to do that at that time, but yeah. Mohamad Nagi: Would you say that the danger was posed by the actual people in the a’ashwi’yat or was it posed by the state security apparatus? Omar El Sabh: Definitely, 100 percent, the NDP thugs and um the way they lead, the way they lead the NDP thugs for instance a good example of that would be the second speech that Mubarak gave that sort of divided public opinion which was a strategic move by Mubarak also to reopen internet so people start fighting about pro and anti Mubarak. But what do you do after that, how do you follow it up? You hire thugs to uh, sort of lead the opinion, like read the voice of people who have been wanting Mubarak to stay because they felt like it’s very unstable, they’re not working, so they needed someone to like usher them into uh, this parade of pro Mubarak, which is all good until the clashes happened in Tahrir and uh the as we know the camel and horses incident. Um so yeah I would say all, no one in this revolution, no one in Tahrir, had any intention of being any kind of violent protester it was selmiya from the beginning, selmiya means peaceful, selmiya from the beginning and it stayed selmiya until the end. Mohamad Nagi: What were your initial expectations when the revolution started? Omar El Sabh: Um, well the 25th of January, never would have imagined like being at Tahrir Square in the middle of it just looking at what’s going on, it was definitely majestic but I sort of, I was very very weary about like actually thinking that this may escalate to something bigger because we’ve always heard about protests in 2004 ever since Kefaya and even before that the revolution, the revolution has been uh has been there for a while. Uh it’s been starting for a while it’s not only the 25th of Jan the revolution started. So we’ve been hearing about a lot of protests and uh and we always know that they get swiftly like uh, quelled by Amn Markazy or whatever. Um so coming back on Wednesday actually, the day after the 25th, uh and seeing and trying to see because we’re getting tweets that people are trying to go to Tahrir so we go to Tahrir and all that we find are actually Amn Markazy everywhere and they’re detaining everyone who looks suspicious, so we pretended as if we’re going to Hardees (laugh) because um yeah well we didn’t want to get like *unclear*. And um definitely that the day of rage, 28th of January, that was, that was when you knew that something’s going on that something big is happening and it was beautiful. Mohamad Nagi: Summarize the previous regime in 3 words. Omar El Sabh: Um coercive, it’s uh coercive, authoritarian, and hugely patronizing. Mohamad Nagi: How far do you believe this revolution will go? Will it achieve all of its demands and create a democratic Egypt? Omar El Sabh: Um I’m weary about the concept of democracy in Egypt because what is democracy? Democracy is the will of the majority imposed on the minority and we as a culture do not take dissidence very easily so I’m, actually no. It doesn’t mean I’m not optimistic it just means that I think that a socialist democratic state with a parliamentary would fit more because in a parliamentary system what do you have, you have coalition based governments are basically you have 3 or 4 parties that have to get into a coalition to uphold the majority in parliament. So that would actually, uh, that would actually help a lot on the imposing majority on the minority. But um yeah we definitely can’t be like a uh federal system legislative where you have two parties. Mohamad Nagi: So will it achieve all of its demands? Omar El Sabh: You can’t really say that, it’s not a static concept, it’s a very dynamic concept and it will keep getting dynamic for the next I’m actually predicting for the next 5 years we’re going to be in political limbo sort of and uh it’s um, how do you call it, it’s only logical that this happens with the French revolution you’ve got the French revolution then you got 5 years of another bureaucratic state and then you have Napoleon and then you have another monarchy. So democracy doesn’t come easily it’s a construct and it takes time. Mohamad Nagi: Do you believe that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has Egypt’s best interests in mind? Omar El Sabh: Uh it’s a very sensitive subject and I think public opinion will say that there are two sides right now, but I’m sort of, from all what I have gathered I think that Armed Forces really have no political agenda because before what is their history basically? You’ve got, they’ve been for 20 years they’ve been sort of satisfied with the money they’ve been getting from US Aid and from the luxurious uh industries that has helped them all throughout these years because it’s their industries and I think they were part satisfied with everything that they were doing and uh I really think that they really just want to go back to their barracks and if we do see any sort of political intervention by military I think that they would be very very stupid actually to do that because they’ve been the vanguard of freedom of the protestors to protest all this time, I’m really really skeptical about the idea that they might have a political interest in this country but my other political science friends say otherwise, so uh it’s all about speculation right now actually. Mohamad Nagi: After recent clashes between the protestors and the military police, including what happened at Amn el Dawla and earlier, should we still have faith in the Army? Do you think the repetitive actions of the military police reflect some sort of ill intentions or hidden agenda? Omar El Sabh: You have to differentiate first of all between the Army, the state security, the state secret service, the Amn el Dawla, and all these apparatuses, police apparatuses that we have. Right what do we have