Citation
Interview with Manar Abdel Sattar

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Manar Abdel Sattar
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Creator:
Abdel Sattar, Manar ( Interviewee )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Cairo, Egypt
Publication Date:
Language:
Arabic

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
January 25 2011 Revolution (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
Thawrat 25 Yanāyir 2011 (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
ثورة 25 ياناير 2011 (مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Women's activism ( UW-MEWA )
Women -- Political activity ( LCSH )
Mubārak, Muḥammad Ḥusnī, 1928-2020 ( LCSH )
مبارك، محمد حسني،‏ 1928-2020 ( UW-MEWA )
Egypt ( LCSH )
Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
الاشتراكيون الثوريون ( UW-MEWA )
March 9th movement for the independence of universities ( UW-MEWA )
حركة 9 مارس لاستقلال الجامعات ( UW-MEWA )
Egyptian Movement for Change ( UW-MEWA )
Kifāyah (Organization) ( LCSH )
الحركة المصرية من أجل التغيير ( UW-MEWA )
Kefaya ( UW-MEWA )
Doctors without Rights ( UW-MEWA )
Palestine ( LCSH )
Strikes and lockouts ( LCSH )
Tahrir Square (Cairo, Egypt) ( UW-MEWA )
ميدان التحرير (القاهرة، مصر) ( UW-MEWA )
Islamists ( UW-MEWA )
Students ( LCSH )
Marxism ( UW-MEWA )
Communism ( LCSH )
Socialism ( LCSH )
Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940 ( LCSH )
Universities and colleges ( LCSH )
Socialist People's Alliance Party ( UW-MEWA )
حزب التحالف الشعبي الإشتراكي ( UW-MEWA )
Anti-war protests ( UW-MEWA )
Peace movements ( LCSH )
Kefaya ( UW-MEWA )
Kifāyah (Organization) ( LCSH )
الحركة المصرية من أجل التغيير ( UW-MEWA )
Tagammu ( UW-MEWA )
National Progressive Unionist Party ( UW-MEWA )
Ḥizb al-Tagammu' al-Watani al-Taqadomi al-Wahdawi ( LCSH )
حزب التجمع الوطني التقدمي الوحدوي ( UW-MEWA )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Egypt -- Cairo Governate -- Cairo
Coordinates:
30.033333 x 31.233333

Notes

Abstract:
Manar was born in Imbaba, Cairo, on 2 March 1968 but grew up in downtown Cairo. Her father was an Arabic language teacher but was detained for being a communist and had to resign from his position. Her mother was an elementary school teacher. As a teenager, Manar began to move in leftist circles through involvement in the Tagammu’ party. She began studying medicine at Cairo University in 1985, during which time student politics was stagnant. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Revolutionary Socialists emerged and she began working with them. After finishing her medical training, Manar became a professor at Cairo University. In 2003, she became involved in the March 9th Movement for the Independence of Egyptian Universities, which emerged out of the protests against the war on Iraq, but split from the movement in 2008 due to differences over strategy. She was also involved with Kefaya, the Egyptian Movement for Change, and Doctors without Rights. She participated in the 25 January 2011 uprising. At the time of the interview she was still politically active as a member of the Revolutionary Socialists and working as a university professor. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 2 January 2014
General Note:
Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 1 second
General Note:
Language of interview: Arabic
General Note:
Audio transcription and translation by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan , info@captivatearabia.com
General Note:
آسيا -- مصر -- القاهرة -- القاهرة
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2014 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

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Full Text
Interview with Manar Abdel Sattar
2014
Nicola Pratt: May I ask, where were you born?
Manar Abdel Sattar: I was born in Imbaba, on March 2,1968.
N.P: Did you grow up in Imbaba?
M. A: No, we left Imbaba when I was 2 or 3 years old, and after that we lived in down town... until now.
N. P: What did your father and mother do?
M. A: My mother was a elementary school teacher and my father graduated as a teached from Dar Al-Uloum
faculty, an Arabic language teacher, but since he was a communist during Abdel Nasser's time, communists were
kicked out of schools... and from all such institutions, he worked as an employee in the neighborhood... something
where there's no "contact" with people or something like that... he went to jail for two years between 1958 and
1960.
N. P: What memories do you have from childhood? Memories related to political or national events?
M. A: Since we lived in down town I remember the protests of 1972 all the time. I was a child, but my mother "she
was very curious" so she would take me with her to see the protests and whatnot... there were many people like
my father and his friends who took part in the protests, so I remember this, I remember the people who fled t our
house and I remember once that I saw a shooting outside the Supreme Court Building... there was a shooting,
"almost" like what's happening now... they used to detain them, I remember that scene, and they took young men
and women, lock them inside buildings and then a police car would come and take them away, but I remember
that moment when they were beaten up, stripped of their clothes and throw them into the buildings, I remember
that. I also remember in 1977, the tanks on the streets, there was also a curfew and I remember the tanks on the
street... That was my childhood, after that I remember everything.
N. P: What did you study?
M. A: I studied medicine.
N. P: In which university?
M. A: Cairo University.
N. P: When you were in university, did you join any groups?
M.A: Yes, there was... of course, I started university in 1985, the 1980's and 1990's were stagnant years politically,
compared to before, and since my father was a communist and he was in the Trotsky group and he was always
involved in politics one way or another, through meetings and discussions and Sheikh Imam, that was the
atmosphere, so ever since I was 16 I was looking for anything related to politics that I could do. So, there were
activities in the university, between 1984 and 1985 there was a movement to change the students' bloc... and then
there was the protests of Suleiman Khater who killed Israelis, and after that they said that he committed suicide at
jail, and an Egyptian plane was hit in Tunisia... There were protests in the first year and some activities. After that


there was nothing at the university, almost nothing, it was the time when Islamists groups held exhibitions and
whatnot and then in the late 1980's early 1990's it was the time where the Islamists were killed and... the war on
the streets... So, at university we tried to do things in small groups concerned with public work, but Kasr Al-Aini
(the medicine faculty) was dominated by Islamists, there was no chance for anything else, and there were activities
in the university but they were weak... After that in the early 1990's, 1991 and 1992 the Revolutionary Socialists
emerged on the scene, I joined that group since it was created and I'm still with them until now.
N.P: Who was in that group, the Revolutionary Socialists?
M. A: I think there were people before me who left or traveled abroad, but when I was there, there was Sameh
Naguib, Yahya Fekri, Hisham Mubarak and at some point Gamal Eid was there too... there was Mustafa Al-
Asfahani... And Layla Qutri, there was a group of people... there were people who left of course, those are the ones
I remember... Omar Al-Shafei, Tamer Wageeh. Those were the first members, people came and went, we were a
small group after all, around ten people... sometimes "even" less than that, five or something like that, there was
very few of us in the early 1990's.
N. P: How did you know about them? From university?
M. A: How did I know about them?... I knew then as friends at first... because I was always trying to move in
political circles so... I made friends with people and met people through other people. The first person I met... the
first thing I did and was related to politics was that I went to the Unionist Party, that was something on the side,
they held activities for "teenagers", 15 year-olds, boot camps and whatnot. It was there that I met Hassan Saber
who was in the Egyptian Communist Party... and I started to meet other people, I used to know one of them who
was called Magdi, Magdi Ezz Al-Arab and through Magdi and Hassan I started to meet Wael Khalil, and I met his
sister first, so "it's circles of friends", not... "circles of friends" interested in political causes. After than I met Smaeh
and the others. All of that happened in two years.
N. P: Where did the idea of the party come from?
M. A: We haven't formed a party yet, that's still a project
N. P: Ah, it was a project
M. A: No, the project was a group, it was a group at first. The idea is not to have a party, it's about the organization,
to have an "organized" group whose members work together, not just "independent" groups, sorry, I mean not
independent individuals working alone, but rather working together, that's the idea behind he organization.
N. P: What other causes d you work on?
M.A: Of course, we can divide them into two major categories: Democratic causes, which are related to political
despotisms... and the protests which resulted later on in Kefaya protests and all that, democratic/nationalistic
causes as we worked on the Palestinian Cause as well... during the Palestinian uprising in 2001... The other
category is social issues, as we work among the laborers, now we work in the neighborhoods... the
"neighborhoods" where we live... in the university too of course... on social issues that have to do with social
injustice in Egypt like poverty and whatnot... so, these are the two major categories, and there are specific issues
like those related to the Coptic people... we worked a little on that and we still work on any issues related to Copts
when we have them, or women issues... there are many sub-categories but the major ones are the
democratic/nationalistic and the social issues, these are the two major things... Personally I did most of my work in
politics on students' issues at university, given the nature of my work as I work at the university... at first I was a


