Egypt: A People’s Revolution, Not a Crisis or Coup (Nawal El Saadawi)

Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi writes at IslamiCommentary (translated by miriam cooke)

Every revolution in history has had its counter-revolution. Most recently, internal and external forces allied, as they did in Egypt, to abort the January 2011 revolution.

But the Muslim Brotherhood failed to abort this latest revolution on June 30, 2013, and they will continue to fail because those who have rebelled against them have learned the lessons of the past. Their consciousness has deepened with organization and unity.

Thirty-four million youth, men, and women went out into the streets and squares. They were determined to topple the religious government, under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as stand up to all who supported the Brotherhood them at home and abroad .

They wanted to expel all who would use religion for economic and political gain and to oust Morsi. The will of the people was and is more powerful than the military, the police, and any religious or economic weapons. Here is the lesson of human history: There is no principle higher than truth and sincerity in the quest for freedom, justice and dignity.

During its rule, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to divide the people into believers and heretics, but it failed. There were many believers (in Islam) in the anti-Morsi crowds. The power of the millions was like the sea that protects itself with its own strength, and its tremendous waves swept away the jinn and the ghosts.

Muslim Brotherhood militias killed young men and women, but the multitudes in the streets, in the neighborhoods and in the countryside kept growing. They were not afraid of the bullets, they did not retreat one step, but kept advancing until they toppled the regime.

The revolutionaries turned to the national army and the army responded. The police, also, served the people and not the regime.

The age of jinn, spirits and nonsense has ended. The light of knowledge, truth, love and creativity are increasing day by day.

And yet, there are imperialists and Americans who claim that this was not a revolution that demands a new legitimate regime, but merely a crisis, or a coup against democracy.

On July 5, I watched a group of American men on CNN threatening to cut off aid to the revolutionary Egyptian people. And I laughed out loud. I hope that they cut off this aid! Since the time of Anwar Sadat in the 1970s, this aid has destroyed our political and economic life. This aid helps the U.S. more than anyone else. This aid goes directly into the pockets of the ruling class and corrupts it. This aid has strengthened American-Israeli colonial rule in our lands. All that the Egyptian people have gained from this aid is more poverty and humiliation.

Democracy is about more than elections. Legitimacy means more than the ballot box, it means the power of the people.

We Egyptians need a new constitution that will realize the principles of the revolution: equality for all without distinction of sex, religion or class. This we must do first, not just rush to presidential and parliamentary elections. We should not put the cart before the horse. We must not repeat mistakes.

We need a communal, revolutionary leadership and not a single leader.

This is a historical revolution and not a coup d’etat or protest movement or outraged uprising. It is a revolution that will continue until all of its goals are realized.

Nawal El Saadawi is an internationally renowned Egyptian writer who’s writing has influenced five generations of women and men in Egypt and other Arab countries, and paved the way for dissidence, rebellion and revolution. For more than four decades she has suffered under Egyptian political and religious authorities, which has led to imprisonment, exile, death threats and court trials.

miriam cooke is the Braxton Craven Professor of Arab Cultures at Duke University, and Director of the Duke University Middle East Studies Center. She specializes in the study of gender and war in the Arab world, Islamic feminism, modern Arabic literature and culture. Her work focuses on the fiction and films of Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Algerians and the political networks that Muslim women are creating in the 21st century. Her new book Tribal Modern: Branding New Nations in the Arab Gulf (University of California Press, January 2014) is forthcoming.

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Mirrored from IslamiCommentary

18 Responses

  1. In an op-ed by Khaled M Aboul El Fadl in 7-7 NY Times entitled “The Perils of a ‘People’s Coup’”, he concludes: “This time, the military agreed with the protesters. But next time, when protesters call for something that isn’t in the army’s interest, they will meet a different fate…”
    I dare “the people” to do something that threatens the military’s privileges

  2. Rjlynn, an army cannot kill 30 million demonstrators; the fall of the Shah (Iran) shows what happens, military power dissolves in the face of determined opposition. Multiple other popular uprisings show similar effect. The Egyptian army (as controlled by its senior officers) responded to a series of facts of collapse of authority. If in a future occasion, they tried simple repression of the population, well, it would depend, and we will see.

  3. “there are imperialists and Americans who claim that this was not a revolution that demands a new legitimate regime, but merely a crisis, or a coup against democracy.”

    Perhaps it was a coup against tyranny. It was, however, still a coup.

    • Philip it was a coupvolution. Regrettably, all civilian forms of executive accountability had been disabled and the Egyptian people were forced to exercise DIRECT democracy (as oppose to representative democracy). The democratically elected leadership had lost its legitimacy and the people needed to reassert its will.

  4. It might be worth pointing out that the Salafists rather than the MB were the drivers behind the Sharia clauses in the Constitution and both the Salafiyya and those clauses are still around, so if it was a revolt against Islamic law (and I don’t think that was the primary motivation of most of the protestors) it is already looking like a failure.

  5. Don’t consider our cutting off aid a “threat.” Understand that by law, we are required to cut off aid, in the case of a coup. Many– I think most Americans, in sympathy with the recent revolution, do not want to cut off aid. Also, NPR reports that the aid goes mostly to the military. Perhaps though the military IS your “ruling class” after all(?)

  6. Egypt’s officer corps continues its decades long control of the economy and state. The Mubarak tradition continues.

  7. This piece is naive and hyperbolic. Saadawi really beleives that nearly half the Egyptian population took to the streets. Is she sure the number wasn’t 80 million, no maybe even 110 million?

