Egypt’s Youth Revolution Coalition (YRC) were hosted on Saturday, 26 March by the El Sawy Culturewheel as part of the fifth session of the “Egypt in Transition: Know your Role” seminar series. Among the panelists representing the YRC were Khaled Abdel Hamid and Islam Lotfy of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
The panelists began by discussing the role of the coalition during the early days of the revolution. Abdel Hamid talked of 25 January when the group attempted to sit down in Tahrir that night to organise the coming days, but were met with a brutal police crackdown. He went on to discuss the next few days. The coalition had realised by the 28th of January that the uprising had taken on a life of its own. Football slogans, he stated, such as “get out means leave, you who doesn’t understand” were thrown around as people began to politically awaken. “Tahrir became a model for people’s capabilities without a leader or president,” Abdel Hamid stated, pointing to the organic nature of the uprising.
Islam Lotfy shifted the point of discussion to the military council which currently runs the country in the interim. “I can’t say we have any role with council,” he stressed, adding, “they deal with any group or movement whether they are established or not.” He continued pointing out that this could be good and bad. It was good, he argued, that the military council was willing to meet with any group who wished to set forward their demands, but on the other hand, all these meetings haven’t been very fruitful as the military hasn’t been able to respond to the bulk of the demands.
Lotfy stated that the YRC had met with the military council four times and learned from each subsequent engagement that the military was different than the regime and had not entered into the oppressive boots of their predecessors. They were not acting “in the same capacity as Mubarak’s regime”, stated the MB member, adding that “what they did during the early days of the revolution proved that they weren’t Mubarak’s men.”
He mentioned that in the coalition’s first meeting with the military council, a general approached him and said, “You did what we wish we could have done for the past 20-30 years.” Lotfy then emphasised that Egyptian’s should “let the military get its work done as quickly as possible.” Referring to the country’s history he argued that the role of the military from the days of Muhammed Ali till the 1952 Free Officers coup till now has been to ‘oversee and protect’ the Egyptian populace.
The MB member then explained the group’s reasons behind not meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit in Egypt. He stated that though it might have been a “politically wrong” action, they neveretheless stand by their decision especially as the US administration was a vital supporter and ally of the ousted Mubarak regime. Lotfi also stressed that the US had flip flopped greatly in its policy and message during the 18 days of the uprising.
The group, however, met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül due to Turkey’s support of the revolution -- especially the support of the Turkish youth. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s offer to meet with the YRC was refused, said the group, as they don’t recognise any dictator.
The coalition seemed to shy away from answering any questions regarding both the parliamentary and the presidential elections, explaining that the situation was not clear and that a date had not been set yet for either election. Abdel Hamid jumped in saying that he had just received word from Al Masry Al Youm that the presidential elections could be in 2012. When asked by the moderator whether they preferred the parliamentary elections to precede the presidential one, Lotfi said he would wait till the situation was less ambiguous.
Abdel Hamid finished the session off by encouraging people to “be patient, but if [the military council] don’t respond to our demands, we will go down to the streets again!”