we’ve got the military the shorta, the police, and the alm el dawla. Amn el dawla is definitely the uh the worry of but I think I’m actually optimistic because it will insha’allah hopefully they will get dissolved and they will get restructured in order to only fight terrorism. The thing is about the military and their stance on the whole Amn el Dawla files, I’m sure that every single person in the military for example Mosheer Tantawy have files in history in archives but I don’t really think that they would withhold that would compromise the security of this revolution. Mohamad Nagi: Should parliamentary elections or presidential elections come first? Omar El Sabh: Definitely presidential elections we can say, we need I’m actually going with Elbaradei on this one. Elbaradei says we need 5 uh, I can’t remember the name, anyways it’s 4 civilians and 1 military person handling the affairs of the state. Because we need more than 6 months actually and who knows, in June we’re supposed to have parliamentary elections it’s totally ridiculous we don’t even have a single opposition force apart from the Muslim Brotherhood and the NDP that are able to mobilize and participate in the elections in a better way. So definitely presidential elections first if we can have a presidential committee it would be better because they would actually be concerned with changing the constitution completely first not these amendments that we’ve been seeing and then we’ll get the parliamentary elections because we need to create a grassroots opposition needs to form a little bit more for it to have to materialize and become more visible in the political arena. Mohamad Nagi: But don’t you think it’s possible that there is the threat of creating another despotic leader without amending the presidential powers outlined in the constitution? Because if we rush presidential elections before amending the constitution properly or rewriting it, can’t the president become omnipotent as he was before? Omar El Sabh: There’s a lot of truth to what you’re saying but the amendments that have been amended are actually it’s good to see that we’ve got 4 years, 2 terms of 4 years and all these restrictions that have been put on voting and presidential terms and whatnot. Um yes you are right we need to actually restructure the whole constitution in order to have a constitution that doesn’t give our president so many powers. Which is why I’d go with my first point, actually having a committee of 4 civilians, 1 military person only concerned with changing the constitution, amending more articles so that does give that much power to the next president. Mohamad Nagi: Since the constitutional amendments won’t decrease the presidential powers, should people refuse the changes for the referendum of the constitution or should they be content with the changes for now and worry about the rest later? Omar El Sabh: Personally and I think I’m speaking from a very informed stand, I’m voting no, I’m definitely voting no and I think that everybody should vote no because it’s these 6 amendments or 7 amendments are a joke, they’re a joke. The basic skeleton of the whole constitution is still the same, it’s still directing all these powers towards the president. If you read the constitution every single article that has to do with anything always refers itself to the law, who is the law? And the law refers itself to the person in power so you’ve got a loophole, you’ve got a deeply flawed constitution and contrary to what people say I’m positive that in one month we can have better amendments and a brand new constitution, not bring in a new constitution, but amend all the articles we need to amend. Mohamad Nagi: What do you think about the constitutional changes, are they good, bad or incomplete? Omar El Sabh: Definitely incomplete, as we’ve said before. Mohamad Nagi: What is the most, alright last question, what is the most important thing we can do or next step we can take in order to insure the proper development of Egypt? Omar El Sabh: Speaking from a very IMC point of view, IMC- integrated marketing communication, advertising and public relations and dealing with all these things, I think that on short term we need to educate quickly people, mobilize political awareness very swiftly. And how do we do that? We do it through state television, I’m speaking from my point of view economists have a different point of view and I’m sure that our ideas together would actually be very helpful to society. But definitely for now, we need to uh, media have to start promoting ideas for civil society, like basically having talk shows for example on Channel One which we never see, all we see are news bulletins followed by stupid patriotic songs, I feel like I’m in a 1984 *unclear*. Yeah definitely restructure the whole media system, state media system in order to give way for better *unclear* but we need civic engagement and whatever environmental, whatever economic we need these, you need to basically start baby steps with the people because we’re talking about Cairo right now we’ve got governorates that don’t know anything, not that they don’t know anything but they have very high illiteracy rates and they may not get like the same internet penetration that we get in Cairo. In Cairo internet penetration is very high, even in a’ashwi’yat, and we’ve got people sharing one satellite in one room and it’s never a problem. People in Cairo are very very well informed in my opinion and also from field research. But yeah the governorates, and media, you tackle media, you change that and then you change people’s perception. You indoctrinate them, in a good way of course, you indoctrinate them and usher them into the state of the revolution and follow up with the revolution. Mohamad Nagi: Thank you Mr. Omar. Omar El Sabh: Thank you Mohamad.