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A revealing phone conversation

January 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

I was having lunch when my Egyptian line rang. The caller was Dr Osama al-Ghazali Harb, head of the Democratic Front Party, a member of the National Salvation Front, a former member of the dissolved National Democratic Party’s policy secretariat, and former editor in chief of the International Politics magazine.

The conversation started with him expressing his surprise and irritation when he saw me as a guest on Al-Jazeera Egypt’s program, ‘Secretaire el Tahreer.’ He said he was calling out of ‘love and respect’ for me. I thanked him for his concern and respect and asked him which Egyptian television channel he thought I should appear on?

He answered by asking me, “Aren’t there any other television channels that you like other than the channel that says what happened in Egypt was a coup?”

I replied that I “believed that the events of July 3rd were a coup ever since they began. It aborted the new-born democratic experience in Egypt, and even though I did not vote for Ahmad Shafik (the former army general and last prime minister appointed by Hosni Mubarak), if he were to have won, I still wouldn’t have participated in a coup against him because I respect democracy and do not agree with a coup.” So he answered, “How was it a coup? Didn’t you see the millions who took to the streets?”

I said, “Yes, I saw them, and that is what made me even more committed to the ballot boxes that rely on votes rather than crowds and the exaggerations of the ‘millions’ who took to the streets. After all, I can still see millions who continue to take to the streets protesting against the coup!”

He denied the existence of protests or marches of many people and said that there were only “dozens” of people. I told him that he believed they were only dozens because that is what he is being told by the television stations that seek to delude and misguide the people.

Then he said, “but the Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist Nazi group”, and that was why he voted for Ahmed Shafik in the elections “because I couldn’t vote for Morsi.”

So I replied, “But they are Egyptian citizens who rejected violence long ago. Why won’t you talk about the fascist Nazi measures being taken against them now? Does their victory in the elections justify the murder, burning and arrests they are currently being subjected to? Is this democracy Dr Osama?”

He did not answer me, and instead, Dr Osama al-Ghazali Harb repeated his accusation against the Brotherhood, accusing them of killing officers in Kardasa police station as well as, attacking and burning churches in a number of areas and provinces.

Then I said, “What evidence are you basing your accusations on?”, and he replied, “Who else would’ve done it?”

I then asked him if it was acceptable to accuse someone of something without any proof; what happened to the “innocent until proven guilty” rule?

So he replied, “They are a group who are not loyal to Egypt, and they threatened the military that they would burn Egypt if they weren’t put in power.”

Then I said, “So Dr, you are convinced that the military was afraid of the Brotherhood, who threatened them before reaching power, so they fixed the elections in their favour, against Shafik? How and why? By the way, al-Sisi was a member of the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces).”

He said, “al-Sisi is a respectable man and I am not certain that the presidential elections were honest and fair, and not falsified.”

“The elections were fair and were witnessed by internal and international human rights organisations. The forged elections occurred during the time of the National Democratic party, which you were a member of,” I replied.

He answered angrily, “Shame on you Nadia! You know that I resigned from the party.”

I replied, “I know, that’s why I said that you were a member of the party, and I don’t know what is more shameful, that you were a member of the party or that the party forged elections.”

Every once in a while, throughout the phone call, he would say, with astonishment, “You are speaking like a foreigner” and that he was speaking like “the holder of a Ph.D in political science.”

And every time he said that, I would answer, “I am speaking like an Egyptian citizen, journalist, and media personality who has covered the news and events in Egypt and Middle East for about 25 years. I am also speaking like a political analyst who has earned a Master’s degree in political science and political Islam from the American University in Cairo over 20 years ago.”

He also kept saying during the phone call, which lasted about 20 minutes that Egypt would progress because it is on the right path. He said this as though he was trying to convince himself, rather than convince me.

My response was that the right path cannot be founded on the thousands of deaths and imprisonments, the demonization of the opposition and the attempt to eliminate a group as large as the Brotherhood from political life just so that the losers can win political and electoral support.

The conversation ended with me saying that differences should not break us apart and him saying that only time would tell who is wrong and who is right.

I decided to publish this conversation because it is not personal and it is a chance to display the convictions of the opposing sides on events in Egypt since July 3rd. I also published this because I am surprised, in general, by these sayings and even more surprised that they were coming from someone with a doctorate in political science who should be speaking based on evidence.

It is also important to show how a conflict with a political party in Egypt justifies for many, not only the general public, and even individuals with doctorates in political science, saying that contradict the science they majored in and with the principles of democracy, honesty, truth, and justice. This, however, does not mean that the Muslim Brotherhood or President Morsi did not make any mistakes.

However, criticising mistakes and opposing them must be done based on accurate information and facts, not by promoting lies or baseless accusations, and certainly not by killing, burning, and arresting thousands of Brotherhood members and members of the opposition. Moreover, they should not be eliminated from public or political life in Egypt.

This is not how nations are established or elevated, particularly as the January revolution promoted the slogan “Life… freedom… social justice… human dignity”.

The revolution in Egypt was not sparked and thousands killed in order for a political party to be eradicated and a state of emergency restored. It was not carried out in order for the opposition to be oppressed, killed and arrested in the thousands, or to silence the public, shut down television stations, and allow the military to influence the media’s loyalty. It was not done to gather intellectuals that would safeguard General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi or any other constitutional official, as suggested in a leaked conversation between the minister of defence, Al-Sisi and editor in chief at al-Masry al-Youm, Yasser Rizk. The revolution in Egypt did not happen so that it would become the republic of fear and be much worse than during Mubarak’s reign.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.