Al Aswany,Tamarod signatures most creative idea in past 2 years

Egypt of today's issues in my new book set in the '40s

07 June, 21:45

    Al Aswani in his dentistry clinic in Cairo Al Aswani in his dentistry clinic in Cairo

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JUNE 7 - ''I would say that some of the issues in my new novel are the same as those of the Egypt of today. There is a relationship between the book and the revolution, even though I started to write it a few years ago and I only realised this as I was writing the last chapter,'' the Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswani told ANSAmed in an interview.

    The novel by the writer best known at the international level for The Yacoubian Building - 'Automobile Club', 600 pg.published by Shourouk) - is being translated for Feltrinelli into Italian after meeting with resounding success in Egypt. Set in the 1940s before the Nasser-led 1952 revolution, the novel focuses on the arrival in Egypt of the first cars, on the Europeans who drove them and on their servants from Egypt's poor southern regions.

    ''Two societies are thus represented,'' Al Aswani said, ''that of foreigners and that of their dark-skinned servants.'' And while this is the main theme, he continued, ''within it another issue arises: is everyone prepared for the revolution? If the choice is between being oppressed by a dictator or living free but insecurely, which would they choose?''.

    This is very clearly a prominent issue in the Egypt of today, where Mubarak's ouster was followed not only by two years of political instability but also worsening security and a reduced police presence in the streets. ''Freedom is not a Christmas gift,'' he underscored, ''there is a price to pay for it.'' Many among especially the older generations note that perhaps the country was better off before. ''Yes, but you have to look at history,'' he replied. ''All revolutions are carried out by a minority, usually around 10-15% of the population. In Egypt this figure was higher - at 20 million of an estimated 90-95 million people.'' Egyptian society is now divided into three parts, he said: ''between the 'fulul', the old regime, the revolutionaries and the 'passive masses', those 65 million people who did not take part in the revolution and are now conditioned by counterrevolutionary forces''.

    Most importantly, the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood was the start of a regime that Al Aswani does not hesitate to call 'fascist', against which it would be more appropriate to use the word 'resistance' instead of 'opposition', in his opinion, as the latter term must be used ''in relation to a full-fledged democracy''.

    ''We have a president who was - yes - elected in a legal manner,'' he said. ''But then he violated the Constitution and his police have shown themselves to be more brutal than Mubarak's. At least four cases of sexual violence against male detainees have been documented.'' And it is no longer true as it once was, he continued, that the Muslim Brotherhood holds influence over the poor. ''It has become clear to all that they are liars, incompetent and corrupt. A PhD isn't required to understand that.'' Nevertheless, this new regime must be defeated in a peaceful and democratic manner, he stressed: such as through the only weeks-old Tamarod ('Rebels') movement, which aims to collect 15 million signatures of no confidence in Morsi. The signatures will then be taken to the presidential palace on June 30, exactly one year after he took office, to demand that early presidential elections be held.

    ''The 'Rebels' idea is the most intelligent and creative of the past two years,'' the writer said enthusiastically, who was one of the founders of the opposition movement Kefaya! ('Enough!') in the Mubarak period. ''It is an idea some young revolutionaries came up with.'' As to what sort of legal basis the initiative would have, the writer said that ''if Egypt had an elected parliament,'' in reference to the People's Assembly dissolved by the Constitutional Court and for which new elections have not yet been held, ''a two-thirds majority could demand early presidential elections. But if there is no Parliament, the power returns to the people. If we get more signatures than the number of people who voted for Morsi (13.2 million, Ed.), there is the right to ask for new elections. The 'Rebels' will turn to the Constitutional Court to ask for precisely this. However, if the legal battle does not produce any results, he concluded, the 15 million signatures would carry enough political weight that Morsi ''could not but obey''.


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