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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Eye on the revolution: Maha Gahallah, a Nubian tale

In this ten-part series, Ahram Online asks those who took part in the 25 January Revolution what they make of Egypt's current political situation two years after Mubarak's departure

Dina Ezzat , Tuesday 19 Mar 2013
Maha Gahallah
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Views: 6136

It was only in her mid-twenties that Maha Gahallah found ‘once and for all’ her Nubian roots, and it was from there that she embarked on politics – ‘but always with a human face.’ After all, this is why she went from a banker to a civil society worker.

Today, Gahallah is still trying to introduce this ‘human face’ into politics, arguing that Egypt must focus on development beyond the current state of polarisation.


  • As a Nubian, I subscribe to a firm culture of solidarity; it doesn’t matter how many members you have in a family because they all have to be very close and very committed to one another. This is precisely why I liked going to Tahrir Square during Egypt’s 25 January Revolution, although personally I’m more of a reformist than than a revolutionary. And this is what I think is most lacking today: solidarity. As Egyptians, we’re far too divided.
  • Today, it seems to me that reform isn’t progressing and that there is hardly any attention accorded to the demands of the people as represented by the slogans of the revolution: ‘justice and dignity’ are as elusive today as they were under the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
  • Nubians’ grievances started with construction of the Aswan Dam and were overlooked by successive rulers. The fact that there are Nubian demonstrations today is not an indication at all that the problems started today, but rather an indication that Nubians have decided – like all other Egyptians – to speak up.
  • I have to say that I have an issue with the rule of Islamists that goes way beyond the unfortunate state management that Mohamed Morsi has demonstrated.
  • Yes, you can call me an ‘Islamophobe’ if you wish, but the fact remains that it was my fears of Islamists that was dominant during the first days of the revolution. I was apprehensive about the future; afraid of the day when the Islamists would rule. This fear isn’t just about my concern about the restrictions on personal liberties that Islamists could impose, but more with relation to the philosophy of Islamists as we have known it, especially the charity-rather-than-development approach that they have often embraced, which I thought was just another form of inducing dependence.
  • I attended several functions conducted by the then ruling National Democratic Party – to which I, along with other distinct university students, was offered honorary membership – and I found them to be absolutely useless.
  • I wanted change, but I did not want this change to be from Mubarak to the Islamists.
  • It was my fear of Islamists that pushed me to vote for Ahmed Shafiq in the second round [of last year’s] presidential elections. I boycotted the first round of elections because I thought we were making a big mistake by conducting presidential polls before writing a constitution that should have represented the entire nation fairly. And as an Egyptian – and above all, as a Nubian – I wanted to see an end to unfairness, and when the big day came and Mubarak stepped down I was not really rejoicing like most others because I was obsessed with what would follow.
  • Today, not just as a Nubian but as a woman, I feel that the constitution and the current regime are not taking me seriously. As a Nubian and a woman, I feel that I belong to two groups that the regime thinks of only in terms of an additional voting capacity. I cannot say, however, that it was different under Mubarak. And no, I cannot say for sure that it would have been different if Shafiq were elected – certainly not for Nubians, and maybe less so for women.
  • If Morsi wants to make a good president, he must do what he promised: be a president for all Egyptians. But I don’t think he will ever do this – not necessarily because he does not want to, but most of all because I don’t think he really wants to. He is far too weak to defy the will of the [Muslim Brotherhood’s] Guidance Bureau. His presidency is doomed.
  • I see no alternative with the National Salvation Front. And many people say exactly that: that the front is not offering a credible alternative to go by.
  • I think the best thing that could happen now is for Morsi to decide to step down and we start afresh. I think, however, that is a very difficult call.
  • I cannot say that I regret the 25 January Revolution, because – when all is said and done – it gave the go-ahead to change and one day the right thing will happen. We just have to pursue the dream and be patient. Just as the Nile flows, we must flow along with our hopes.
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