VIDEO: Ahram Online Twitter forum with Amr Hamzawy

Ahram Online, Thursday 27 Sep 2012

Amr Hamzawy talked on Thursday to Ahram Online's Egypt editor Dina Samak, and answered tweeted questions about the country's political future

Egypt's largest news organisation, Al-Ahram, teamed up with Egyptian politician Amr Hamzawy for a live Twitter discussion on Thursday, which featured user-generated questions in three languages.

The forum was transmitted on Twitter via the handle: #AhramTweets. Questions and responses were available in English, Arabic and French.

Readers submitted questions using the Twitter hashtag #askhamzawy with @ahramonline, several of which were chosen for the interview, which was conducted between 19:00 and 20:00 CMT.

Ahram Online's news editor Dina Samak presented the questions. Proceedings were tweeted simultaneously in English, Arabic and French on @ahramonline, @eahram and @ahramhebdo, respectively.

Hamzawy is a well-known political analyst, considered an important figure in post-uprising Egypt. He was an independent MP in the now-dissolved People's Assembly.

Thursday's forum will be the first in a regular series of discussions conducted by Al-Ahram with key public figures. Follow #AhramTweets for the latest.

Zeinab El-Gundy and Mohamed Nada collected questions posed to Hamzawy. Nada Hussein Rashwan and Salma Shukrallah tweeted his responses.


Amr Hamzawy

Amr Hamzawy is a renowned Egyptian liberal politician and activist. He was born in 1967 and founded the Egypt Freedom Party in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution. He was also an MP in Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament.

Before entering electoral politics, Hamzawy was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, serving as a research director at the organisation’s Beirut office. His research focused mostly on issues of political reform and political Islamist movements in the Middle East. He was also a frequent commentator on pan-Arab media outlets, including Al Jazeera.

Hamzawy currently teaches political science at Cairo University and the American University in Cairo. He received his PhD from the Free University of Berlin.



AO: Strong debate concerning the article you wrote in Al-Watan recently. Can you please explain the summary of your article?

AH: Egypt is committed to international agreements. We should communicate with international bodies.

.. I do not double speak. I did not call for intervention from international organizations or any foreign organisations.

.. My point about dialogue in my latest column was misunderstood; I did not mean intervention, but rather international communication.

.. I believe in the legitimacy of ballot boxes. I've always been against any form of infringement on democracy through foreign interference.

AO: Why criticise the constitution now if it has not yet been drafted fully?

AH: There were some worrying articles like those related to minimum age of marriage for women.

AO: Do you believe there is exaggeration in the heated debate on social media about your latest column?

AH: I refuse to act like a victim.

..I posed a number of concerns and I am ready to discuss the points I've raised.

..I disagree that if a constitution falls behind on Human Rights and freedom the Egyptian government should be boycotted.

..I am just calling for abiding by international conventions when drafting the constitution.

AO: Do you not think that Islamists are ready to compromise and reformulate the constituent assembly?

AH: What we propose does not aim at attacking Islamists so they should be more open to the suggestions.

..Imbalance in constituent assembly is not about party domination. It is about ill-representation of some factions of society and qualified national figures.

..I hope we trespass our political and electoral calculations in writing the new constitution.

AO: Why shouldn’t all the liberals withdraw from the constituent assembly? People are wondering why not take a more clear stand from the assembly?

AH: We should respect each one's decision in dealing with the assembly because it is a complex issue. 

.. We should respect for example El-Tibi's choice and her resignation should have been equally read at the assembly.

.. We started raising awareness concerning the constitution; what the red-lines are and what a civil state means.

.. If needed we should start campaigning for a NO vote on constitution. I hope international conventions are not circumvented.

.. There is a strong dilemma between quitting and continuing in the constituent assembly. It's not right to be judgmental of the members.

AO: Why do liberals fear an islamist political system? Do they not trust the Shari'a law to uphold legislation?

AH: Liberals' fear of Sharia originated from practicing politics through the aspect of identity.

AO: Some comments on twitter ask whether when you say "we" you mean the political elite saying you should engage with people.

AH: Political elites have been divided and scattered and need to overcome their disagreements.

.. As for the criticism that claims we do not engage with people, I am always traveling within Egypt and engaging in debates.

AO: Can the popular current or the third way or other new alternatives have power in the streets?

AH: Whether the new coalitions will have power in the streets depends on whether we learn from our previous experiences.

.. Previous coalitions used to give too much attention to media and we were always divided.

.. Another failure of previous coalitions is not knowing how to manage disagreements.

.. Differences in economic and social ideologies can be set aside and the constitution the first priority of all pro-civil state forces.

AO: Tweets from Heliopolis say you stopped caring about your electoral district since you got into working in media.

AH: There are different reasons why I worked in media and it is not political.

.. I am thinking of reconsidering my work in media to be able to balance better the effort and time.

.. I will contest in the upcoming parliament elections.

AO: Where is Egypt's new foreign policy direction going especially with nation talks with Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran?

AH: Regarding Palestine I am pleased with President Morsi’s position. Israel’s right wing government has expanded occupation.

.. I am for a free trade zone with Gaza.

.. The Syrian regime is committing crimes against humanity.

.. Iran has a right to possess peaceful nuclear power but that has its risks.

.. Morsi's visit to China was a positive step, so was his speech in Tehran.

.. I think there are strong challenges posed by Nile Basin countries and should be immediately addressed.

AO: Does contradiction in presidential statements with those of the Muslim Brotherhood reflect internecine conflict in Brotherhood's ranks?

AH: I do not see any signs that there are differences within the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a very organised group.

.. I am sure President Morsi coordinates with Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party.

AO: How do you define yourself politically?

AH: I find myself torn between writing an academic paper analysing the current political scene or to continue in political life.

.. Sometimes I long for my life as an academic and a researcher.

.. Politics force those who practice it to tone down their stances.

Short link: