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The West Must End Its Support of Egyptian 'Tyrant', Says a Muslim Brotherhood Leader

VICE News spoke to Yahia Hamed, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, who said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has turned the country into a breeding ground for the Islamic State.
Photo by Bernd Von Jutrczenka/EPA

On July 3 it will be one year since the first elected president in the history of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a coup by the ex-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The subsequent crackdown on Morsi and his Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was severe. Security forces have killed about 1,000 Brotherhood supporters during protests and tens of thousands more have been jailed, along with left-wing activists and other government critics, according to human rights groups.


On Tuesday a court said it would give its final ruling on June 16 regarding a preliminary death sentence recently handed to Morsi and more than 100 Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members, in a case related to a 2011 mass jail break.

Meanwhile Sisi is on a trip to Germany where he has been officially welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, and is set to sign a multi-billion dollar deal with German industrial group Siemens. At a press conference on Wednesday Merkel reiterated her government's opposition to the death penalty but said working with Sisi was key to ensuring regional security.

VICE News spoke to Yahia Hamed, the Minister of Investment under Morsi, who said the opposite was true — if the West kept supporting Sisi it could destabilize the whole region, playing straight into the hands of the Islamic State, he said.

He spoke to us from Geneva before leaving for Brussels; soon he will travel to the United States. He is one of the key Muslim Brotherhood figures responsible for broadcasting the group's message outside of Egypt's borders.

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'If Europe carries on supporting this tyrannical regime it will pay the price in the form of death boats'

VICE News: How is the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood today, after being labeled a terrorist organization in Egypt?
Yahia Hamed: Four months ago we had new elections and new members were elected to the Foreign Office of the Muslim Brotherhood. The objective of office is to manage the crisis caused by Sisi's coup. It is an ambitious political project, coordinating with the rest of the political forces and with the revolution, with which we are working on several fronts. We are talking about the strength that emerged from the 2011 revolution. Although it is not [an] organized [movement] it still exists; there are small organizations but if they come together they can achieve something big. The revolution is bigger than the Muslim Brotherhood or any other organization, the revolution belongs to everyone.


How is the work of your party in Egypt now they have dismantled all your charities and businesses?
The Muslim Brotherhood is more than 80 years old. The success of the organization does not lie in its ability to create companies or associations but in its penetration of society, its real integration within the people. They can close 1,200 charities that have spent more than 60 years helping Egyptian society to overcome their difficult situation, but they cannot drive the Muslim Brotherhood from the place they occupy in society. It is this which sustains our organization. We have revitalized much of the management in the past year and a half — young people make up more than 65 percent of the new leadership.

Related: Sisi Says Egypt Now Knows Muslim Brotherhood Members 'Do Not Deserve Sympathy'

'People are becoming radicalized as the result of repression, torture and deaths in prisons'

Do your followers feel cheated after the failure of the democratic process? Are they thinking about more radical options?
It is very important to understand that the Muslim Brotherhood has always had and will have a peaceful strategy — it is the regime that wants us to enter into violence. If we enter that game we will only complicate things more. We have seen how in Syria, Libya and Yemen, which each have their own particularities, [people] haven't succeeded in bringing about a revolution through violence. We have an unwavering strategy on violence. But it is clear that people are becoming radicalized as the result of repression, torture and deaths in prisons. We warned that this would happen and bring evil to Egypt.


The international community should be aware that these young people are a perfect breeding ground for the Islamic State. They are young people who went to the polls and have seen that the [democratic] system has been dismantled and replaced with repression and arrests, without the West even blinking.

We believe that this regime will fall in the short term but before that it is going to generate more instability, not just in Egypt but throughout the region. If Europe continues to support this tyrannical regime and allows what is happening in Egypt now to keep happening, then it will pay the price in the form of death boats that will carry thousands of migrants each month fleeing from their lack of future. I think what is happening between Libya and Italy is a good example of what will occur.

Could what is happening in Iraq, where the Islamic State has taken advantage of the chaos created by the central government's repression of peaceful protesters, happen in Egypt?
From day one Sisi's regime has pursued a strategy of trying to portray that it is fighting terrorism, but in reality it is creating more terrorism. Just in the Sinai the Egyptian government has killed more than 1,200 Egyptian citizens, including women, children and elderly people, and demolished 1,600 houses. This is the message that the Sisi government and Europeans are launching at the people of Sinai. The only thing that this policy is generating is the ideal ingredients to create radicals.


If Europe and the US continue to support Sisi, all that will generate is further instability in the area. The Egyptian people want real democracy, but if we continue like this Egypt will become a failed state. There is no economic or political project for the country, nor is there even any internal security.

Related: Egypt Under Sisi

'The Egyptian people want real democracy, but if we continue like this Egypt will become a failed state'

If Egypt becomes a failed state could the Syrian situation repeat itself there?
It is a possibility that is on the table. The Muslim Brotherhood are against this development but there are radical voices which are beginning to raise their voices. Of course there are people who are leaving our organization because they believe that our moderate politics are a failure after so much repression. We are convinced that the coup will fall, but the coup has driven many people to act beyond all logic. We keep trying to convince our supporters and all those who want to listen to stay on the peaceful road. But how much longer will we be able to retain those people?

We are moving towards a scenario of chaos in which neither the state nor the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to control the situation. Egypt may end up in a situation — I will not say like Iraq or Syria because each country has its particularities — but to put it mildly I would say [a situation] of instability that the whole region could be dragged into.

What is your alternative for getting out of the current situation? Is it true that you have contacts within the government?
No, it's not true. We do not concern ourselves with the coup supporters but with all the free men of Egypt. To start with, the coup supporters should leave immediately and then we must have a real political opening, real freedoms and a true democracy like we achieved after the 2011 revolution. We must implement the real demands of the revolution, starting with giving people back their freedom.

Related: Egypt Jails Tahrir Activists as Sisi Visits Woman Sexually Assaulted on Inauguration Night