'US fails to defend democratic principles despite talk in the media' - Osama Morsi
The Muslim Brotherhood has lost its position in the Egyptian government, but popular support is still strong. Thousands are on the street protesting what they call a military coup. We talk to Osama Morsi, the son of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi, about democracy, the Brotherhood's future, his father's whereabouts and to what end are they prepared to fight.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. Are you hiding and what exactly are you fearing?
Osama Morsi: I am not hiding. I’ve been among Egypt’s young revolutionaries since January 25, 2011. Today these young people came out to the country’s squares to defend the democratic path of the revolution…
I want to say this again. I am one of those people defending the cause of the January revolution and its achievements. I am out there on the streets with the others. I think we need to keep the achievements of the January revolution. We need to stay on that course, which has been now threatened by those who organized the bloody coup in Egypt.
We are defending the revolutionary course.
Presidency in Egypt is an institution that was established by the will of the people after the revolution. Today’s situation is not just the president’s problem, it is a violation of the people’s will, the Constitution, that the people voted for, and it goes against the lawfully elected president. All these institutions have been annihilated because of the coup, this cannot be justified. The Egyptian people can’t just be observers. And those who organized the coup shouldn’t think that it’s over, and they succeeded against the will of the people. This will never happen. After January 25, the Egyptian people got what they had been fighting for. We, as the people and the leaders, cannot submit to this bloody regime…
Sophie Shevardnadze: You say you’re not hiding but it was so hard to arrange an interview with you. There was so much secrecy around it. What you’re saying – does it mean you can be seen in the streets everyday with your supporters?
Osama Morsi: Yes, of course. I am on Rabia al-Adawiya square. I am on the streets of the revolution. If I were in hiding, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you today.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Where is your father now, do you know?
Osama Morsi: My father is at some unknown location now. The leaders of this coup are war criminals.
They detained the president without any charges, the lawfully elected president, who spoke the will of the people, and now they are hiding him at some secret location. What can you expect from war criminals? They violated the cause of those who had died in the name of the revolution and Law. So we still don’t know where my father is kept. We don’t know where he is, don’t know why he was detained.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Are you worried for his life? What do you think could happen to him?
Osama Morsi: Military spokesman Ahmed Ali basically admits that they arrested the president. Such statements are a joke. He said that the president was detained for his own safety. And to this we say, “Don’t worry about the president’s safety. Let the president come out to the people and talk to them. You shouldn’t arrest him in this strange, unconstitutional manner.”
Sophie Shevardnadze: Are you not scared for his life?
Osama Morsi: As his son I am obviously worried about him, and I fear for his life. But as a revolutionary, who sees him as our revolution president, I call on him to stand strong, stay true to his ideas, and not to give in to these war criminals.
All of us, not just me, but our whole family, support him. We call on him not to give up and stay faithful to the will of the people. The president doesn’t own the will of the people, he can’t just deal with it as he sees fit. This is the will of all Egyptian people.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Osama you seem very close to your father in this whole process. How did your father not see this coup coming? There were signs Egyptians wanted a more inclusive government and inclusive society. And the Army was warning Morsi…
Osama Morsi: You can ask the Egyptian president this question, when he returns to his office through this massive revolutionary effort. He will be able to give you a better answer. I don’t know the mechanisms of governing.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But what’s your take on that? You’re his son, his ally…
Osama Morsi: I am just the president’s son. I am not one of those people making key decisions. I don’t know what they talked about at presidential meetings, even though I am his son.
Sophie Shevardnadze: This is a very personal question. My grandfather was deposed by revolution. And I always told him what I thought even though I didn't take part in presidential meetings...
Osama Morsi:Sure, I will answer this question. President Morsi ignored this coup because he recognized perfectly well that justice and the will of the Egyptian people is stronger than any tanks, stronger than the military coup and the criminals who staged it.
The legitimate President of Egypt repeatedly said that he believed in the common sense, the vision, the sagacity of the Egyptian people. Besides, the President knew that the people all across the country would rise to disagree. And this is what we see happening now: mass revolutionary protests against the coup and against the people’s will being ignored.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But right now it looks like it’s a 50-50 split between Morsi supporters and people who want him out. According to the polls, 59% think the country would have been better off with the military in power.
Osama Morsi:This is excellent proof that Mohammed Morsi’s rule was democratic. In a democracy, you have both a ruling regime and an opposition. But the case of armed forces taking on a certain political stance is something unprecedented. This is a sure sign of a military takeover.
Sophie Shevardnadze: With all due respect there is no doubt Morsi has a lot of supporters. But in a very short period of time an overwhelming majority turns against him. It’s not about the military it’s the people.
Osama Morsi:In a democracy, such political differences and confrontations are normally settled through elections rather than tanks. Is there any true democracy where an army commander discounts the will of the people and illegally deposes the president? This coup is actually a crime committed by the Egyptian military.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Osama, many believe Muslim Brotherhood has failed not because it was about religion, but because it didn’t have a political plan, an economic plan. Do you admit that he made mistakes?
Osama Morsi: I believe the only way to settle political differences is via democratic general elections. Could a Russian, or American, or British defense minister overthrow a democratically elected government just because there’re opposition groups protesting on the streets? No. It’s impossible.
The Egyptian revolution has won, and it came to pass because it was the people’s will. That will is still strong.
We, Egyptians, made our choice. The people of Egypt elected their own government. Thepeople’swill…
Sophie Shevardnadze: But Osama you have called your supporters to come out on the streets and fight. Even if it leads to bloodshed. More people died in recent events than in the whole year under Morsi.
