Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian dissident and human rights activist who recently returned to Egypt from exile in the US, delivered his first public talk since his return.
The head of Ibn Khaldun Center for Developmental Studies said that the US seeks democracy in Egypt and the Middle East, adding that Egyptians suffer from an "America complex” which is used by the regime to hinder democratic progress.
Ibrahim highlighted resemblances between US President Barak Obama's campaign and that of Mohamed ElBaradei, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a potential presidential candidate, both of which differ from what he called the "yes-I-can" approach of most Egyptian candidates.
Ibrahim rejected the “charismatic leadership” model promoted by other dissidents, arguing that no one is born with leadership skills, but rather such talents are acquired.
Ibrahim’s participation in the seminar is his first since he came back home after three years in voluntary exile.
Ibrahim insisted that the most significant change in Egypt since the 1952 revolution is the fact that Egyptians have been successfully breaking the barrier of fear, which has deterred many people from engaging in politics.
“When we attempted to run in last presidential elections, we were persecuted”, he said, urging the regime to be more serious about democratic reform.
Ibrahim compared democracy to Egyptian football: “Egyptians are interested in soccer matches because they are not rigged. That’s why soccer club elections see a 100 percent voter turnout, while real elections fail to make any real gains. Sports involve genuine competition, but policies are devised in closed rooms."
He accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being self-serving, and said that dealing with the Islamist group is the real challenge facing political forces in Egypt today.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.