    From the time Mubarak was removed the military has been all over this so-called revolution. Revolutions are not comprised of bellicose self-important rantings in the streets, however liberating those might feel to long-repressed populations. A revolution by definition overturns the power structures in a society, and Egypt’s elite are still absolutely and fully entrenched, and they’re not going anywhere.

    Saadawi has long lived in a fantasy Egypt of her own creation. I would like to ask her how she proposes that her pretend-unified left is going to live in the same country now as the very numerous Brotherhood supporters.

  8. Dear, dear Ms Saadawi, as much as my heart is with the crowds in Tahrir Square, crowds of earnest people do not make a government. It is institutions and elites who make a government. If a true change in government is going to happen in Egypt (or Syria or Libya) it will be because an alternative institution is capable of handling national problems (distributing electricity, seeing that people have food to buy, seeing that the currency is worth something). Show us the building blocks of the next government. Please.

  9. Liberals heehaw! Who counted the 37 million? We know where this writer eats. Lets see who wins btwn the people and these rapacious elites.

  10. John Coburn

    When reading any article, not just Ms. Nawal El Saadawi’s opinion piece, ask yourself these questions: What facts are missing? What haven’t you been told? Information gleaned
    concerning these two question will speak volumes about the intellectual integrity, presence of bias, fairness and objectivity of the article’s author. For example: First, Ms. Saadawi passes over in silence the inconvenient fact that Morsi was, after all, elected President in a free, fair, democratic election! Second, “Democracy is about more than elections. Legitimacy means more than the ballot box, it means the power of the people,” the writer of the article insists. But the following problem is conveniently sidestepped, namely which people? Remember the 60′s when the slogan, “Power to the People” was frequently intoned in some circles? Why those who possess “revolutionary consciousness.” After all, there is surely a range of factors motivating people to demonstrate, like during the Viet Nam War, in this country. Third, there is unquestionably immense discontent in Egypt, and it will surely increase if present economic trends continue to worsen, but to call it “revolutionary consciousness,” in the Marxist sense, tells the reader more about the mindset of the writer of the article, than about the fluid, highly uncertain plight of Egypt, today. Fourth, any convincing analysis of contemporary events should compare the explanations it offers, with those given by differing perspectives. The word political compromise, for what should be an obvious reason, goes unmentioned; and finally, the military, which may be the only institution to avert civil war or the implosion of the Egyptian barely figures in Ms Saadawi’s concluding upbeat, teleological fantasy.

    I would recommend reading then Harvard University social theorist Barrington Moore Jr.’s article, “Revolution in America,” in the “New York Review of Books,” 1969, and the letters in response to it. The context that Moore’s article addresses is, of course, entirely different, but the sober analysis that Moore provides to critically canvas his article topic’s possibility is very pertinent to understanding current events in Egypt.

  11. It was a massive protest with millions but 34 million is absurd.

    Anyway, no Egyptians didn’t suddenly discover some democratic and egalitarian spirit. It’s an illiberal, authoritarian culture. The people don’t have jobs, gas and electricity is cut, and 13 million or so don’t even have enough food to eat. THAT is what is pushing people in the street, not liberal day dreams or English language tweets.

    The military will crush dissent violently and force feed the people a constitution far worse than anything the MB would have done. It’s already happening. I am so looking forward in a few months to reading the shocked cries of Egyptian “liberals” and coup cheerleaders that the Egyptian military doesnt care about human rights or democracy. What a shock. Who could have seen that one coming. It’s not like they ruled the country as a thuggish dictatorship for 60 years.

  12. As much as I hate to put a cloud over Nawal’s deeply felt idealism …I don’t know whether Juan is going to cover this, but this is as good a place as any to bring up Al Jazeera’s current story concerning U.S. funding of anti-Morsi and MB protest in Egypt.

    I think we can also safely assume that the same had been going on in Syria for some time prior to 2011.

    Exclusive: US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists

    Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president’s removal.
    Emad Mekay Last Modified: 10 Jul 2013 13:29

    a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for toppling of the country’s now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

    Documents obtained by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley show the US channeled funding through a State Department programme to promote democracy in the Middle East region. This programme vigorously supported activists and politicians who have fomented unrest in Egypt, after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising in February 2011.

    link to aljazeera.com

    • This is a silly Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory. The article’s writer discovered that the US Democracy Promotion program gave small amounts of money to Egyptian democracy activists, going back to the Mubarak period. No information is given about recent recipients.

      This hysteria about NGOs getting small outside grants from the US and Europe is shared by the military, which has the same xenophobic mindset.

      The article’s title implies that Tamarrud was on the take, which is not in evidence.

      Sorry, but Morsi was supported by the Obama administration, and shot himself in the foot all by himself.

  13. I have read many comments from Egypt about what is on CNN, please be advised that is not a much trusted news source in the USA and neither is the New York Times because of one sided coverage. If you get Fox News in Egypt they have a more balanced news coverage and are more generally more understanding of your situation. They also have 3 times the audience of CNN for good reason. Without the Airport and International news coverage that CNN put in place long ago they would have a negligible audience.

    Also many or maybe most Americans are sympathetic to the overthrow of Morsi realizing what he was trying to do. Trust in government here is also at an all time low, so please don’t take what you hear from CNN, New York Times or the US Government as representing how Americans feel about what is happening in Egypt.

  14. Muslim Brotherhood will disagree with Nawal El Saadawi. I’m with secularists everywhere in the world. However, to deny the fact that the majority of the people might well be on the side of Islamists in Egypt will blind us to the difficulties of ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. Morsi, like Mubarak before him, went down not because he lost the support of the majority necessarily, but because he lost the support of the Army.

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