student and then I worked at the university, so a large part of the work I did throughout the years was related to
students... mostly. Then in 2003 I worked on creating the March 9th group from 2003 to 2007 or 2008.
N.P: Was there any risk in joining such projects like this?
M. A: Of course, it was a risk, some people were arrested, some people lost their jobs, some people went to jail... in
Egypt the danger is there and the people understand that... "It's not a secret"... But in the end what pushes people
to move is that they want to have a better life and they are willing to make sacrifices, ad those who are not willing
to make sacrifices quit... they preferred to live their lives with "relative" security... But, yes.
N. P: The same idea... You continued...
M. A: Yes, I continued. Look... for someone like me, I'm a university professor, I had several problems inside the
university, like being chased and whatnot, but when someone happened to me... of course this has to do with
social classes, but in the sense that I find people to support me, you see? When I'm in trouble I call Abu El-Ghar or
Abdul Jaleel Mustafa or anyone who would intervene and talk to the dean of the university and solve the problem,
but... "I feel protected" because of the nature of my work and my life. Of course, there's no absolute "protection",
anything could happen to me, but it's worst for poor people or those without jobs or with small jobs, they are the
ones who go through a lot of agony being with us, but the people who have a "background" that can protect
them... No, I was chased but it wasn't... it wasn't that bad, I've never felt that my life was in danger... but now it's
possible... but before it wasn't... what would happen?
N. P: Are there any changes in the political atmosphere between the 1990's and after?
M.A: Yes, big changes. 2001 was the time of the Palestinian uprising, so there was a great "shift", the 1990's were
dead... nothing happened, there was no "activities", if you went to university and said that Mubarak was bad you
would be beaten up... If you talked about Palestinians they would say that they sold their land. If you talked about
the workers in Qasr Al-Bawwab - there was a big strike for the workers in Qasr Al-Bawwab in 1994 ad they
attacked them with tanks and whatnot- you only find "individuals", 1 or 2 or 3 people would be interested. In 2001
when the Palestinian uprising broke out the whole university went on protests and there was a change in the
general atmosphere. Because the uprising was "really inspiring"... for many people here. Also, the quality of life
had deteriorated, it started to deteriorate dramatically that people felt suffocated and wanted to go on protests.
After that... that was one of the big cases, after that in 2005 came with the bequeathing project and Kifaya
movement against bequeathing the rule to Gamal Mubarak, there was movement on the street but... the biggest
protest by Kifaya was the first one, I remember it, it was held in early December 2005, on the first of December, at
the gates of the supreme Court. We were... the "optimistic" would say we were 1000, but I think we were 500 or
600... and we were surrounded by central security forces. Out of those 600 I would know 300, so... the others I
would recognize, so I either know the people themselves or recognize their faces... it stirred the situation in the
sense that people on the street were starting to talk, they talked about Kifaya as a "symbol", the name was very
good, it was very catchy... But the general atmosphere allowed that too, and then in 2006 the strikes started in Al-
Mahilla and labor strikes which increased greatly... and that consequently broadened the horizons of the
movement, it was first made up of socialists and then it included anyone who wants to work, so there were
experiences and things to do, you don't just sit and read and discuss and go on a protest once a year... So, things
continued like this... there were more and more strikes, the democratic movement... of course, Kifaya was
defeated by the renewal of Hosni Mubarak's term, but I think the intentions remained with the public, until 2011
when the revolution happened, which nobody had seen coming, it was an ordinary day, nobody had predicted that
this would happen, some people were even against taking the streets on January 25th because they thought it was
un-called for, it originally "Started" as a call for a protest in Shoubra, that's it. After that... and the people thought


that nobody would go, many people thought so... But we went there for the protest... and then suddenly there
were thousands on the streets... many people. Of course, that was a huge turn of events but I think that it all
started in 2001 and 2005 and Kifaya and what happened in the strikes in Al-Mihalla in 2008 on April 6, all these
things were preparations for 2011... nobody did it literally in that sense but there were many things which
suggested that "it should happen" one way or another.
N.P: When did the socialists start working openly?
M. A: Look, let's say the socialists started to have a name... we used to work openly in the sense that we went on
protests but there were people who didn't go on protests, certain people didn't participate in protests so that their
faces wouldn't be recognized but as a group we were there and whenever we had an opportunity to speak in our
name in some conference or something then we have people there speaking on behalf of socialists... After that IN
2005 there were people distributing flyers about the war on Iraq, that's also an important stage, that was on
March 20, 2011. Under our name and everything... But from 2005 and after that we started to rise, you can say
now that "we are not legal but we are not illegal", like many other things in Egypt... we are public but not very
public... we always have an alternative way to "protect ourselves" one way or another in case of any crackdown by
the state... But now there is... there is a movement in our name, we sell newspapers on the streets... but we don't
have a "legal status", you see?... Security wise and legally we do not exist, but nothing is legal in Egypt so "it's
okay", do you understand what I'm saying?... things happened gradually, we weren't "secretive" and then went
public all of a sudden, no... things happened "gradually" depending on the circumstances, when the circumsntaces
allowed that we go public, we did as we should because... "otherwise" we would die, we wouldn't exist. Espeically
that the security apparatus knew that we were there... we were "secretive" to people but not to the security, "it
doesn't make sense" to remain secretive to people while security knew about us, so that's what happened.
N. P: May I ask you about March 9th? You were with them from the beginning?
M. A: Yes, from the early beginning.
N. P: Where did the idea for March 9th came from?
M.A: Look, it started in 2003 after the war on Iraq, there were protests and there was a movement at the
university, students' protests against the war on Iraq and whatnot. And then it started as a rally that turned into a
number of rallies every week, every Tuesday of each week by the faculty staff in Cairo University against the war
on Iraq... they continued for a while, until April, for a month and a half or so. Every week we would regularly gather
carrying picket signs and stand on the stairs and whatnot, and then the group that did that regularly met and
decided to do something about the independence of the university... in the sense that the security wouldn't
control the recruitment process as anyone who wished to be hired by the university must get a security clearance
first. Of course, they controlled the research especially in "social sciences", there were taboos not to be touched
upon... and so on. For example, it was not allowed to have a guest from outside the university to give a lecture at
the university, and if you wanted to do that you needed security clearance and even if it was for someone from the
university itself, they could stop it... And of course, their control over the Students' League elections, as the deans
were appointed not elected as well as the president of the university, so they were basically things related to the
academic life... It turned to that, the movement started against the war on Iraq and then it turned into a group
focused only on the independence of the university, in the sense of academic freedoms... and we continued like
that, we held a number of conferences, there was the annual March 9th conference, every year there's a certain
"topic" related to academic freedoms, that's all, that was our activity. It was an active group with many people but
it had its problems, for me there were problems, the biggest problem with March 9th for me was the huge stress
on excluding the students' issues, the students' issues are none of our business... that was a problem, I fought


