How would you describe the current situation in the Middle East and North African region?
Things have spun out of control. There is no thing called Arab Spring any more, but there is something called Civil War. When Zine El Abdine Ben Ali, the former president of Tunisia, stepped down from power, almost all the Arab countries received a lesson which took years to be understood. The lesson pushed and motivated Libyans to start their revolution, and that was exactly what they did, but the revolution was more brutal and bloody since Muammar Qaddafi initially refused to resign. However, somehow, he was forced to leave the throne, but that was not how civilians expected it to happen. His death was at the expense of thousands of innocent Libyans civilians.
Qaddafi’s force for resignation sent a signal to most of the Arab countries that it is time to stand up and seek freedom. Egypt was one of those countries that took the signal seriously and started their own revolution to bring change into their country. And they were lucky enough since the former president – Hosni Mubarak – was somehow easy to leave his throne if we compare him to the other dictators.
So what about your point of view on Egypt?
What has recently happened in Egypt questions the whole process of rising democracy in the region. We were all glad since the era of a dictator was gone, and people in Egypt elected a new democratic government in a free election. With 85 million people living in Egypt, more than 50 million voted for Mohammed Morsi since he said that he has a vision and he is the man of change; he would endeavor to make Egypt a better place for life.
What just recently happened in Egypt was a coup against Morsi, and he was forcefully removed from power. Some were happy and most were sad since the majority of Egyptians elected Morsi, but the minority with the support of army ousted him from power. I am not saying whether I was against Morsi or supported him, but all I am trying to say is that what the Egyptian army did was against the main principles of democracy. The real danger is that people in the Middle East have not actually understood the concept of democracy, they do not know its pillars, they have not done any preparation for it, yet they want to be democratic.
Talking about ‘democracy’ and ‘being democratic’ – how is this term understood in the region?
In the Middle East, democracy is like a new born child who needs to be adopted in a suitable environment; otherwise the child will perish. Democracy is like a child from the United States, but forced to live in Egypt without having done any preparation. The problem is the environment of the U.S is completely different from Egypt. It is somehow impossible to be adopted in that environment unless big preparation has been done. What happened in Egypt exactly proves this point. People tried to transfer from dictatorship to democracy, but I thought that was too quick, no real preparation was done; and we all knew the moment the coup took place in Egypt that democracy was dead there if it had ever been there.
Do the rather dramatic developments currently happening in the region offer any solutions to its long-standing problems?
I would say that no, what is happening in the Middle East is not really a reasonable and practical solution to the long-rooted issues in the regions. The examples I will use to support my argument are Egypt and Syria.
If we go with Egypt, it is true that the dictator is gone, but, unfortunately, we all know how much suffering everyday life brings to people in Egypt right now. The dilemma is people have gotten a wrong perception of change and revolution. If 2 million out of 85 million people want to change the president, should they do it? Is that change? Is it what we call legitimate transformation of power? No, but that is what happened in Egypt. Democracy has never been there, and if it was there, it was too sick and it is dead now.
How do you see your personal role in this development?
My personal role may not be seen right now because I have long-term visions for change. I do believe that changes, especially in the political spheres, cannot happen overnight. We do need to be patient, and we must admit that education is one of most, if not the only, effective weapons that can be used to facilitate changes. We, people all over the world, need to change ourselves first and then ask for changes. Unfortunately, people in the Middle East do not take the risk of making even small changes in their lives while they are asking for huge transformations in the political spheres. It is not going to happen, almost impossible! I am a big advocate of change because I do not agree with any political cultures we have right now in the Middle East, but I also believe that we are not yet ready for that big change. We do still need to educate ourselves, understand politics, make visions, outline plans, and trust ourselves that we can make changes. We are the generation of change, but change comes from within.