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Youth coalition member tells of meeting army council

Supreme Military Council 'shocked' by Youth Coalition's preparation and resolve

Mary Mourad, Friday 4 Mar 2011

Mohamed El-Kassas was among the Youth Coalition of 25th of January Revolution who met with the Supreme Military Council on the 28th of February. He shared with Ahram Online his impressions and insights from the meeting with the Council earlier this week.

Originally a graduate from the Faculty of Religious Sciences at Cairo University, El-Kassas works in media production and advertising. The father of a four-month old baby, he has been politically active since his early college days.

“I belong to a religious family and my father was a scholar at Al-Azhar. I quickly found myself among the Muslim Brotherhood at university. They had the best combination offering social as well as political activities.” El-Kassas, like many others of the young Brotherhood members, saw his share of police brutality and detention.

Little did the Supreme Military Council expect what they got when they made an appointment to meet members of the Youth Coalition of 25th of January Revolution, as El-Kassas explained.

“They had expected a friendly chat, a simple conversation with a bunch of young people, similar to previous conversations they had with individual youth before, without a work agenda. They didn’t take us very seriously to start with. They were really shocked!”

The members of the Council started by expressing their appreciation for the movement and the revolution, and their respect for its martyrs, establishing a positive atmosphere.

The meeting which had been long-awaited saw each side attend with different aims. The Supreme Council came holding a big title “Calm Down”, while the Coalition members came with a different title “Demands.” The lengthy meeting was an attempt to resolve these two conflicting viewpoints.

The Supreme Council had set itself up, through its three representatives, to ask questions about the youth themselves: who they represent, their backgrounds, what their groups are after and their political stances.

On the other side, the Coalition had done its homework and prepared a lengthy list of demands, including removal of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, releasing detainees and reforming parties and election processes.

The Council’s language was “parental”, said El-Kassas, repeating words of “wisdom” and “advice” and “asking” for support rather than giving orders. Requests such as “trust us”, “help us” and “hear us” were used throughout, bringing an emotional dimension to an otherwise-austere meeting.

“But this didn’t continue for long. They eventually realized that we’re very serious about our demands, and started discussing them in detail. In the end, we’re not a bunch of youth to be fooled.”

“They’re under a lot of pressure,” is what El-Kassas, and his colleagues in the coalition, have come to understand from the meeting. “The Council has to deal with so many factors, internal military decisions, old regime powers, external forces, demands from the people.” This new understanding is likely to help the negotiations move forward. “They carry a very big responsibility and this is a source of fear to them of course.”  

The meeting ended ambiguously with vague promises on both sides.

The Coalition promised to calm protests a little if the army offered at least a change in Prime Minister, leading the Council to promise they’d remove him in “due time”. Both pledges were enacted before the end of the week:  Shafik resigned and Essam Sharaf was appointed as new PM. This pleased many, including members of the Coalition which has includes his name among suggested appointees.

Planned Friday demonstrations are now becomng a “celebration” of the success achieved so far.

“We were all relieved by the end of the meeting,” El-Kassas relates. “But it doesn’t mean it’s the end of story. A lot of work is coming up and there are still demands to be met. We have nothing but the street to express them and we’ll continue doing that.”

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