In an exclusive interview in his richly decorated Mohandiseen office, liberal former member of parliament Mohamed Abu Hamed speaks with DNE about how controversial he has become, his new political party, and his relations to business tycoon Naguib Sawiris and ex-presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. The ex-Free Egyptians Party member also explains his call for a revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood on 24 and 25 August
Let’s begin by recalling your famous incident in parliament when you held a bullet high in the middle of the session to defend the revolutionaries who were called “thugs” at the time. You were very supportive of the revolutionaries and you became very popular. Now the situation has completely flipped and you are always being fiercely attacked. How do you explain the current controversy around you?
Ever since I began working in politics during the eruption of the revolution, I have upheld everything I believe in without caring about the reaction of the street or popularity. When we started the revolution, we were not guaranteed it would succeed or if people would even support us.
The Muslim Brotherhood attacked me on Twitter. They started to ruin the relationship between myself and the revolutionaries following my visit to Beirut, when I was invited by the Lebanese Forces Party, headed by Samir Jaajaa.
I talked about Jaajaa and read his history in a different way; they see him as the culprit behind Sabra and Shatila massacres, while the Kahane report issued by the Israelis themselves named ElieHbeiqa, Ariel Sharon, and Menachem Begin, without mentioning at all Samir Jaajaa. The Syrians were the ones who staunchly defamed his image, considering his demands for the Syrian withdrawal from Beirut.
I did not defend Jaajaa, but I admired him when he was released in 2005 after eleven years in prison, and then made the courageous decision to dissolve the armed divisions of the Lebanese Forces, and limit his political vision to non-violent struggle.
Then came the issue of the Political Disfranchisement Law, which was specifically designed for Omar Suleiman. This law is unconstitutional, and does not conform to human rights. The Brotherhood accused me of defending the remnants of the NDP.
The third attack was during the first round of the presidential elections. I saw that all 13 candidates shared compelling reasons proving why they cannot become president. From the first round, I predicted that Egypt would be either a theocracy or a civil state.
I was also seeing brainwashing among the stalwarts of Tahrir Square. Revolutionaries were being bought. Entire movements were bought with the aim of making sure that when the battle comes against their attempt to dominate the constitution, no one will be there to stand against them.
When you ask, “Where are the revolutionaries?” you find that some of their leaders are in disagreement, and that they have received money from the Muslim Brotherhood to create these disputes.
What do you tell those who call into question your support of Shafiq?
If Morsy were the revolution’s candidate, Shafiq would have been the leader Ahmed Urabi! Morsy made a deal with the State Security in 2005, then went with Mohamed Badie to make another deal in 2010, and the Brotherhood’s disappointment with the 42 seats offered to them by Ahmed Ezz was the only reason behind their withdrawal from the parliamentary elections.
The Brotherhood is the nerve of the ousted regime. They were the tool used by the regime to instill fear, both internally and abroad.
But why support Shafiq and not AmrMoussa?
Amr Moussa cannot be engaged in a battle. In the three months that preceded the elections, he drifted toward emulating the style of Aboul-Fotouh. He spoke liberally when addressing liberalists, and talked Islamic when addressing Islamists. I was looking for a man who could courageously stand up against the Muslim Brothers and say, “I am against you!” Not in the sense of sidelining them, but considering that no unlawful society can be offered the freedom to operate.
I supported Shafiq also because Morsy cannot claim to be the representative of the martyrs’ spilt blood. I was a member of the Parliamentary Investigation Committee in the Cabinet clashes. I can counter argue any Muslim Brother who refutes this based on evidence I saw myself. We read the investigations of the Intelligence, the National Security, the General Attorney’s investigations, and some of the legal organisations related to the issue of the martyrs and the wounded. None of the investigations mentioned Ahmed Shafiq, as a suspect, perpetrator, or facilitator. On the contrary, what was mentioned in the investigations of the incidents of 28 January 2011 is that as soon as the Ministry of Interior had collapsed, Mubarak transferred the security duties to the Ministry of Defence. When Shafiq became prime minister, he was not put in charge of security.
