We haven’t translated anything in a while, and we’ve got a mild case of bloggers’ block, so we decided to translate an op-ed by Professor of Political Science at Cairo University (and possibly department chair) and prominent anti-inheritance activist Hassan Nafaa wrote in today’s al-Masry al-Youm, about the impending return of Dr. ElBaradei, and the excitement he has engendered amongst the politically active segments of Egypt’s young population.
In the piece, Dr. Nafaa announces his intention to attend a mass welcome for Dr. ElBaradei upon his arrival at Cairo International Airport this Friday at 3 PM, while also calling on all opposition forces to attend, regardless of whether they would support a hypothetical (at this point) ElBaradei candidacy.
From al-Masry al-Youm’s Sunday, February 14 edition:
Dr. Muhammad ElBaradei is expected to arrive in Cairo on an Austrian Airways flight at 3 PM on Friday, February 19.
It appears that, according to what has been written on a number of websites that parties and websites plan to welcome him at Cairo Airport when he arrives on Egyptian soil. Some of the young people enthusiastic about ElBaradei discussed the situation with me and solicited my personal opinion, it was only natural that I inquire about the reasons and motivations behind their zeal for Dr. ElBaradei, and about the goals they sought to achieve in organizing a popular reception for him at the airport.
And about their expectations of the security forces’ response to this step, and how they would act in the event of the state’s refusing to permit them to organize this welcome. Since this discussion concerns the future vitality of political life in Egypt, maybe it will be beneficial to the reader to convey my impressions of what took place.
It immediately caught my attention that, ever since Dr. ElBaradei announced his desire to contest the presidential elections if certain conditions were met, most of the movements that were enthusiastic about him were youth movements, and the outpouring of support was spontaneous, without anyone’s guidance or inspiration. From the first moment, they made sure that they did not fall under the umbrella of any specific party or organization or political movement, without organizational or ideological links to any party or movement. They expanded their ranks to include all who wished to join, regardless of ideological stripes or colors, and their work was a “front” or “coordinating committee” crossing all parties.
It was natural that I expressed my immediate surprise at this show of unity, and that I see in it a clear sign of early political maturity and a clear consciousness of the importance of the current moment and the magnitude of the challenges facing Egypt. Likewise, it was natural that I express my admiration for the ability of the youths to deal with these challenges in a modern, innovative way. It thus became clear to me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a large segment of the youths looking for change had finally found what they were looking for in De. ElBaradei.
Because the Egyptian youth had gradually begun to realize that the current stage particularly required leadership capable of breaking through the segregating wall erected by the corrupt and dictatorial order over a period of years to prevent the occurrence of desired changes, so it was natural that their thoughts turned to Dr. ElBaradei specifically as the man qualified to lead at the current juncture, for the following reasons:
- He comes from outside the regime, and therefore does not carry any of its liabilities or burdens on his shoulders. Nor does he have any interests linked to it that would restrict his movement or independent positions.
- He is qualified both as a scientist and a professional to lead the transformation of Egypt’s politics and begin to really move Egypt down the road to real democracy. He is qualified scientifically, owing to his studies in law and his obtaining the highest law degree, and he is qualified professionally, owing to the long period he worked as a diplomat with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his administration of one of the largest and most important international organizations in the field of international affairs.
- He is well-known internationally, and enjoys respectful relations with many heads of state, due to his excellent performance during his tenure as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, which provides him with immunity in the face of a regime that knows nothing except oppression, and does not act except by the logic of a stubborn fool.
- ElBaradei’s behavior until now suggests that he does not act out of personal ambition, except in cases where personal ambition does not conflict with the public interest, to the extent that he is moved by the genuine concern for the people’s and nation’s future, and he realizes, perhaps more than anyone else, that his rights were violated and his dignity forfeited.
Since Egyptian youths are aware, at the same time, of the possibility ElBaradei presents, if he does not succumb to pressures meant to intimidate him or temptations aimed at dissuading him from a political role in the coming period, content with what he receives from his fame and veneration both local and international. It struck me that this factor was not absent from the minds of the youth when they focused their minds on the idea of a popular welcome for ElBaradei at Cairo Airport. The youth realize that their success in organizing the reception sends a message to two parties simultaneously: One to ElBaradei himself, and one to the regime.
From one angle, ElBaradei is sent a message of thanks and appreciation for the position he has adopted, and also a message of encouragement for the coming period, to go ahead without retreat. From another angle, a message is sent to the authorities, a refusal of inheritance and that there is a better alternative.
When I probed the youths with whom I spoke about their expectations of the possible regime response, I found that they did not rule out that the worst could happen, and that they expected not only that the regime would refuse permission to organize the welcoming party, but also prevent them by force if they did so. But I also found them willing to do it anyway, and with a strong desire at the same time not to undertake any provocations, along with confidence in their ability to find means that will enable them to achieve the goals they’ve set out for themselves by peaceful means.
In the face of their determination I was unable to hide my admiration for their awareness and their logic. So when I was asked my personal opinion of their plans, and on what position I expected other political forces or Dr. ElBaradei to take, I took great care in clarifying to the youths the following:
- The need to be intent on taking their decisions themselves, without the interference of anyone else. It is true that they may need to seek advice, which would not be harmful so long as they did not permit any party or clique to obtain guardianship over them.
- That Dr. ElBaradei might not be enthusiastic about the reception they had planned, for reasons not hidden from anyone, but that at the same time he will not be able to explicitly refuse. It would be difficult for anyone to say no to people who want to greet them at the airport, in addition to the fact that the criterion here is their ability to organize a reception, with no other consideration.
- My personal enthusiasm and my desire to be at the forefront of those ready and willing to attend the welcoming party for ElBaradei, a sentiment that I believe many others share. However, the decision should not be organizational but rather should be based entirely on free individual choice.
It is necessary that I point out an important point here regarding the need to distinguish between the desire for ElBaradei to be president, and defending his right to contest the presidential election. We are not asking that the opposition nominate ElBaradei, as that is a completely premature step. Instead we are defending ElBaradei’s right to a candidacy, and encouraging him to work and plan with the rest of the opposition to break the restrictions on this right. Our support for the idea of a popular welcome comes in this context, and so we believe the initiative should be accepted and supported by other opposition forces.
I realize that, to some opposition personalities, organizing a welcoming reception for ElBaradei at the airport looks like a step along the road to making him the only opposition candidate, but that is not true, and is completely premature. The issue, even to Dr. ElBaradei himself, is not who will be “the candidate” for president, but rather opening the door to contested presidential elections.
For that reason a mass welcome for Dr. ElBaradei is one of the means available to pressure the regime to amend article 76, a demand upon which all forces desiring change agree. For this reason alone, I hope that all elites in favor of change will join together with the youth of Egypt in welcoming ElBaradei at Cairo Airport on Friday afternoon, for this important step on the path to change!