about that a lot and I always failed, because they thought that students should work separately from professors,
the professors didn't want the students to stand by their side "whatever" their political affiliations were, so that
they wouldn't be accused of inciting the students. So, that was my big fight against March 9th group and I couldn't
stay with them after that... from my point of view, the students... even in "simple numbers" they outnumbered the
professors greatly and having the students stand by the professors in these things would give the March 9th group
a huge "boost", they didn't have to support all the causes but they would stand by them, and to tell the truth,
some of us did stand by the students, such as Laila Souif, Madiha Dous, so there were people who, when a student
faced a problem or was in trouble with security or was expelled from the city because they were involved in
political work, they would support them, talk to the president of the university, hire lawyers and interrogations
and whatnot, but the group as a whole didn't do that, they had a stance against this and when they tried to do
something with the students it was based on the idea that we're the professors and you are the kids, and this
doesn't work for the students, "especially" this generation because these professors, in general not only the one in
March 9th, they didn't do anything for them so "they don't feel grateful for it", they have no feelings towards
them, nothing more than what they feel about their fathers interfering with their personal affairs. So, this doesn't
work, there must be some sort of "equality", so that was my problem with the March 9th group, the other
problem is that I had a lot of things to do related to the socialists and my March 9th wasn't my first priority... that
was part of the problem, so... I spent a huge effort in the first year or two but after that I was done, "they were
very slow for my pace"... they were slow, like turtles... I think this is why they are not moving now, because they
are "very very slow to take any decision", the mere act of issuing a statement... took them so much time that the
event would be over by the time their statement was issued, it would be "too late". Because they didn't issue the
statement in the name of the group, they issued the statement and made everyone review it and whoever agrees
with it would "sign", so when you have 200 or 300 people it takes time... it's a form of democracy but it's too slow.
So, "it didn't work". That's it. I respect them and there are people among them who are very good and respectable
people, but after 5 years I was fed up.
N.P: Before the revolution, did you take part in any other initiative?
M.A: Other than the socialist movement and March 9th? Look, I used to attend some events with Doctors Without
Rights... but as I said, the problem with Doctors Without Rights was that I couldn't help them in some area... Or,
since I work in the university hospital so I didn't understand all these problems, even the "terminology", it took me
a long time to understand what they meant. That's one part of it, the other part is that you're at a hospital and you
promote for an idea and there were people with me because... and of course I was at university which is a
completely different place so March 9th group was more suitable for me because their problems were closer to my
workplace than Doctors Without Rights... Also, I was very "involved" in the work with socialists because I
"belonged" to that entity too much to have time for other things, between my work and the political meetings, as
well as March 9th, it was very hard for me to do all these things, that's one part. So, I attended some of their
events but not a lot of them, only for a while. The other thing I worked on was with Kifaya, we did something
related to doctors and it was a big failure, it was called Doctors Towards Change. Each group would do something
to influence change, Youth Towards Change, Students Towards Change, Lawyers Towards Change, so there was
Doctors Towards Change. "Basically" there was Magda Adly as well as some people, most or some of which went
to Doctors Without Rights, but... I was the young person among them, although I'm not young, young in the sense
that I did all the "dirty work", I would do the photocopying and distribution of statements, I was the child in the
group, so "you can imagine" how the others were... So, it wasn't successful and then... that group was being chased
by security more than the others although they could've left it because it was of no consequence, but a big part of
the harassment I faced at university was related to Doctors Towards Change. Although they didn't do anything
really, you see?... So, it was a group with some activity and then it "vanished" because... between security hunts


and being busy with other things and that there wasn't any reaction, nothing was happening, and the union didn't
approve of it at all... So... I don't remember what I did, I used to work on anything that came my way, but through
the socialists or on their behalf, like Kifaya and other movements for change but it was all in the name of the
socialists.
N.P: You're still a member in the socialist party?
M. A: Yes.
N. P: There was a... split
M. A: Yes, there was a lot... which one?
N. P: I was thinking about the one in 2010
Manar Abdel Sattar: Yes, thank God, that was a great split. It was the best split I had all my life... this group... look,
ever since the socialist party was founded there has been two groups, they always split and join forces again, over
and over. "They split and they come back again". Okay? In 2010 it was the third time that these two groups had a
disagreement. The same people... those and those, the same people. But in 2010 we reached a point where we
couldn't live with each other anymore, you know how when people are married ad they wonder why they are stll
married? "we have totally different analyses" for the current situation. And "totally different views" on what we
could do, and there was a dispute over who should take over the group... so the majority took over the group, who
I was part of thankfully... but it was a dispute and we can call them Tamer's group and Sameh's group, but it would
be an unfair simplification, "it's not very true". But this was the "base". But if we didn't have that falling out in
2010, we would've had a bigger and dirtier one in 2011 during the revolution. So, "it was a very nice split", I was all
for that group to leave
Nicola Pratt: what do you mean by that they had different analyses?
M.A: It means that... Now, we were trying to figure out what to do... I'll give you simple examples, we are an
organization, with a "Marxist-Leninist" basis, okay? It's an organization, with a "Marxist-Leninist" basis. We have
things like... "rules", or maybe not "rules" but rather basics we've always agreed on in order to work, it's important
in any organization that when you're making an alliance or a front with someone else... to know who that other
side is, these alliances were temporary, and to know what motto do the others have, so, as for the other group
these alliances and fronts, whatever they are called... they became a "target" in themselves, it was important for
them that we form alliances with this and that... in order to expand, you know? "Actually" it's true because it helps
you grow but only temporarily because after that you shrink much more than you'd grown and that's what
happened to them from the beginning, from the "starting point" because... the other group which I belonged to in
this split was more interested in labor issues and saw that there was... and expansion in the labor movement and
security in it and whatnot, the other group saw that this was "fake" and not real... of course there was another
problem which is the problem with all splits and that is the ego problem, who takes control of the group... So,
actually in 2010 we'd been working for one year "as two different groups"... I mean, each group was working in a
completely different zone... "it was obvious" that we should've split, we were just cussing each other out... after
the "split we are getting along much better", you know? Some of them write in our journal, they hold seminars in
the center, we sometimes talk or coordinate some work together in a much better way than what we used to do
before by only fighting... that was it was a great "split", I was all for it that they should leave... but that was the
third split... by the same group


N.P: What's their name?
M. A: They don't have a name now, they formed a group called "socialist renewal" but it was over. They joined the
coalition party which was a bad experience for them, and that was it, there's nothing left. They still have some
activity, Tamer writes articles... Fatma Ramadan, I don't know if you've met her, she does great work with laborers
and in the independent union, "she's very active"... she's not nice "as a person, I don't like her, but as a militant
and activist" she is very good. She's "persistent" and great... Some of them do "individual" work but as a group
"they didn't survive", the idea of joining a party was... when the coalition took stands which they do not agree
with, "they were a minority" and "they didn't have" a choice but to walk out... from the coalition party... you know
the coalition party?
N. P: Yes... the socialists didn't join it?
M. A: No. nobody did, thank God... that was one of the good decisions they made, because there was pressure on
us to join at first, there was an idea to join the party and some of us actually joined at first and laid down the
agenda with them in the very beginning but then... the membership requirements and dissolve into that party
were very alarming for us, they weren't suitable; because... the fabric of the party was made up of people who
came from the Unionist party or form the "background" of the Unionist party which "basically" meant that they
would have totally different stands than us later on... so "it was too risky" to join a part while knowing the people
on it would have different stands than your own... So, no, we took a decision not to join. We had another failed
attempt which was the Labor party, but we didn't do it in order to hide within it but rather to help build something
else that in case in worked, we would see what to do next... so, when it failed... of course we were part of its
failure, it's no big deal, but its failure didn't really affect us, we remained there as an organization, we didn't have
any "regression" at all.
N. P: Why did it fail?
M. A: I don't know, Nicola. This is a question... which nobody could answer... First, in the beginning it was very
"promising", there were workers from everywhere who came to attend meetings that were huge, and great things
were said, that was in the beginning of the revolution as different factions met together, after that a part of its
failure was our fault because... our mistake was that we couldn't build two things at the same time, to build the
Labor party and the Socialist party, we were more concerned with the Socialist party, so the number of people
from our group who worked in the Labor party was too little to do something... the other thing was that... its
supporters of workers didn't have any "political background", so we were discussing things like the basics of the
Palestinian Cause, why we wanted to revoke Camp David treaty... that took too much time, so people came with a
different awareness and different ideas... it looked very hard to build so the people who were willing to join a party
were not willing to join the Labor party and build it from scratch, you know? "It was easier" to join another party,
the Social Democratic Party, the Coalition party, there were many of them... the other problem of course was that
there wasn't any money, money was a huge problem, because if there's no money then people can't travel, there
are no branches in the governorates... it was too poor, you don't need a lot of money but you can't manage with
too little money... so it was very difficult, the financial cost was "beyond" what the people in it could afford,
"beyond" their monthly income, and they could help in that... this is my take on this... but I don't know if someone
else could tell you why it failed exactly, "1, 2, 3", I don't know.
N. P: Can you talk a little bit about January 25th?
M.A: January 25th?


