He discussed his new book, “Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation”.
“Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation” – A Conversation with Ashraf Khalil
Ashraf Khalil, a Cairo-based independent journalist who has covered the Middle East for publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, and Foreign Policy presented remarks on his latest book, Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation. He began by admitting to the pessimism that many people across the world, and even many Egyptians, have subscribed to regarding the state of the revolutionary movement. However, he asserted that while victory is not guaranteed, the movement is indeed winning. He explained that despite the current stalemate, Egyptians should not forget the amazing things they have accomplished.
Referring to common interpretations of the revolution, Khalil spoke of the way revolutionary chants often lose something in translation, particularly when the referees are “middle-aged men.” At the same time, the countless displays by protesters of the word “leave,” referring to the call to oust President Hosni Mubarak, in many different languages demonstrated the cross-cultural solidarity of the movement.
Khalil looked back to February 10, 2011– the day of Mubarak’s televised address during which many expected him to resign. Because he failed to do so, the speech was a dramatic disappointment. It was particularly conciliatory toward the beginning, yet extended into an almost, as Khalil put it, “whiny” recap of what he had given to Egypt and that his aim was never to seek power. Mubarak spoke of dialogue and reform, and demonstrated a deep sympathy for his supporters, many who were responsible for inflicting violence. Khalil described the emotional current of the protesters, who were stunned and brought to silence by the president’s words. It was a moment difficult to describe — one of dismay, determination, and growing rage.
Khalil said the air of pessimism is premature yet understandable, and blamed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for the current stalemate. Since coming to power, the SCAF has tried to make “the least amount of changes,” their only concessions being those triggered by street clashes. When it comes to concrete reasons for this pessimism, Khalil described three. First, he spoke of a “red state/blue state” dichotomy, whereby the SCAF takes advantage of using the “stability card” to justify the lull in progress. He admitted that this is not unbeknownst to activists; that many are fine with it has split the country and even various activist movements. Khalil’s second reason was internal issues. He stated that Mubarak’s rule had corrosive effects on Egyptian society, and impeded upon opportunities for a long-term internal individual revolution. According to Khalil, it will take awhile to “deprogram” these effects, and to instill a renewed sense of ownership and pride. Lastly, he described overwhelming suspicion over external actors, particularly the intentions of financial assistance from the United States, Europe, the Saudis, and the Qataris.
Khalil continued addressing the issue of Islamisization. He pointed out that the majority of Islamists, emphasizing the Muslim Brotherhood, are not fundamentalists. He described their “grassroots machine” and their professional and pragmatic approach. As for the Salafists, they are at or near the high watermark of their popularity, and truly are fundamentalists. However, he didn’t see the Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood as having long lasting impacts. As for the SCAF, he suspects that they want to ensure that their economic and other interests are secured going into the future.