I was trying to prevent Morsy from winning before the second round of the elections commenced. Up until the very last second before the polling stations closed, I was exhausted trying to convince those who abstained from voting that what they were doing was an act of political romanticism that would have a negative effect. I was urging them to vote or else the country would be kidnapped.
This has happened by revolutionary muhallils (literally means ‘one who makes lawful’), such as the 6th of April Movement, Hamdi Kandil, and Alaa Al-Aswani. They are all revolutionist muhallils who were bought to support Morsy.
Mohamed Abu-Hamid was a revolutionary icon but then lost the appreciation of the revolutionaries, the Muslim Brothers, and almost everyone else. Are you concerned this has happened to you?
Revolutionary powers are an illusion. If there were revolutionary powers, they could have at least safeguarded themselves and their square.
At the very least, I represent 12,400,000 citizens, those who voted for Shafiq. Among the 24 million who did not vote, I am pretty confident that a conservative estimate would be that 10 million of them would never have voted for Morsy.
I have criticised the army countless times, but I have never demanded its downfall. I have explained the slogan “Down with Military Rule!” by asserting it means the army should retreat from political affairs without disbanding the army.
At the time of the Elections Laws and the distribution of the Electoral Departments, I saw the army handing over the state to the Muslim Brothers. When I discovered how the Muslim Brothers were assuring the army that they would protect it, they bought some revolutionary powers and pushed them to intimidate the army so as to generate a big scene showing the army oppressing the revolutionaries. Of course the army cannot be defended for committing such atrocities. My point is that the Muslim Brotherhood is the real cancer Egypt faces. They were the ones who supervised the abortion of the revolution and poisoned political life in Egypt. They represent the Great Satan. Their downfall, regardless of the alternative, shall be less costly than having them in control.
Social media spread images of you at Omar Suleiman’s funeral showing clear signs of sympathy on your face. People subsequently questioned your relationship with Suleiman and discussed the fact that you were present in Nasr City military observatory with figures such as Tawfik Okasha and Moustafa Bakri, regarded by many as remnants of the ousted NDP. How would you describe your relationship with Suleiman?
Suleiman has served both in the Egyptian army and intelligence during the 1990s, a time when religious groups were poisoning people’s lives with sectarian incidents. Omar Suleiman is the only person among the past regime figures who maintained respect from the entire world until his death.
Suleiman influenced me in several ways. He was capable of resisting the Brotherhood’s tide. As a citizen, I had hopes that he could assume a certain role in the transitional period, especially in confronting the religious current. I believe he had the capacity of doing so while assuming his last position as vice president. This was governing my thoughts when I went to his funeral. I cannot understand those who accuse me of emulating Suleiman. How could one emulate the dead?
Why are you calling for a revolution against the Muslim Brothers on 24 and 25 August?
This idea was born well before 20 April. I was among those who believed the Egyptian people’s opinion regarding the Muslim Brotherhood would change when they saw their performance of in the Parliament and how they distribute the responsibility worse than the NDP. They reached their peak with their Political Disfranchisement Law.
I called for mass demonstrations against the Muslim Brothers and attempted to arrange a couple of events by the time we were trying to establish the Revolution Command Council. Unfortunately after we agreed with some revolutionary leaders that they will join us, they were missing at the demonstration.
We later discovered that these revolutionaries received money [from the Brotherhood], among them Ahmed Maher.
I was the first person in Egypt to shout the slogan, “The People want the Downfall of the Brotherhood.” Since the ascension of Morsy to power, I am exerting maximum energy to bring the idea of the revolution against the Brotherhood to Egyptians.
Regardless of the outcome of such a move, I still believe that Egypt cannot stand without the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, irrespective of who will rule the country afterwards.
I have some indications that my call could have an echo. When Morsy challenged the Constitution and the Law and decided to reinstate the Parliament, the people started to be on poor terms with him. When he started to over-emphasise Hamas and exporting fuel to Gaza, people were once again dissatisfied with him. When he appointed Hesham Qandil, he proved himself as utterly lacking any sense of vision. 30 days after his first 100 days, Morsy is still speaking as if he were a chairman of some charity organisation, urging people to collect money and waster from streets. All of this has culminated to turning the Egyptian people against him.