N.P: Yes, what did you do on January 25th? And what did you do after that?
M.A: I didn't do anything on January 25th, I was pregnant... I was 6 or 7 months into my pregnancy, and of course
one of the basics of protests is the ability to run, if you go to a protest you should be able to run, if you can't run
then don't participate in a process, this is vital. Back then I had stopped participating in protests, the last protest I
took part in was a relatively big protest in Abdeen against bequeathing the presidency, it was in September, and it
was in Abdeen because of the whole thing with Ahmad Orabi and the king, when he said: God created us free... it
was in the memory of that day... After that I got pregnant and I didn't participate in any protests. On January 25th I
took part in preparing for the protest, I knew what was to happen and where they would meet and who was in the
discussions and who didn't want to take the streets, it was a big "debate", a week before the protest people were
arguing over who would go to the protest and who wouldn't and until now people are digging up things they
posted on facebook about why we should not take the streets, "it's very funny", so, Aida and I agreed that she
would go to the protest in Shoubra and that it would be a failure so she would come to our house for lunch or
breakfast, the next day was a holiday, and that's it. So... she went early to the protest, Aida always goes early, goes
on time, and there was nobody, there was a lot of security forces but no protestors, so she left, and on her way
back to our house or somewhere and we talked on the phone and we found out that there were people moving in
different areas and then the protest in Shoubra grew in numbers and people were arrested, "it was a big deal", and
then they went to Tahrir square. I wasn't doing anything, I was following the news at home and I was making calls
to know who was arrested and who was in jail, to help them... after that... of course I didn't go on the 28th either
because we knew there would be a lot of violence... and on the 29th I went to Tahrir square and I stayed there
until Mubarak stepped down, I was there every day, some days I would sleep over there and other days I would go
and stay there all day, depending on the circumstances... that's it. During this time, you weren't here, right? "You
missed it", those were some of the best days in my life... Nobody did certain things "specifically", you know, the
Square in general was against individual initiatives, I mean, for example if you issued a statement in your name you
could be beaten up, that simple. We issued a statement in our name on the first day, January 25th, after that we
only issued statements with no signature, because "otherwise" people wouldn't accept it, nobody was allowed to
do that... we tried to do things like exhibitions in the square... it was fine, we wrote things and people would
discuss them and... such things... After that there was the idea of soapboxes where people would make speeches
and we took part in such things. On the side, there were meetings or an entourage around the idea of having
something unified for the leftist groups, and hence was the idea of the Coalition. Something for the leftist groups
in general to work as one entity during that time we were going through. And that resulted later on in the Coalition
party... that's it, we went there and did anything that came our way, we would bring food, stand at the gates... see
who needed anything, collecting blankets. I'm a an x-ray doctor, but since I was a doctor I went to work in the clinic
but I failed because I lost those skills, I just supervised the work, I didn't do anything, I don't know how to stitch or
do the "urgent" things... but we brought medicines and other things so it's the idea of helping out mostly. We
would check if anyone needed anything in Qasr Al-Ainy, they were arresting people at hospitals, so these were the
things I could help with, but even as socialists "I think we were shocked" during that period, we had... not a shock,
but it was so surprising that we were slow, except that we wrote statements, but it was like: what are you doing?
We were a group of a few dozens or a few hundreds, what would we do amid the midst these millions? We
vanished, besides... it was a fun atmosphere, Tahrir square was nice... the way people dealt with each other... how
a woman could smoke on the street and it would be okay and you wouldn't be harassed, nobody picks on you,
everyone was shouting and every day you would talk to different people... "it was amazing"... so, that's it... after
the 18 days were over, we understood the mentality of the army... we were the first people to write against the
army after the 2nd of February, after Mubarak stepped down... 2011... but it was very difficult back then, "it was
too risky" to be against the army because people would beat you up like what happened recently... but there was
no public hysteria, people still trusted each other. And then we started... after that people started to go to Tahrir


square a lot and every Friday and we started to grow as an organization, as a socialist movement and we started to
grow hugely because we were present in all the events... and we were there during the violence, so people knew
who we were... and we became famous, in the light of the political openness, so... the situation became much
better than how it was before the revolution.
N.P: Do you think that there was a "turning point" after the revolution?
M. A: Yes, there was a huge "turning point"... for the socialists or in general?
N. P: Both.
M. A: In general, of course... for both actually. In general, first many people became interested in politics, and these
people started to do things, they formed associations and they did things in their respective neighborhoods, in
their workplaces. There was a huge growth in independent unions, we started to have independent unions for
divers, and... everyone wanted to have associations and independent unions, and I think that was a very good
idea... it was short-lived, it didn't work later on, but... some of them are still there but that was a very good idea to
organize people, that everywhere there was... and of course there was the popular committees that were formed
in those neighborhoods, that was a great idea. So, in general there were ideas to organize people and that was a
good thing. And we had confidence, although Mubarak stepped down but the regime still held, people had the
confidence that they could do that, because before when you tried to do anything people would say: what are you
doing? Do you think you'll topple Mubarak? So... he stepped down, it could be done, so the idea... of these people
being there and their confidence was a very strong thing. For us, suddenly the "abstract" things we've been saying
for 20 years which people laughed at and thought we were idiots to say it, "ego", revolution, "power", "power of
the people" and all these things suddenly became a reality, you see? So, for this was a huge push for the people
who were around us or who doubted us, there was a general atmosphere especially among the young people, the
old people were hopeless but there was a general atmosphere "towards the left", the "ideas", people were
interested, between anarchism and the left, many people saw themselves there and started to say what the leftists
say even if they weren't "classified" as leftist, politically, so that atmosphere was very useful for us, and also the
general atmosphere... As for "The turning point", even with what is happening now which is "almost tragic" and
the counter-revolution is winning with a vengeance. But "still" this moment will still be present in many people's
memories, that we can do this and we can change things... we are not doomed to live in the current situation
forever... that's in general and for us too, to have people copying your ideas... people took the streets and beat the
forces of the ministry of interior who then disappeared... it was a terrifying time because there was no police,
there was no policemen at all and yet there was no security problems. There was a curfew but of course it wasn't
"applicable" at all, it was impossible. So, sometimes we would go home at 4 or 5 in the morning, there would be no
transportation but you could ride with a car that's passing by, even if you didn't know the people, and they would
take you home on their way, that was the system. People were protecting their neighborhoods, even the people
who were protecting them in order to protect their own properties, the people in this building used to stand
outside, if they see a stranger they would inspect them or not let them in... Okay, but honestly "it wasn't always
pleasant" and the security forces took advantage of that later on, as they sent thugs to harass people in certain
areas... but, the idea is that you are walking in a city without police and nothing goes wrong, even though it's 3 in
the morning but there was no problem, anyone you'd meet would be very nice, they would help you... so... it was a
huge experience... very huge.... That's it... so, "it is a turning point", "I hope" it won't go to waste, and that people
would remember that time.
N. P: You gave birth to a baby boy
M.A: Yes, in May 2011, the timing was a "bad move"... the timing wasn't very good but it's no problem.


N.P: Is it more difficult for you now to be involved in these things?
M. A: Yes, of course, it's much more difficult. I work most of the days and he's very young and he needs me to be
there. So, the first year was easy, because he didn't move, I would carry him with me everywhere, I would go to
protests and sit-ins, sometimes we even slept over in Tahrir square in the summer, we didn't sleep actually but we
spent a large part of the night there, there was no problem. The next year I decided to dedicate my time to him, I
worked a little and he was my main focus, I still can't get out of this situation. I go out sometimes, I now go to
protests and other things without him because it's dangerous, I can't take him... but I don't have... last week I had
so many plans but he got sick so I stayed home. You know? I do little things, mostly organizational, things I can do
in a short time or over e-mail and things like that, but I can't work as I used to work before, not now, maybe in a
year or so... it's "too bad", I spent years doing nothing, I had no child to take care of, but at a time like this I have
to sit it out, but I can "undo" this, there's no "undo" button for kids.
N. P: Do you think there is a new generation in Egypt?
M. A: Yes, I like them a lot. Yes... the "teenagers" and the ones in their twenties, from all social classes, but
especially the poor classes, they are not seeking "authority" in anything, not at all, although this country didn't give
them anything, no decent education, no healthcare, no streets, no sanitation, no sewage system, no clean water...
we live in Cairo and there are areas with no running water, outside Cairo in Fayyoum there was no water for four
days, you just bought water... so, there's nothing, the roads are nothing but dirt roads, so "they don't owe anyone
anything", they have nothing, and their lives are so desperate that they are not afraid to die, I saw people on the
228 of January near the ministry of interior when the fighting continued outside the ministry of interior's gate for
two days... people would be brought dead from there, and there was nothing you could do to convince them that.,
they were shot dead with bullets, Tahrir square was full but still young people went there to die and returned as
lifeless corpses... So, "they have nothing to lose", nothing at all, their life wasn't worth living that they wouldn't
mind dying... and also, on one hand they didn't have the idea of authority, thank God, and the other thing is that
the "social networks" played an important role, they were not the reason of the revolution, I'm against that idea,
but they really helped that people communicate with each other and see that other people had different ideas,
they managed to exchange ideas and expand their horizons, they didn't need to go out to see people, they saw
people "virtually" with all the flaws in that, of course there are many flaws, because reality is different that the
virtual world. But they got to know what was going on in the outside world, that there were protests in certain
areas, there are many things that happened in Egypt during the 18-days starting January 25th which people
learned from Tunisia, like how to protect themselves from "tear gas", and how to... for example, someone said
something nice, that in Tunisian they told him that on January 25th when people took the streets you should keep
holding protests because the ministry of interior would keep the state of emergency all the time, so the police and
officers didn't sleep, so by the 28th they would be exhausted. "It was true", of course they were exhausted
because they killed people like chickens, there was so much violence, but they were also exhausted, they couldn't
keep it up. So, that kind of communication is important, and this generation is amazing, they live on "social
networking"... So, also they don't have the ideas of Arab nationalism and such things... and they don't idolize the
military. They didn't live during Abdul Nasser's time so these things don't mean anything to them... so, there is
hope, with God's will, in this generation... we'll see what will happen.
N. P: Is there anything you'd like to say?
M.A: I have nothing to add, do you have any questions? I don't have anything else.
N.P: Is there anything I didn't ask?


M. A: No... you asked about everything but the only thing I didn't say is that part of my political activism has to do
with my family, I told you that in the beginning, I told you that I was born and raised in this house where there was
interest in politics, not... it wasn't accidental, there was a reason I grew to be who I am, this is how I was raised.
That's it.
N. P: Didn't your parents have any problem with this?
M. A: No, no.
N. P: that you were involved in public work?
M.A: No, it's not that they had no problem, the problem is that I got it from them
Manar Abdel Sattar: You see? So they didn't have any problem with if for sure. But, I feel that "it's not my own
choice", I was born with it, it was "built in" rather than something I choose at some point in my life.
Nicola Pratt: But you will continue?
M. A: Yes, I will, I don't regret it, I have no problem with it, but I'm telling you this if it's important to know why I
chose this and when this happened, when I decided to get involved in this, I don't remember, it's something that
just happened naturally... so, that's it.
N. P: Thank you
M.A: You can eat now


Full Text
Interview with Manar Abdel Sattar
2014
Nicola Pratt: May I ask, where were you born?
Manar Abdel Sattar: I was born in Imbaba, on March 2, 1968.
N.P: Did you grow up in Imbaba?
M.A: No, we left Imbaba when I was 2 or 3 years old, and after that we lived in down town… until now.
N.P: What did your father and mother do?
M.A: My mother was a elementary school teacher and my father graduated as a teached from Dar Al-Uloum faculty, an Arabic language teacher, but since he was a communist during Abdel Nasser's time, communists were kicked out of schools… and from all such institutions, he worked as an employee in the neighborhood… something where there's no "contact" with people or something like that… he went to jail for two years between 1958 and 1960.
N.P: What memories do you have from childhood? Memories related to political or national events?
M.A: Since we lived in down town I remember the protests of 1972 all the time. I was a child, but my mother "she was very curious" so she would take me with her to see the protests and whatnot… there were many people like my father and his friends who took part in the protests, so I remember this, I remember the people who fled t our house and I remember once that I saw a shooting outside the Supreme Court Building… there was a shooting, "almost" like what's happening now… they used to detain them, I remember that scene, and they took young men and women, lock them inside buildings and then a police car would come and take them away, but I remember that moment when they were beaten up, stripped of their clothes and throw them into the buildings, I remember that. I also remember in 1977, the tanks on the streets, there was also a curfew and I remember the tanks on the street… That was my childhood, after that I remember everything.
N.P: What did you study?
M.A: I studied medicine.
N.P: In which university?
M.A: Cairo University.
N.P: When you were in university, did you join any groups?
M.A: Yes, there was… of course, I started university in 1985, the 1980's and 1990's were stagnant years politically, compared to before, and since my father was a communist and he was in the Trotsky group and he was always involved in politics one way or another, through meetings and discussions and Sheikh Imam, that was the atmosphere, so ever since I was 16 I was looking for anything related to politics that I could do. So, there were activities in the university, between 1984 and 1985 there was a movement to change the students' bloc… and then there was the protests of Suleiman Khater who killed Israelis, and after that they said that he committed suicide at jail, and an Egyptian plane was hit in Tunisia… There were protests in the first year and some activities. After that there was nothing at the university, almost nothing, it was the time when Islamists groups held exhibitions and whatnot and then in the late 1980's early 1990's it was the time where the Islamists were killed and… the war on the streets… So, at university we tried to do things in small groups concerned with public work, but Kasr Al-Aini (the medicine faculty) was dominated by Islamists, there was no chance for anything else, and there were activities in the university but they were weak… After that in the early 1990's, 1991 and 1992 the Revolutionary Socialists emerged on the scene, I joined that group since it was created and I'm still with them until now.
N.P: Who was in that group, the Revolutionary Socialists?
M.A: I think there were people before me who left or traveled abroad, but when I was there, there was Sameh Naguib, Yahya Fekri, Hisham Mubarak and at some point Gamal Eid was there too… there was Mustafa Al-Asfahani… And Layla Qutri, there was a group of people… there were people who left of course, those are the ones I remember… Omar Al-Shafei, Tamer Wageeh. Those were the first members, people came and went, we were a small group after all, around ten people… sometimes "even" less than that, five or something like that, there was very few of us in the early 1990's.
N.P: How did you know about them? From university?
M.A: How did I know about them?... I knew then as friends at first… because I was always trying to move in political circles so… I made friends with people and met people through other people. The first person I met… the first thing I did and was related to politics was that I went to the Unionist Party, that was something on the side, they held activities for "teenagers", 15 year-olds, boot camps and whatnot. It was there that I met Hassan Saber who was in the Egyptian Communist Party… and I started to meet other people, I used to know one of them who was called Magdi, Magdi Ezz Al-Arab and through Magdi and Hassan I started to meet Wael Khalil, and I met his sister first, so "it's circles of friends", not… "circles of friends" interested in political causes. After than I met Smaeh and the others. All of that happened in two years.
N.P: Where did the idea of the party come from?
M.A: We haven't formed a party yet, that's still a project
N.P: Ah, it was a project
M.A: No, the project was a group, it was a group at first. The idea is not to have a party, it's about the organization, to have an "organized" group whose members work together, not just "independent" groups, sorry, I mean not independent individuals working alone, but rather working together, that's the idea behind he organization.
N.P: What other causes d you work on?
M.A: Of course, we can divide them into two major categories: Democratic causes, which are related to political despotisms… and the protests which resulted later on in Kefaya protests and all that, democratic/nationalistic causes as we worked on the Palestinian Cause as well… during the Palestinian uprising in 2001… The other category is social issues, as we work among the laborers, now we work in the neighborhoods… the "neighborhoods" where we live… in the university too of course… on social issues that have to do with social injustice in Egypt like poverty and whatnot… so, these are the two major categories, and there are specific issues like those related to the Coptic people… we worked a little on that and we still work on any issues related to Copts when we have them, or women issues… there are many sub-categories but the major ones are the democratic/nationalistic and the social issues, these are the two major things… Personally I did most of my work in politics on students' issues at university, given the nature of my work as I work at the university… at first I was a student and then I worked at the university, so a large part of the work I did throughout the years was related to students… mostly. Then in 2003 I worked on creating the March 9th group from 2003 to 2007 or 2008.
N.P: Was there any risk in joining such projects like this?
M.A: Of course, it was a risk, some people were arrested, some people lost their jobs, some people went to jail… in Egypt the danger is there and the people understand that… "It's not a secret"… But in the end what pushes people to move is that they want to have a better life and they are willing to make sacrifices, ad those who are not willing to make sacrifices quit… they preferred to live their lives with "relative" security… But, yes.
N.P: The same idea… You continued…
M.A: Yes, I continued. Look… for someone like me, I'm a university professor, I had several problems inside the university, like being chased and whatnot, but when someone happened to me… of course this has to do with social classes, but in the sense that I find people to support me, you see? When I'm in trouble I call Abu El-Ghar or Abdul Jaleel Mustafa or anyone who would intervene and talk to the dean of the university and solve the problem, but… "I feel protected" because of the nature of my work and my life. Of course, there's no absolute "protection", anything could happen to me, but it's worst for poor people or those without jobs or with small jobs, they are the ones who go through a lot of agony being with us, but the people who have a "background" that can protect them… No, I was chased but it wasn't… it wasn't that bad, I've never felt that my life was in danger… but now it's possible… but before it wasn't… what would happen?
N.P: Are there any changes in the political atmosphere between the 1990's and after?
