Eye on the revolution: Bahaa Anwar, a Shia story

Dina Ezzat , Wednesday 27 Mar 2013

In this 10-part series, Ahram Online asks those who took part in the January 25 Revolution what they make of Egypt's current political situation two years after Mubarak's ouster

Bahaa Anwar an Egyptian activist
Bahaa Anwar

Born Sunni Muslim but converting in his 20s to the Shia sect, following "a dream that was closer to a revelation," Bahaa Anwar left the majority for the minority. Later, his family joined him in his choice. The story of Shias in Egypt is both delicate and complex. According to Anwar, Shia life under President Mohamed Morsi is not different fromq that under the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak, deposed in the 25 January Revolution in which Anwar participated.




  • It was never easy under the rule of Hosni Mubarak for a young man from the heart of the middle class and with no particular contacts to find a job, but when it was known that I was Shia it became almost impossible, and keeping one depending on masking my identity.
  • My decision to reveal my Shia affiliation has not been easy. It came with very tough security persecution, to the point that I had to leave Egypt for Turkey in search of asylum. When I left I hoped I would come back to a different country, one not run by Mubarak. But ultimately I had to come back because I could not make it there.
  • During the years leading to the January 25 Revolution I decided to attempt to integrate my concerns as a Shia into the wider horizon of national interest. I managed to do this through my political associations.
  • When I joined the crowds in Tahrir Square I was doing so both as an Egyptian tired of despair and as a Shia tired of discrimination. Today, I remain as desperate, as alienated, as I was before the revolution. This does not have to do with the Muslim Brotherhood president, but with the fact that we failed to oust the regime, as we were too happy with ousting the president.
  • I am not sure that things would have been significantly different for me as a Shia had any of the other presidential candidates won. Maybe they would have been somewhat different for me as an Egyptian who wishes for a decent living standard and for the fulfillment of the calls we were chanting during the revolution days: freedom, social justice and dignity.
  • I think that our political fight today remains exactly the same as it was under Mubarak: the fight for a truly civil state that is not run either by the security apparatus or by religion. Under Mubarak, as under Morsi, we were and are living in a state that is run by a mix of both the security apparatus and religion.
  • I think that it would be a disaster for Egypt if it followed the Iranian model as some Iranian intellectuals invited Morsi to do recently.
  • Iran, also, is a country that is run by the horrid mix of religion and security. It is an authoritarian mix that has nothing to do with who is Shia and who is Sunni. In fact, the Shia sect is a very spiritual sect while the Iranian approach is based on political interests — not religion and not spirituality.
  • I don’t want Egypt to be another Iran; nor do I want it to be another Pakistan or another Afghanistan or another Saudi Arabia or another Sudan. I want Egypt to be its own tolerant and heterogeneous self. This is how Egypt was during the 18 days of the January 25 Revolution.
  • I think it would take more than a different president for this to happen; it would take a different political leadership on both sides — the regime and opposition alike.
  • If the youth does not take over from the current confused and outdated political leadership, then we would have to go through another revolution before we can get things right.
Short link: