Hamdeen Sabbahi defies death threats, vows to continue revolutionary path

Ahram Online , Friday 8 Feb 2013

Responding to an edict issued by a fiery Salafist cleric calling for the assasination of opposition NSF figures, Hamdeen Sabbahi says his revolutionary convictions give him strength

Hamdeen Sabbahi in Tahrir Square, November 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi said on Friday that peaceful protests will continue until the revolution’s goals have been achieved and until retribution for all slain protesters has been achieved.

Sabbahi stated that this would take place regardless of death threats against him or other members of opposition umbrella group the National Salvation Front (NSF).

“Our faith in the revolution kills any threats,” Sabbahi, who stood as a presidential candidate in last year's elections, stated on his official Twitter account on Friday.

His comments came in response to a highly controversial fatwa by Al-Azhar University professor and host of a religious television show on the ultraconservative TV channel El-Hafez, Mahmoud Shaaban, last week.

Shaaban stated that the opposition should be punished by death for attempting to bring down a leader elected by the public, directly naming Sabbahi and fellow NSF leader Mohamed ElBaradei.

Following widespread criticism of the edict, with many calling for harsh measures to be carried out against Shaaban, the presidential office on Thursday released a statement condemning the fatwa.  

"Some are promoting and inciting political violence while others who claim to speak in the name of religion are permitting ‘killing’ based on political differences, and this is terrorism," read the statement.

Following the threat, Egypt’s interior ministry provided extra security for Sabbahi and ElBaradei, but Sabbahi refused any extra safeguards saying he "lives and will continue to live as a private citizen."

Tensions between Islamists and anti-Islamists have been on the rise in the Arab Spring countries in recent months.

On Wednesday, Tunisian opposition figure Chokri Belaid, a critic of the Islamist-led Ennahda government, was assasinated by unknown assailants sparking fears of a repeat in Egypt.

Friday is expected to see mass protests in Egypt, with many opposition groups, including the NSF, mobilising their followers to demonstrate against the government of President Mohamed Morsi on what has been dubbed "Departure Friday" or "the Friday of human dignity."

Who is Hamdeen Sabbahi

A veteran Nasserist opposition figure and former member of parliament, Hamdeen Sabbahi is an outspoken critic of the United States and Israel.
Born in 1954 in the Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, Sabbahi studied mass communication at Cairo University.

Raised in a peasant family in the coastal city of Balteem, he was the youngest of 11 children. Sabbahi spent his childhood among other peasants and fishermen, and himself worked as a fisherman in his younger years.

A politically-active student, Sabbahi was elected head of the Cairo University student union in 1975 and served as deputy chair of the General Federation of Students from 1975 to 1977.

He established the political Nasserist Thought Club to mobilise on Cairo University’s campus in defence of the principles of Abdel-Nasser's 1952 revolution in a context of later rapprochement efforts with the West by then-president Anwar El-Sadat.

In 1977, following the January popular uprising against president Sadat over skyrocketing food prices, Sabbahi publicly confronted the president in a televised meeting in which he spoke on behalf of the Cairo University Student Union. As a result, Sabbahi was prohibited from working as a journalist in the state media sector for several years.

In 1996 Sabbahi founded the Arab Nasserist Al-Karama Party and was twice elected to the People's Assembly in 2000 and 2005.

Sabbahi was jailed several times over the course of his political career. One of these arrests was under Sadat in 1981 along with 1500 politicians, intellectuals and activists in what was a major crackdown on opposition from across the political spectrum.

Sabbahi was again arrested in 1997, under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, on charges of inciting agricultural workers to protest against new legislation that strengthened the hand of landowners against poor tenant farmers.

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