M.A: Yes, big changes. 2001 was the time of the Palestinian uprising, so there was a great "shift", the 1990's were dead… nothing happened, there was no "activities", if you went to university and said that Mubarak was bad you would be beaten up… If you talked about Palestinians they would say that they sold their land. If you talked about the workers in Qasr Al-Bawwab - there was a big strike for the workers in Qasr Al-Bawwab in 1994 ad they attacked them with tanks and whatnot- you only find "individuals", 1 or 2 or 3 people would be interested. In 2001 when the Palestinian uprising broke out the whole university went on protests and there was a change in the general atmosphere. Because the uprising was "really inspiring"… for many people here. Also, the quality of life had deteriorated, it started to deteriorate dramatically that people felt suffocated and wanted to go on protests. After that… that was one of the big cases, after that in 2005 came with the bequeathing project and Kifaya movement against bequeathing the rule to Gamal Mubarak, there was movement on the street but… the biggest protest by Kifaya was the first one, I remember it, it was held in early December 2005, on the first of December, at the gates of the supreme Court. We were… the "optimistic" would say we were 1000, but I think we were 500 or 600… and we were surrounded by central security forces. Out of those 600 I would know 300, so… the others I would recognize, so I either know the people themselves or recognize their faces… it stirred the situation in the sense that people on the street were starting to talk, they talked about Kifaya as a "symbol", the name was very good, it was very catchy… But the general atmosphere allowed that too, and then in 2006 the strikes started in Al-Mahilla and labor strikes which increased greatly… and that consequently broadened the horizons of the movement, it was first made up of socialists and then it included anyone who wants to work, so there were experiences and things to do, you don't just sit and read and discuss and go on a protest once a year… So, things continued like this… there were more and more strikes, the democratic movement… of course, Kifaya was defeated by the renewal of Hosni Mubarak's term, but I think the intentions remained with the public, until 2011 when the revolution happened, which nobody had seen coming, it was an ordinary day, nobody had predicted that this would happen, some people were even against taking the streets on January 25th because they thought it was un-called for, it originally "Started" as a call for a protest in Shoubra, that's it. After that… and the people thought that nobody would go, many people thought so… But we went there for the protest… and then suddenly there were thousands on the streets… many people. Of course, that was a huge turn of events but I think that it all started in 2001 and 2005 and Kifaya and what happened in the strikes in Al-Mihalla in 2008 on April 6, all these things were preparations for 2011… nobody did it literally in that sense but there were many things which suggested that "it should happen" one way or another.
N.P: When did the socialists start working openly?
M.A: Look, let's say the socialists started to have a name… we used to work openly in the sense that we went on protests but there were people who didn't go on protests, certain people didn't participate in protests so that their faces wouldn't be recognized but as a group we were there and whenever we had an opportunity to speak in our name in some conference or something then we have people there speaking on behalf of socialists… After that IN 2005 there were people distributing flyers about the war on Iraq, that's also an important stage, that was on March 20, 2011. Under our name and everything… But from 2005 and after that we started to rise, you can say now that "we are not legal but we are not illegal", like many other things in Egypt… we are public but not very public… we always have an alternative way to "protect ourselves" one way or another in case of any crackdown by the state… But now there is… there is a movement in our name, we sell newspapers on the streets… but we don't have a "legal status", you see?... Security wise and legally we do not exist, but nothing is legal in Egypt so "it’s okay", do you understand what I'm saying?... things happened gradually, we weren't "secretive" and then went public all of a sudden, no… things happened "gradually" depending on the circumstances, when the circumsntaces allowed that we go public, we did as we should because… "otherwise" we would die, we wouldn't exist. Espeically that the security apparatus knew that we were there... we were "secretive" to people but not to the security, "it doesn't make sense" to remain secretive to people while security knew about us, so that's what happened.
N.P: May I ask you about March 9th? You were with them from the beginning?
M.A: Yes, from the early beginning.
N.P: Where did the idea for March 9th came from?
M.A: Look, it started in 2003 after the war on Iraq, there were protests and there was a movement at the university, students' protests against the war on Iraq and whatnot. And then it started as a rally that turned into a number of rallies every week, every Tuesday of each week by the faculty staff in Cairo University against the war on Iraq… they continued for a while, until April, for a month and a half or so. Every week we would regularly gather carrying picket signs and stand on the stairs and whatnot, and then the group that did that regularly met and decided to do something about the independence of the university… in the sense that the security wouldn't control the recruitment process as anyone who wished to be hired by the university must get a security clearance first. Of course, they controlled the research especially in "social sciences", there were taboos not to be touched upon… and so on. For example, it was not allowed to have a guest from outside the university to give a lecture at the university, and if you wanted to do that you needed security clearance and even if it was for someone from the university itself, they could stop it… And of course, their control over the Students' League elections, as the deans were appointed not elected as well as the president of the university, so they were basically things related to the academic life… It turned to that, the movement started against the war on Iraq and then it turned into a group focused only on the independence of the university, in the sense of academic freedoms… and we continued like that, we held a number of conferences, there was the annual March 9th conference, every year there's a certain "topic" related to academic freedoms, that's all, that was our activity. It was an active group with many people but it had its problems, for me there were problems, the biggest problem with March 9th for me was the huge stress on excluding the students' issues, the students' issues are none of our business… that was a problem, I fought about that a lot and I always failed, because they thought that students should work separately from professors, the professors didn't want the students to stand by their side "whatever" their political affiliations were, so that they wouldn't be accused of inciting the students. So, that was my big fight against March 9th group and I couldn't stay with them after that… from my point of view, the students… even in "simple numbers" they outnumbered the professors greatly and having the students stand by the professors in these things would give the March 9th group a huge "boost", they didn't have to support all the causes but they would stand by them, and to tell the truth, some of us did stand by the students, such as Laila Souif, Madiha Dous, so there were people who, when a student faced a problem or was in trouble with security or was expelled from the city because they were involved in political work, they would support them, talk to the president of the university, hire lawyers and interrogations and whatnot, but the group as a whole didn't do that, they had a stance against this and when they tried to do something with the students it was based on the idea that we're the professors and you are the kids, and this doesn't work for the students, "especially" this generation because these professors, in general not only the one in March 9th, they didn't do anything for them so "they don't feel grateful for it", they have no feelings towards them, nothing more than what they feel about their fathers interfering with their personal affairs. So, this doesn't work, there must be some sort of "equality", so that was my problem with the March 9th group, the other problem is that I had a lot of things to do related to the socialists and my March 9th wasn't my first priority… that was part of the problem, so… I spent a huge effort in the first year or two but after that I was done, "they were very slow for my pace"… they were slow, like turtles… I think this is why they are not moving now, because they are "very very slow to take any decision", the mere act of issuing a statement… took them so much time that the event would be over by the time their statement was issued, it would be "too late". Because they didn't issue the statement in the name of the group, they issued the statement and made everyone review it and whoever agrees with it would "sign", so when you have 200 or 300 people it takes time… it's a form of democracy but it's too slow. So, "it didn't work". That's it. I respect them and there are people among them who are very good and respectable people, but after 5 years I was fed up.
N.P: Before the revolution, did you take part in any other initiative?
M.A: Other than the socialist movement and March 9th? Look, I used to attend some events with Doctors Without Rights… but as I said, the problem with Doctors Without Rights was that I couldn't help them in some area… Or, since I work in the university hospital so I didn't understand all these problems, even the "terminology", it took me a long time to understand what they meant. That's one part of it, the other part is that you're at a hospital and you promote for an idea and there were people with me because… and of course I was at university which is a completely different place so March 9th group was more suitable for me because their problems were closer to my workplace than Doctors Without Rights… Also, I was very "involved" in the work with socialists because I "belonged" to that entity too much to have time for other things, between my work and the political meetings, as well as March 9th, it was very hard for me to do all these things, that's one part. So, I attended some of their events but not a lot of them, only for a while. The other thing I worked on was with Kifaya, we did something related to doctors and it was a big failure, it was called Doctors Towards Change. Each group would do something to influence change, Youth Towards Change, Students Towards Change, Lawyers Towards Change, so there was Doctors Towards Change. "Basically" there was Magda Adly as well as some people, most or some of which went to Doctors Without Rights, but… I was the young person among them, although I'm not young, young in the sense that I did all the "dirty work", I would do the photocopying and distribution of statements, I was the child in the group, so "you can imagine" how the others were… So, it wasn't successful and then… that group was being chased by security more than the others although they could've left it because it was of no consequence, but a big part of the harassment I faced at university was related to Doctors Towards Change. Although they didn't do anything really, you see?... So, it was a group with some activity and then it "vanished" because… between security hunts and being busy with other things and that there wasn't any reaction, nothing was happening, and the union didn't approve of it at all… So… I don't remember what I did, I used to work on anything that came my way, but through the socialists or on their behalf, like Kifaya and other movements for change but it was all in the name of the socialists.
N.P: You're still a member in the socialist party?
M.A: Yes.
N.P: There was a… split
M.A: Yes, there was a lot… which one?
N.P: I was thinking about the one in 2010
Manar Abdel Sattar: Yes, thank God, that was a great split. It was the best split I had all my life… this group… look, ever since the socialist party was founded there has been two groups, they always split and join forces again, over and over. "They split and they come back again". Okay? In 2010 it was the third time that these two groups had a disagreement. The same people… those and those, the same people. But in 2010 we reached a point where we couldn't live with each other anymore, you know how when people are married ad they wonder why they are stll married? "we have totally different analyses" for the current situation. And "totally different views" on what we could do, and there was a dispute over who should take over the group… so the majority took over the group, who I was part of thankfully… but it was a dispute and we can call them Tamer's group and Sameh's group, but it would be an unfair simplification, "it's not very true". But this was the "base". But if we didn't have that falling out in 2010, we would've had a bigger and dirtier one in 2011 during the revolution. So, "it was a very nice split", I was all for that group to leave
Nicola Pratt: what do you mean by that they had different analyses?
M.A: It means that… Now, we were trying to figure out what to do… I'll give you simple examples, we are an organization, with a "Marxist-Leninist" basis, okay? It's an organization, with a "Marxist-Leninist" basis. We have things like… "rules", or maybe not "rules" but rather basics we've always agreed on in order to work, it's important in any organization that when you're making an alliance or a front with someone else… to know who that other side is, these alliances were temporary, and to know what motto do the others have, so, as for the other group these alliances and fronts, whatever they are called… they became a "target" in themselves, it was important for them that we form alliances with this and that… in order to expand, you know? "Actually" it's true because it helps you grow but only temporarily because after that you shrink much more than you'd grown and that's what happened to them from the beginning, from the "starting point" because… the other group which I belonged to in this split was more interested in labor issues and saw that there was… and expansion in the labor movement and security in it and whatnot, the other group saw that this was "fake" and not real… of course there was another problem which is the problem with all splits and that is the ego problem, who takes control of the group… So, actually in 2010 we'd been working for one year "as two different groups"… I mean, each group was working in a completely different zone… "it was obvious" that we should've split, we were just cussing each other out… after the "split we are getting along much better", you know? Some of them write in our journal, they hold seminars in the center, we sometimes talk or coordinate some work together in a much better way than what we used to do before by only fighting… that was it was a great "split", I was all for it that they should leave… but that was the third split… by the same group
N.P: What's their name?
M.A: They don't have a name now, they formed a group called "socialist renewal" but it was over. They joined the coalition party which was a bad experience for them, and that was it, there's nothing left. They still have some activity, Tamer writes articles… Fatma Ramadan, I don't know if you've met her, she does great work with laborers and in the independent union, "she's very active"… she's not nice "as a person, I don't like her, but as a militant and activist" she is very good. She's "persistent" and great… Some of them do "individual" work but as a group "they didn't survive", the idea of joining a party was… when the coalition took stands which they do not agree with, "they were a minority" and "they didn't have" a choice but to walk out… from the coalition party… you know the coalition party?
N.P: Yes… the socialists didn't join it?
M.A: No. nobody did, thank God… that was one of the good decisions they made, because there was pressure on us to join at first, there was an idea to join the party and some of us actually joined at first and laid down the agenda with them in the very beginning but then… the membership requirements and dissolve into that party were very alarming for us, they weren't suitable; because… the fabric of the party was made up of people who came from the Unionist party or form the "background" of the Unionist party which "basically" meant that they would have totally different stands than us later on… so "it was too risky" to join a part while knowing the people on it would have different stands than your own… So, no, we took a decision not to join. We had another failed attempt which was the Labor party, but we didn't do it in order to hide within it but rather to help build something else that in case in worked, we would see what to do next… so, when it failed… of course we were part of its failure, it's no big deal, but its failure didn't really affect us, we remained there as an organization, we didn't have any "regression" at all.
N.P: Why did it fail?
M.A: I don't know, Nicola. This is a question… which nobody could answer… First, in the beginning it was very "promising", there were workers from everywhere who came to attend meetings that were huge, and great things were said, that was in the beginning of the revolution as different factions met together, after that a part of its failure was our fault because… our mistake was that we couldn't build two things at the same time, to build the Labor party and the Socialist party, we were more concerned with the Socialist party, so the number of people from our group who worked in the Labor party was too little to do something… the other thing was that… its supporters of workers didn't have any "political background", so we were discussing things like the basics of the Palestinian Cause, why we wanted to revoke Camp David treaty… that took too much time, so people came with a different awareness and different ideas… it looked very hard to build so the people who were willing to join a party were not willing to join the Labor party and build it from scratch, you know? "It was easier" to join another party, the Social Democratic Party, the Coalition party, there were many of them… the other problem of course was that there wasn't any money, money was a huge problem, because if there's no money then people can't travel, there are no branches in the governorates... it was too poor, you don't need a lot of money but you can't manage with too little money… so it was very difficult, the financial cost was "beyond" what the people in it could afford, "beyond" their monthly income, and they could help in that… this is my take on this… but I don't know if someone else could tell you why it failed exactly, "1, 2, 3", I don't know.
N.P: Can you talk a little bit about January 25th?
M.A: January 25th?
N.P: Yes, what did you do on January 25th? And what did you do after that?
M.A: I didn't do anything on January 25th, I was pregnant… I was 6 or 7 months into my pregnancy, and of course one of the basics of protests is the ability to run, if you go to a protest you should be able to run, if you can't run then don't participate in a process, this is vital. Back then I had stopped participating in protests, the last protest I took part in was a relatively big protest in Abdeen against bequeathing the presidency, it was in September, and it was in Abdeen because of the whole thing with Ahmad Orabi and the king, when he said: God created us free… it was in the memory of that day… After that I got pregnant and I didn't participate in any protests. On January 25th I took part in preparing for the protest, I knew what was to happen and where they would meet and who was in the discussions and who didn't want to take the streets, it was a big "debate", a week before the protest people were arguing over who would go to the protest and who wouldn't and until now people are digging up things they posted on facebook about why we should not take the streets, "it's very funny", so, Aida and I agreed that she would go to the protest in Shoubra and that it would be a failure so she would come to our house for lunch or breakfast, the next day was a holiday, and that's it. So… she went early to the protest, Aida always goes early, goes on time, and there was nobody, there was a lot of security forces but no protestors, so she left, and on her way back to our house or somewhere and we talked on the phone and we found out that there were people moving in different areas and then the protest in Shoubra grew in numbers and people were arrested, "it was a big deal", and then they went to Tahrir square. I wasn't doing anything, I was following the news at home and I was making calls to know who was arrested and who was in jail, to help them… after that… of course I didn't go on the 28th either because we knew there would be a lot of violence… and on the 29th I went to Tahrir square and I stayed there until Mubarak stepped down, I was there every day, some days I would sleep over there and other days I would go and stay there all day, depending on the circumstances… that's it. During this time, you weren't here, right? "You missed it", those were some of the best days in my life… Nobody did certain things "specifically", you know, the Square in general was against individual initiatives, I mean, for example if you issued a statement in your name you could be beaten up, that simple. We issued a statement in our name on the first day, January 25th, after that we only issued statements with no signature, because "otherwise" people wouldn't accept it, nobody was allowed to do that… we tried to do things like exhibitions in the square… it was fine, we wrote things and people would discuss them and… such things... After that there was the idea of soapboxes where people would make speeches and we took part in such things. On the side, there were meetings or an entourage around the idea of having something unified for the leftist groups, and hence was the idea of the Coalition. Something for the leftist groups in general to work as one entity during that time we were going through. And that resulted later on in the Coalition party… that's it, we went there and did anything that came our way, we would bring food, stand at the gates… see who needed anything, collecting blankets. I'm a an x-ray doctor, but since I was a doctor I went to work in the clinic but I failed because I lost those skills, I just supervised the work, I didn't do anything, I don't know how to stitch or do the "urgent" things… but we brought medicines and other things so it's the idea of helping out mostly. We would check if anyone needed anything in Qasr Al-Ainy, they were arresting people at hospitals, so these were the things I could help with, but even as socialists "I think we were shocked" during that period, we had… not a shock, but it was so surprising that we were slow, except that we wrote statements, but it was like: what are you doing? We were a group of a few dozens or a few hundreds, what would we do amid the midst these millions? We vanished, besides… it was a fun atmosphere, Tahrir square was nice… the way people dealt with each other… how a woman could smoke on the street and it would be okay and you wouldn't be harassed, nobody picks on you, everyone was shouting and every day you would talk to different people… "it was amazing"… so, that's it… after the 18 days were over, we understood the mentality of the army… we were the first people to write against the army after the 2nd of February, after Mubarak stepped down… 2011… but it was very difficult back then, "it was too risky" to be against the army because people would beat you up like what happened recently… but there was no public hysteria, people still trusted each other. And then we started… after that people started to go to Tahrir square a lot and every Friday and we started to grow as an organization, as a socialist movement and we started to grow hugely because we were present in all the events… and we were there during the violence, so people knew who we were… and we became famous, in the light of the political openness, so… the situation became much better than how it was before the revolution.