The assembly points of our 24/25August revolution are the Presidential Palace and the Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters in Al-Muqattam.
Why did you choose the date of the 24th and 25th of August?
It’s after Eid and the government shall be formed by then. Every day the Brotherhood remains in power, the institutions are more vulnerable to being ikhwanised.
Referring to the recent changes occurring inside the Ministry of Interior, I swear to God that all changes affecting the generals and the police officers in the ministry was under the Brotherhood’s review for an entire two-week duration. They put aside every effective police officer who had dared to point his finger at the Brotherhood one day.
Who do you expect to support your revolution?
I am counting on the people who voted for Shafiq, because they share my beliefs. This is an invitation to everyone who hates or fears the dreadful performance of the Muslim Brotherhood, whether Shafiq’s supporters or not.
Do you believe your initiative will succeed?
I have a feeling it will. It has been shared countless times online. I also received calls from several governorates requesting coordination with me.
In the event I succeed in gathering supporters from a couple of provinces, I will be on the way to expanding into them. This is the way revolutionary movements begin.
I was telling an American official that the US supports civil society, freedom and human rights. He replied, “We are dealing with reality. Get me 100,000 liberals calling for this and we will listen. Make them stay for three or four days, and we shall adopt their views. Increase them and sustain their movement, and we shall support you.”
What is your relation with engineer Naguib Sawiris?
I met Sawiris after the revolution. He liked the way I debate with Islamists, using religious terminology. When I joined the Free Egyptians Party, I was one of its principal founders. I made its internal Code of Conduct and until my resignation, the party was tied to Sawiris and I more than anyone else.
When we started to build the party, we felt we had similar views, so we became friends even after my resignation from the party. Naguib has not supported the Life of Egyptians Party, the “Be Effective” initiative, or the 24/25 August Revolution.
He is my friend, and I still appreciate his funding of my entire electoral campaign. I could not sustain the cost of my electoral campaign, and although I contributed with what I could, he carried the burden of 90% of the campaign’s costs.
Are you separating yourself from the revolutionaries?
Of course. The revolutionaries direct their fight against the remnants of the NDP and the army. My battle is with religious groups, full stop. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to change Egyptian identity from a national identity to a religious identity. The Brotherhood is talking today about the establishment of the Revolutionary Guard and their tendency towards Hamas suggests the Revolutionary Guards will likely be Hamas.
When did you get the idea to the Life of the Egyptians party?
On 4 April 2012, I called for the establishment of a new political party. I collected almost 92,000 endorsements. Currently I am in contact with supporters amounting to between two and three million citizens.
What I am working on now is to elect among these platforms 100,000 people who will be the founders, in addition to 10,000 people who will form the nerve. They shall constitute the nucleus of a true political movement based upon three constituents. First is the political constituent, where I expect the joining of five to six parties. There will be also a civil wing. We already have two wings, the civil constituents and the popular pressure forces. The political wing is being delayed on purpose, in the hopes that as many as ten parties could join. The powers that we are building are the same for which General Ahmed Shafiq offered support. Haven’t you heard that Shafiq will form a political party? He is backing the Life of Egyptians party.
Is this party mainly for the supporters of Ahmed Shafiq?
I would prefer to say that the party is mainly for those who share a glimpse of my fears from the threat to Egypt’s future posed by religious groups. It is supported by Ahmed Shafiq.
The party has a considerable number of Christians, something I am proud of and honoured by. If I had Christians as the majority of the party members, I would be very pleased.
Our main supporters are those who led the campaigns of Shafiq and Suleiman, added to those calling themselves the “Silent Majority” and of course, Christians. There is also a minority who identify themselves as revolutionaries.
Do you think Ahmed Shafiq will return to Egypt?
I don’t know … of course you are aware of the lawsuits tailors who are working hard in cases against him.