Osama Morsi: This is entirely wrong! Entirely! We represent the Egyptian people and we are defending our democratic choice and our votes. We are doing it through peaceful means only, I underline, peaceful means only.
We are not threatening anyone and we don’t tolerate threats. The criminals that staged this coup are responsible for all the blood spilled on the streets, for disrespecting the people’s will, and for persecuting those who are just trying to peacefully defend their votes. The Egyptian revolution has been peaceful since day one. No one is threatening anyone. However, the ones responsible for the bloodshed and violence are the supporters of the Mubarak regime, who used the difficult times Egypt has been going through to stage a counter-revolutionary coup and negate everything the revolution achieved. They destroyed our democracy. The Egyptian people know who opts for violence. The people see very clearly who supports democracy and who wants to rob them of it.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But as of now Muslim Brotherhood is out of Egypt’s new de-facto government… Muslim Brotherhood refuses to co-operate. Is this non-cooperation stance a valid political strategy?
Osama Morsi:The Muslim Brotherhood does not speak on behalf of all the Egyptian people.
The whole world has to understand that the Egyptian people are out in the streets right now. The Muslim Brotherhood only represents a certain part of the population.
The Muslim Brotherhood does not make decisions on behalf of the Egyptian people. They were not elected by the people, but President Morsi was. The will of the people is enshrined in the Constitution – a document which drafted by the people, not by the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only the Brotherhood, but the entire Egypt believes that the coup shouldn’t have happened in the first place, that a new government shouldn’t have been imposed.
Sophie Shevardnadze: To which end are you prepared to fight?
Osama Morsi:The Egyptian people will not recognize the current government, nor the actions it took to ruin democracy. The Egyptian people will stand for its choice, whatever it takes.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But when it comes to the number of deaths. When will you say – enough?
Osama Morsi:You should ask this question to those who orchestrated this violent coup. Ask them when they are going to put an end to their crimes against Egyptians. How many more deaths will it take to stop this?
Sophie Shevardnadze: It goes both ways…
Osama Morsi: [Speaks English and Arabic] Don’t ask me when they will stop killing us... We are protecting our pro-democracy choice with peaceful means…
Please. All of us, the Egyptian people, have decided we will govern the country ourselves… through voting. Yes. Yes. Now the Egyptian people are asking: «Where is my vote? Where is the democracy? Can General Sisi or the Egyptian army answer to that…»
So, again. Only the Egyptian people have the right to determine who is to rule their country, and it has to be determined via elections.
It’s only by casting their ballots that the Egyptian people decide who is to win or lose.
The candidate that lost the election will never be elected in the future. The winner, however, might be elected for the second term. This is what we understand by democracy. In which country can the opposition come to power through protests instead of winning a general election?
The Egyptian people stated loud and clear that democracy is the only way for them. The people obey only the government they elected. They are not afraid of the violence, murders, or oppression that the rebels perpetrate. The Egyptian people are not afraid of the security forces.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Was there a foreign factor in the coup?
Osama Morsi: All I know is that it is an anti-democratic coup, which aims to lead Egypt away from the path of becoming a respected democratic nation.
When the Egyptian people staged a revolution in January 2011, it was not a revolution of beggars, nor a revolution of the hungry. It was a revolution accomplished by people who were free. And those free people are the ones who are now protesting in the streets against this unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic coup.
Besides, all Egyptians are protesting the anti-democratic coup, those brutal and violent policies, and a possible rollback to the practices once used by Mubarak and his secret police.
Sophie Shevardnadze: When one looks at situation in Egypt from outside, the first thing people are discussing – after the clashes – is what role does US play, and it’s very unclear. You may not know for sure, but what are your thoughts?
Osama Morsi: The US policy has been serving only the American interests all this time. I don’t really care about that.
[Speaks English and Arabic] The US supported military coups in Venezuela, in Egypt, and some other countries, when it was beneficial to their country. It is a well-known fact.
Sophie Shevardnadze: In this situation when your father is deposed, you don’t know where he is, there are clashes in the streets. Do you think your US citizenship is a hindrance or help?
Osama Morsi: Americans speak for democracy in the media, but in reality they don’t defend democratic principles.
And it is very important for Egyptians not to import democracy from the US or some other country.
On January 25, 2011, the Egyptian people ruled to make independent decisions about the future of their country. Back then the US administration did not have a clear position on this.
I have to clarify here – the clashes are between repressive security forces and peaceful protestors. You can’t use the term civil war in this situation, it is not a civil war between Egyptians.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Is your American citizenship helping you or damaging you right now?
Osama Morsi: I am an Egyptian citizen, and I don’t have US citizenship. One of my sisters is a US citizen. [Speaks English] – And I am proud of it
Sophie Shevardnadze: How come Qatar has turned against you? They were your supporters.
Osama Morsi: You can ask the leaders of Qatar this question.
Sophie Shevardnadze: But do you have your opinion?
Osama Morsi: I don’t really understand Qatar’s position – did it help the junta? I don’t really care. I only care about the will of the Egyptian people. That’s the main thing.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Do you think that the Syrian scenario may repeat in Egypt?
Osama Morsi: Absolutely not.
Egyptians understand what’s going on. The Egyptian army is the army of all the people. Egyptians understand it. We are well-respected. And the Egyptian army is well-respected. It is a people’s army with great history. Our people understand the difference between the army as a whole and a few military commanders who organized the coup.