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ElBaradei, the Brotherhood and trapping elephants in a napkin

Mohamed ElBaradei [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Mohamed ElBaradei [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

When he was appointed vice president of Egypt after the military coup in 2013, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei denied any coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood during the January 2011 revolution. During the third part of his recent interview with Alaraby TV, ElBaradei was asked, “Didn’t you coordinate with the Brotherhood during the revolution?” He answered, “No, not at all.”

Since the sixth anniversary of the aborted revolution occurs this year amid a jumble of muddiness, distortion and the falsification of dates and facts, it is important to try to get a grip on the threads of the story objectively if we are to preserve the people’s right to know what happened.

Dr ElBaradei did not mention that the Brotherhood collected over 650,000 signatures on the “One Million Signatures for the Repeal of Discriminatory Laws” petition, which was part of his campaign for change in 2009. This was the first million for the revolution that ElBaradei said repeatedly would signal the end of Hosni Mubarak’s regime if the barrier of fear and hesitation could be broken, and if the people took to the squares. This is, indeed, what happened.

The story of the One Million Signatures was killed, and I have said more than once that a quick search on Google or YouTube would bring up testimonies to the pivotal role played by the Muslim Brotherhood to make the January Revolution against Mubarak’s regime a success; it forced him to leave office. We must ask, therefore, did ElBaradei really not coordinate with the Muslim Brotherhood?

The established facts say that prominent leaders within the movement, namely Dr Saad Katatni and Dr Essam El-Erian, were arrested after meeting ElBaradei in his home after his return from Vienna. This was in anticipation of the “Friday of Anger” on 28 January, 2011.

If we take into consideration the known fact that ElBaradei is very conservative and cautious, almost to the point of paranoia, about who he welcomes into his home, then it is logical to assume that Katatni and El-Erian visited him by appointment. The meeting was arranged in order to discuss and coordinate the management of the anger that erupted on 25th January and spread in the following days.

I believe that the general atmosphere during those critical days would not by any means indicate or suggest that the purpose of the visit was to engage in a game of chess or PlayStation, or to discuss family matters. In addition, those on the other side of the story sit behind bars at the moment, unable to respond to or correct any of the “facts” in the public domain. As such, with all due respect to Dr ElBaradei’s right to tell his version of the story, it remains one-sided and does not represent the absolute truth.

Furthermore, there is another version of what happened, documented by Dr Essam El-Erian on his personal website. This was published later in Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper.

“Dr ElBaradei determined his position and announced to us that he was on his way to Cairo,” wrote El-Erian. “He asked to meet with the Brotherhood, so the Guidance Office decided I would go, along with my dear brother, Dr Mohamed Saad Katatni. We were to meet him on Friday night at 9 pm and we agreed to meet at Dr ElBaradei’s house.”

The meeting was held according to their host’s wishes, insisted El-Erian. “We, along with others, advised him of the need to return immediately from abroad, otherwise the train of events would pass him by. The meeting lasted until after midnight. Fate had something else in store for us.”

According to El-Erian’s version, the meeting was attended by leaders from the National Association for Change, including Dr Abdul Jalil Mustafa, Dr Mohamed Abul-Ghar and the youth from ElBaradei’s campaign, including Mustafa Najjar, Abdel Moneim Imam and the director of his Twitter account.

“In the ‘Together we will change’ statement,” continued El-Erian, “we agreed that the protests would continue until our demands were met, most importantly ending the state of emergency, and holding free elections under judicial supervision. We also agreed that we were all committed to not raising private, sectarian or partisan slogans or demands and that the movement would be a national one where everyone bore responsibility in solidarity.”

It was agreed that Katatni, ElBaradei and Abul-Ghar would head the demonstration that would start after the Friday prayer from Al-Istiqamah Mosque in Giza Square, added El-Erian. “[However}, Katatni prayed the Friday prayer with us in custody at the October 6th Security Directorate, while ElBaradei and Abul-Ghar were subject to the security attack on the demonstration and did not continue. Meanwhile, the youth continued walking to the University Bridge.”

Here is where El-Erian’s story ends, but an unforgettable image remains in our memory: ElBaradei visited the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, at the height of the revolutionary chaos, after the overthrow of Mubarak, when the Military Council took over, and he was welcomed by Katatni and El-Erian. On 17 July 2011, the Freedom and Justice Gate published a news item about his visit, along with a photograph, captioned: “Dr Essam El-Erian, FJP Vice President, and Dr Saad Katatni, Director-General, welcome Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, presidential candidate and former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director, on Sunday evening at the FJP headquarters.” ElBaradei was joined by two former ambassadors, Sayed Kassem and Ezz Al-Din Shoukry.

If all of this was not “coordination”, what was it?

ElBaradei talks about two giant elephants that fought over Egypt after the revolution, Mubarak’s state military agencies and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, it is strange that the man strived, during two different phases, to coordinate with both of the elephants that he considered to be a source of danger to the revolution. Did he think that he would be able to capture both elephants and trap them in his napkin?

Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid23 January 2017 

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

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