Former Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei said that Islamists “must not be removed from the political arena” in Egypt and it is a “mistake to push them underground”.
Speaking to the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, he advised Egyptian coup President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi: “If you want to be moderate, you need to include the Islamists. The one who pushes them to work underground will reap violence and extremism.”
He said that this is the main lesson of the Arab Spring. “We need national unity that includes all colours,” the former official, who once was one of the most outspoken critics of the Islamists.
ElBaradei mentioned Tunisia as an example for his idea. “Islamists entered the parliament in Tunis,” he said, “and this is the only choice. We cannot carry on defaming their image as has been done in Egypt.”
He said that the youths who led the revolution are now “embarrassed” as they have not yet achieved their goals of “freedom, social justice, gender equality and the end of corruption”. Adding that they saw “oppressive” laws enacted that supressed freedom of movement and demonstration and detention for “fake” reasons.
Regarding the unrest in the Middle East, he said: “May be we were overambitious… The problem with any revolution is the agreement on what is coming afterwards. No one starts from an empty place. In Egypt, only the Muslim Brotherhood were organised, then the army refused to concede its rights.”
“The Arab world has been seeking dignity for 20 years,” he said, “there is no way to forgive the oppressive regimes. The world has changed and the young generations need freedom.”
The removal of the Islamist from Egyptian political arena “is not the end of the story. Bloody wars in Europe continued for three centuries until the Europeans reached democracy,” he explained.
Some of the individuals and ideas from former President Hosni Mubarak’s era have already returned, he warned, but the full return of his regime is “impossible”.
Regarding his support for the removal of President Mohamed Morsi, ElBaradei said: “I supported the call for early presidential elections in cooperation with the EU, the US, UAE and Qatar, but Morsi refused this.”
He stressed that in a country without democratic traditions such as Egypt, everyone needs to work together. “I hope that Tunisia is an example to be followed,” he said.