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"I'm optimistic about the Egyptian revolution"

Le Monde interviews Alaa al-Aswany

Writer Alaa al-Aswany

Writer Alaa al-Aswany

The author of The Yacoubian Building and Cairo Automobile Club, two books that tell about the life of the Egyptians since the time of the British rule on, released an interview to French daily Le Monde.

In it, the writer, who firmly opposed al Sisi and is thus no more published in his home country, denounced the lack of a true freedom of speech in Egypt. "All those whose names are linked to the Revolution are in my same situation", he said.

Alaa al-Aswany recounts a picaresque Egypt, in which powerful people, humble peasants, women of all walks of life, intellectuals and even eccentric gays interweave their lives suggesting that there is a reality, especially in urban centres, that defies the stereotypes about the Muslim world. The author was often threatened by Islamist fundamentalists because, although he criticised the indiscriminate crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, links its success with the contradictions of society, unemployment, political upheavals that do not leave hope to the young people and even the hypocrisy of some imams.

In the interview,the writer, who decided to remain in Cairo "ready to bear all consequences" of reminding, in books like Religious extremism and dictatorship, that "the only solution is democracy", says that al Sisi's consensus, the consensus to a man "whom no one wanted to go on power", is based on the widespread fear that Egypt becomes like Yemen or Syria.

Alaa al-Aswany, who though had always criticised Morsi, is today "against any death sentence". He refuses the violence of Islamist extremists and reminds us that, before the Muslim Brotherhood was founded, "the Egyptian constitution recognised freedom of worship. We had very famous Jewish comedians. We were very proud and no one thought of veiling women. This secularism resisted until the oil shock of 1973. Then the wahabis, with the oil revenues, found themselves with many more means that he had ever had. This is what I personally saw in Tahrir square during the revolution, when copts and muslims prayed side by side".

What is the future of the Arab spring?

Our model is the French revolution. It is no 90' long football match, it will take time. The situation in France 5 years before the revolution was a hell, but then doors for the whole humanity were opened. We can make it through some reforms, a new government... and an inner transformation of people. The Egyptians who lived under Mubarak have changed now. Young people, 60% of the population, have a worldview which is completely different from theirs. They will not accept compromise with the dictatorship, because they paid too high a price in terms of deaths and wounded people". 

28 May 2015

Freedom of expression

against blinkered thinking

Freedom of thought is usually the first of the fundamental rights of the human being to be targeted by authoritarian regimes, and this applies increasingly the closer it gets to the prototype of totalitarian society. Censorship muzzles the press and journalists are prevented from doing their job, 'till the point in which they are reduced to a mere mouthpiece of the state propaganda. Also the other free expressions of thought are under attack, no one is spared: intellectuals, writers, film directors... even figurative arts are under strict control. Repression heavily curbs all forms of individual sovereignty, such as above all opinions, personal ideas, which represent the worst threat for those who want to impose the "blinkered thought".
In fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, in maoist China and in the dictatorships of Latin America like in modern theocracies and new autocratic regimes, troublesome books were banned and even burnt on the squares, and the historian, scientists, scholars, artists who refused to line up were exiled or jailed.
Totalitarianism entered homes and imposed its grip within the family, which was dominated by the fear of being betrayed even by one's dearest ones. A mechanism of self-censorship thus started: in order to survive people preferred giving up not only expressing their views.. but even to conceive them. There was nothing left but settle for the doctrine expressed by the leaders on power.
Those who try to resist, to keep their own individual character and personal freedom, lose everything, but their independence, combined with the resistance of many other in the same conditions, undermines the very foundations of dictatorial regimes, until their collapse.

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Massoud Benhoud

a journalist persecuted for his defence of freedom of information