Elections bring Turkey-based Egyptian Revolutionary Council back to the spotlight

Hana Afifi , Friday 10 Apr 2015

The ERC — a group that calls for the restoration of ousted president Mohamed Morsi — attempted unsuccessfully to gather support in Washington in January against the Egyptian regime

The Turkey-based Egyptian Revolutionary Council (ERC) has elected a president for a two-year term, according to a statement the group issued earlier this week.

According to the statement, the group aims to ensure "the revolutionaries' messages on the inside," referring to Egypt, "reach foreign governments, parliaments and media, as well as international and human rights organisations effectively."

The council returns to the spotlight after attempts to gather support in Washington ahead of the anniversary of the January 25 Revolution this year were ineffective.

It has been calling foreign states to support the council against what they describe as "the military-backed regime" in Egypt.

The council was founded in August 2014 in Istanbul, days before the one-year anniversary of the forced dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda square sit-ins, and at a time when the influence of the Egypt-based National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) was receding.

The ERC's aims are similar to that of NASL, which called for restoring Mohamed Morsi as president. It stands against the current Egyptian regime and describes the 30 June 2013 uprising as a coup d'état, calling for the regime's downfall.

NASL had welcomed the creation of the council, saying any initiatives to promote the goals of the Egyptian revolution and oppose the "military coup" must be encouraged.

Eight months before ERC's birth, in December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist group by the Egyptian government.

Thousands of Brotherhood leaders and supporters have been arrested and tried on a variety of charges since, leaving its structure somewhat unclear.

The ERC's newly elected president is Maha Azzam. Walid Sharaby is vice-president and Mohamed Sherif secretary general, also for two-year terms.

Azzam vowed to press the council's message in confronting the current regime in Egypt "with all strength and without compromise until it falls."

"The General Assembly discussed new mechanisms and strategies for the movement of the Egyptian revolution abroad," the council said in the statement.

It also said the ERC would "study all the ways to support revolutionaries on the inside and communicate with political and youth forces in order to produce a consensual political project that unites all revolutionary forces."

The ERC describes itself on its official Facebook page as "a body for Egyptian forces and individuals from a variety of political and intellectual backgrounds who abide by the principles of the January 25 Revolution." It includes prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood and allied Islamists. 

When founded, the ERC included members like Islamist Asalaa Party leader Ehab Sheeha, former MP Tharwat Nafae, journalist Ayat Al-Orabi, rights activist Niveen Malak, former Minister of Information Salah Abdel-Maksoud, former Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council member Gamal Heshmat, and spokesman for the Judges Group Waleed Sharabi, reported Ahmed Morsy for Al-Ahram Weekly in August 2014.

Al-Orabi and Heshmat are no longer in leading positions in the council following internal elections.

The elected committee heads are: Amr Darag (founding member of the Freedom and Justice Party) as head of the political and economic committee; journalist Ahmed Hassan El-Sharkawy (a Muslim Brotherhood supporter) as head of the media office; Ahmed Amer as head of the international relations office, and Osama Rushdy (former Gamaa Islamiya member) as head of the rights and legal office.

Also, Amr Adel was elected head of the committee for civil society and mobilisation while Samir El-Arki was elected to head the communications with revolutionary bodies and forces committee — two newly approved committees. The ERC General Assembly also approved a new students and youth committee.

In the name of herself, the ERC Executive Bureau and all its members, Azzam saluted "President Mohamed Morsi" and NASL. She also saluted "the legitimate revolutionary parliament and its members who were elected by the people," and "all the revolutionaries on the ground, at the top of which are those detained in prisons for their legendary resistance in the face of the daily killings of the coup's regime."

In a statement early January, the Egyptian foreign ministry warned that the ERC was a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group, accusing it of claiming to represent the Egyptian people and of inciting violence.

"Some members of these entities are wanted for trial and are visiting many states to promote wrongful and extremist ideas ... as well as making efforts to shore up support for malicious goals to destroy the Egyptian state," the ministry said.

The ministry statement refrained from specifying which countries it accused the groups of meeting with.

Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt mainly sought asylum in Turkey and Qatar. An ERC delegation attended Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inauguration as president on 28 August 2014.

Erdogan has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of Morsi's ouster, repeatedly describing the transition as a "coup" and criticising the world's "inaction" towards the Egyptian government's crackdown on Islamists, which has seen hundreds killed and thousands jailed.

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