N.P: Do you think that there was a "turning point" after the revolution?
M.A: Yes, there was a huge "turning point"… for the socialists or in general?
N.P: Both.
M.A: In general, of course… for both actually. In general, first many people became interested in politics, and these people started to do things, they formed associations and they did things in their respective neighborhoods, in their workplaces. There was a huge growth in independent unions, we started to have independent unions for divers, and… everyone wanted to have associations and independent unions, and I think that was a very good idea… it was short-lived, it didn't work later on, but… some of them are still there but that was a very good idea to organize people, that everywhere there was… and of course there was the popular committees that were formed in those neighborhoods, that was a great idea. So, in general there were ideas to organize people and that was a good thing. And we had confidence, although Mubarak stepped down but the regime still held, people had the confidence that they could do that, because before when you tried to do anything people would say: what are you doing? Do you think you'll topple Mubarak? So… he stepped down, it could be done, so the idea… of these people being there and their confidence was a very strong thing. For us, suddenly the "abstract" things we've been saying for 20 years which people laughed at and thought we were idiots to say it, "ego", revolution, "power", "power of the people" and all these things suddenly became a reality, you see? So, for this was a huge push for the people who were around us or who doubted us, there was a general atmosphere especially among the young people, the old people were hopeless but there was a general atmosphere "towards the left", the "ideas", people were interested, between anarchism and the left, many people saw themselves there and started to say what the leftists say even if they weren't "classified" as leftist, politically, so that atmosphere was very useful for us, and also the general atmosphere… As for "The turning point", even with what is happening now which is "almost tragic" and the counter-revolution is winning with a vengeance. But "still" this moment will still be present in many people's memories, that we can do this and we can change things… we are not doomed to live in the current situation forever… that's in general and for us too, to have people copying your ideas… people took the streets and beat the forces of the ministry of interior who then disappeared… it was a terrifying time because there was no police, there was no policemen at all and yet there was no security problems. There was a curfew but of course it wasn't "applicable" at all, it was impossible. So, sometimes we would go home at 4 or 5 in the morning, there would be no transportation but you could ride with a car that's passing by, even if you didn't know the people, and they would take you home on their way, that was the system. People were protecting their neighborhoods, even the people who were protecting them in order to protect their own properties, the people in this building used to stand outside, if they see a stranger they would inspect them or not let them in… Okay, but honestly "it wasn't always pleasant" and the security forces took advantage of that later on, as they sent thugs to harass people in certain areas… but, the idea is that you are walking in a city without police and nothing goes wrong, even though it's 3 in the morning but there was no problem, anyone you'd meet would be very nice, they would help you… so… it was a huge experience… very huge…. That's it… so, "it is a turning point", "I hope" it won't go to waste, and that people would remember that time.
N.P: You gave birth to a baby boy
M.A: Yes, in May 2011, the timing was a "bad move"… the timing wasn't very good but it's no problem.
N.P: Is it more difficult for you now to be involved in these things?
M.A: Yes, of course, it's much more difficult. I work most of the days and he's very young and he needs me to be there. So, the first year was easy, because he didn't move, I would carry him with me everywhere, I would go to protests and sit-ins, sometimes we even slept over in Tahrir square in the summer, we didn't sleep actually but we spent a large part of the night there, there was no problem. The next year I decided to dedicate my time to him, I worked a little and he was my main focus, I still can't get out of this situation. I go out sometimes, I now go to protests and other things without him because it's dangerous, I can't take him… but I don't have… last week I had so many plans but he got sick so I stayed home. You know? I do little things, mostly organizational, things I can do in a short time or over e-mail and things like that, but I can't work as I used to work before, not now, maybe in a year or so… it's "too bad", I spent years doing nothing, I had no child to take care of, but at a time like this I have to sit it out, but I can "undo" this, there's no "undo" button for kids.
N.P: Do you think there is a new generation in Egypt?
M.A: Yes, I like them a lot. Yes… the "teenagers" and the ones in their twenties, from all social classes, but especially the poor classes, they are not seeking "authority" in anything, not at all, although this country didn't give them anything, no decent education, no healthcare, no streets, no sanitation, no sewage system, no clean water… we live in Cairo and there are areas with no running water, outside Cairo in Fayyoum there was no water for four days, you just bought water… so, there's nothing, the roads are nothing but dirt roads, so "they don't owe anyone anything", they have nothing, and their lives are so desperate that they are not afraid to die, I saw people on the 228 of January near the ministry of interior when the fighting continued outside the ministry of interior's gate for two days… people would be brought dead from there, and there was nothing you could do to convince them that.. they were shot dead with bullets, Tahrir square was full but still young people went there to die and returned as lifeless corpses… So, "they have nothing to lose", nothing at all, their life wasn't worth living that they wouldn't mind dying… and also, on one hand they didn't have the idea of authority, thank God, and the other thing is that the "social networks" played an important role, they were not the reason of the revolution, I'm against that idea, but they really helped that people communicate with each other and see that other people had different ideas, they managed to exchange ideas and expand their horizons, they didn't need to go out to see people, they saw people "virtually" with all the flaws in that, of course there are many flaws, because reality is different that the virtual world. But they got to know what was going on in the outside world, that there were protests in certain areas, there are many things that happened in Egypt during the 18-days starting January 25th which people learned from Tunisia, like how to protect themselves from "tear gas", and how to… for example, someone said something nice, that in Tunisian they told him that on January 25th when people took the streets you should keep holding protests because the ministry of interior would keep the state of emergency all the time, so the police and officers didn't sleep, so by the 28th they would be exhausted. "It was true", of course they were exhausted because they killed people like chickens, there was so much violence, but they were also exhausted, they couldn't keep it up. So, that kind of communication is important, and this generation is amazing, they live on "social networking"… So, also they don't have the ideas of Arab nationalism and such things… and they don't idolize the military. They didn't live during Abdul Nasser's time so these things don't mean anything to them… so, there is hope, with God's will, in this generation… we'll see what will happen.
N.P: Is there anything you'd like to say?
M.A: I have nothing to add, do you have any questions? I don't have anything else.
N.P: Is there anything I didn't ask?
M.A: No… you asked about everything but the only thing I didn't say is that part of my political activism has to do with my family, I told you that in the beginning, I told you that I was born and raised in this house where there was interest in politics, not… it wasn't accidental, there was a reason I grew to be who I am, this is how I was raised. That's it.
N.P: Didn't your parents have any problem with this?
M.A: No, no.
N.P: that you were involved in public work?
M.A: No, it's not that they had no problem, the problem is that I got it from them
Manar Abdel Sattar: You see? So they didn't have any problem with if for sure. But, I feel that "it's not my own choice", I was born with it, it was "built in" rather than something I choose at some point in my life.
Nicola Pratt: But you will continue?
M.A: Yes, I will, I don't regret it, I have no problem with it, but I'm telling you this if it's important to know why I chose this and when this happened, when I decided to get involved in this, I don't remember, it's something that just happened naturally… so, that's it.
N.P: Thank you
M.A: You can eat now