Two weeks into pro-democratic demonstrations in the world’s most populous Arab nation demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian opposition leaders and members are striving to make their voices heard outside the country, where the tension is still high and many opposition members are continuously being detained.
Despite reports that demonstrations are to continue until Mubarak steps down, the government of the ruling National Democratic Party is making new promises as well as negotiating with the opposition. However, neither the opposition leaders nor the Egyptian people seem to be content with the so-called concessions of the government. Dr. Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular opposition group in Egypt, provided explanations of the recent situation and future plans for Egypt at a press conference held on Feb. 8 at the Topkapı Eresin Hotel.
Abdel Ghaffar asserted that the demonstrations were the natural and spontaneous consequence of the policies of Mubarak’s government and ongoing corruption and oppression of the last 30 years. Recalling Mubarak’s demand to stay in power until the elections in September 2011, Abdel Ghaffar warned that Mubarak would benefit from this period to establish a pro-Mubarak government and to take revenge on all the organizers and participants in the demonstrations.
Accusing the Mubarak government of being responsible for the assaults and the casualties during the demonstrations, Abdel Ghaffar indicated that as the Muslim Brotherhood they were committed to establishing a civil, democratic system where people would vote for the government. Noting that Turkey was one of the oldest democracies in the region, he said they would take several examples as a democratic model but would not confine themselves to one model of democracy.
Having many supporters in Egypt for several decades, the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the country’s strongest opposition groups; however, he noted that they didn’t have a specific candidate for the upcoming elections as of yet. In this respect, he added that they met with the government not to negotiate or achieve any results but to show their peaceful intent by not rejecting the proposition of a meeting.
Abdel Ghaffar insisted that it would be the Egyptian people who would decide for themselves democratically, not any other government or institution. As one of the most crucial issues concerning the role of Egypt in the region, Abdel Ghaffar noted that the whole world condemns the Gaza siege and that the Gazan people were their people as well all Arab nations. Accusing Mubarak of looking after the interests of the US and Israel but not those of his own people, the opposition leader further said the only country that could break the siege was Egypt.
Abdel Ghaffar concluded that he would stay in Turkey until the demonstrations -- which he said would continue until Mubarak steps down -- produced results in order to inform the Turkish people about any developments, adding that he couldn’t return to Egypt at the current time due to security concerns.