EGYPT: Bestselling novelist Alaa Al Aswany reflects on the popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak


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Egypt’s celebrated and bestselling novelist Alaa Al Aswany, author of ‘The Yacoubian Building’ and ‘Chicago’ among other books, says President Hosni Mubarak could be more dangerous now than ever.

Aswany hosted reporters at his dentist office in central Cairo earlier this week to give his take on the popular uprisings against Mubarak that have rocked Egypt and the Mubarak government to the core for the last 12 days.


Aswany said he was concerned about the apparent unwillingness of Mubarak to call it quits despite the mass popular protests against him, saying it is setting the scene for a dangerous scenario.

‘The dictator becomes full of very negative feelings towards the country,’ he said. ‘He becomes destructive and these feelings become very dangerous....he thinks he is a national hero but at some point when he wakes up he becomes angry and destructive.’

For Aswany, a revolution is much like being in love. It cleanses you from the inside and changes you in a positive manner.

‘When somebody is in love he becomes a much better person. It’s the same with revolution,’ the 53-year-old author told the small group of reporters.

Since the nationwide protests kicked off in late January, Aswany--a staunch critic of Mubarak--has participated at several demonstrations and even given speeches to rally-goers at Tahrir Square.

Asked about his feelings about Egypt’s ongoing and unprecedented political upheavals, he says he feels ‘proud’ and vows to write a book about the historic events.


‘It’s been unique to not only read about history but to live inside history,’ he said.

However, Egypt’s future remains largely unsettled. On Friday, huge crowds gathered at Tahrir Square for a final ‘Friday of Departure’ rally in a bid to make Mubarak step down from power.

Aswany spoke a day before supporters of Mubarak, armed with sticks and clubs, stormed into Tahrir Square on horses and camels, violently clashing with demonstrators there for hours. Several deaths and hundreds of injuries were reported as a result of the incident. Around the same time, journalists and human rights activists started to be harassed, detained and beaten by supporters of Mubarak and gangs roaming the streets.

Aswany says Mubarak is passing through what he refers to as a series of phases an embattled authoritarian leader needs to experience before he or she realizes that the end is near. After passing through phases of denial, anger and giving concessions to the opposition, the only alternative left is to pack the suitcase and head to the airport.

What about the Muslim Brotherhood then, the powerful Islamist group Western powers fear could try to take power in a new Egypt?

Aswany downplays such worries and dismisses them as a result of a propaganda campaign by the Mubarak regime intended to make people think that ‘either you accept Mubarak or you get ready for another Hamas or Taliban.’

‘This revolution has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood,’ he added.

The same thinking goes for Western concerns that Egypt without Mubarak would result in the end of the peace treaty with Israel.


‘This is also something that has been fabricated and distributed by the regime for years....the least sense of responsibility is to respect what has been signed before...I don’t think an elected government in Egypt would be crazy...war is not a priority for our country,’ he said.

During the gathering, Aswany also praised the role of bloggers and social media sites like Facebook in promoting the demonstrations and making the protests gain steam.

‘The call for democracy came at the right moment. The bloggers provided the opportunity...the protesters are very determined. They don’t want me to say president when I speak. They want only Mubarak or ex-president,’ he said.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Cairo