Egyptian Islamist Aboul-Fotouh 'All They Can Do Is Kill'
Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood before breaking off in 2009. In a SPIEGEL interview, he says that President Morsi's obstinacy helped trigger the coup and recent bloodshed, but that Egypt's military was determined to hold onto power.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Aboul-Fotouh, are you surprised by what is happening?
Aboul-Fotouh: The only thing that surprises me is the extent of the killing. It was foreseeable, and it was precisely what we had warned would happen. The belief that the generals will bring back democracy is a misconception. President Mohammed Morsi's removal from office on July 3 was a coup. Now it's become a very bloody coup. All our current rulers can do is kill, but they even fail when it comes to burying people. They just leave them in the streets to rot.
SPIEGEL: But why has the military behaved with such excessive violence? After all, it already had the power.
Aboul-Fotouh: Military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has now become Egypt's sole ruler and is governing with an iron fist.
SPIEGEL: But you were also staunchly opposed to Morsi's policies and called for demonstrations against him.
Aboul-Fotouh: Yes, I was vehemently against Morsi, especially when he tried to push through Sharia as a basis of the constitution, kept granting himself more and more special powers, and alienated large segments of the population. I characterized him as weak and incapable. But I wanted us to defeat him at the ballot box.
SPIEGEL: How did you intend to proceed against him?
Aboul-Fotouh: We at Strong Egypt had launched a nationwide campaign to explain to people what we can do: a sit-in, as Morsi's supporters have now done, civil protests and a general strike. We would have shut down the country, but peacefully. That would have been the right approach. We had fair elections, an elected president and an elected parliament. I was against Morsi, and yet I respected the legitimacy of his office. Sissi isn't doing that. The generals don't respect anything anymore. They just want to kill whoever opposes them. We want General Sissi and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim to be tried in court for this massacre. But I also condemn all those Egyptians and foreign countries that claim to defend human rights and democracy and are now silent.
SPIEGEL: Do you place all the blame on the military?
Aboul-Fotouh: No. Morsi had bungled it. If he had relented on June 30, even on July 3, Sissi wouldn't have been able to stage a coup. Just hours before the coup, I urged Morsi, through a relative, to agree to early elections or a referendum. But he ignored all warnings. His obstinacy made this new dictatorship possible in the first place. Morsi's core problem was that the Muslim Brotherhood simply never wanted to make a decision: Are we a religious organization or a political party? The two things are incompatible. Morsi tried to use religion as a vehicle to hold onto power, and that had to go wrong. But that's no longer the issue today.
SPIEGEL: What is?
Aboul-Fotouh: It's now a struggle over dictatorship or freedom. We demand elections as early as possible. We are strictly opposed to any party being excluded for its views. Only individuals who have been charged with corruption or have blood on their hands should be disqualified. And that includes General Sissi.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is still willing to abide by the rules of the government?
Aboul-Fotouh: I'm afraid that groups of its members are becoming radicalized. And Sissi is actually pointing the way for them. It certainly isn't his intention, but this is how he's understood: If you want to have a divergent political opinion, you have to be armed -- or else they'll kill you. What we are now experiencing is the transition from Morsi's attempt to install a party dictatorship to a military junta. Both are wrong.
SPIEGEL: What will happen next?
Aboul-Fotouh: Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser showed them how to do it in 1952, just with other officers. People thought they would only remain in power for six months, and that there would be elections after that. It turned into 60 years of military rule.
SPIEGEL: And this time?
Aboul-Fotouh: I hope the Egyptians will not accept the same thing once again.
Interview conducted by Christoph Reuter
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan