Russian Muslim Brotherhood figure wants Egyptian troops returned to Sinai

Text of report by the website of pro-government Russian newspaper Izvestiya on 23 November

[Interview with Mohammad Sudan, informal leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, by Yuriy Matsarskiy; place and date not given: "’The Bloodshed Was Caused by Provocateurs Who Supported the Mubarak Regime. They Want To Thwart the Elections""]

Thousands-strong demonstrations are once again being staged in Egypt’s major cities, and people are being killed. The government has tendered its resignation, the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movement has condemned the new outbreak of unrest. The Arab press calls Mohammad Sudan the informal leader of the movement.

[Matsarskiy] Mr Sudan, who, in your opinion, is behind the new unrest in Cairo and Alexandria, which has already taken dozens of lives?

[Sudan] I believe it is those that supported the regime of former President Mubarak. They dream of thwarting the elections, this is why they are staging provocations (Sudan is a leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, for which victory at the elections is predicted – Izvestiya). At first everything in Cairo was peaceful on Friday, many people demanding an answer from the Supreme Military Council as to whether they would be handing over power peacefully or not had gathered in Tahrir Square. By evening a large part of the demonstrators had gone their ways. There remained those whose fathers, husbands, and brothers had been killed at the time of the revolution or those who had themselves been harmed in the course of these clashes. They need help, many of them are attempting to get hospital treatment. And it was these poor people that were without warning on Saturday morning rushed by the police. They employed tear gas and torched the tents, blankets, and bicycles. Several persons were killed.

[Matsarskiy] What happened in Alexandria? Why were people killed there also?

[Sudan] In Alexandria also there was a peaceful demonstration on Friday. In the evening the demonstrators went their ways home. But on Saturday, after it was learned what had happened in Cairo, people once again took to the streets, and clashes with the police began.

[Matsarskiy] Were there Islamists among the protesters?

[Sudan] There were, naturally, but it was not they that unleashed the bloodshed. I am certain that these were provocateurs supporting the Mubarak regime, it was they that began to insult the soldiers and police officers and throw rocks at them, after which the officers gave the order to open fire with rubber bullets and to throw tear-gas grenades into the crowd. When this was of no avail, they began to shoot lead. They killed one of the demonstrators, after which a large-scale war in Alexandria began – the protesters began to call up their friends and to call on them for help. A huge crowd gathered, many people brought their children. Even very young ones.

[Matsarskiy] The military is within several days’ time to give power to an elected parliament. Will it do so?

[Sudan] I now understand that the Supreme Military Council most likely does not intend to give up power peacefully, although I was recently certain that the officers were growing weary of this burden. But no, the command of the armed forces is unwilling to give up power, possibly because they are part of the Mubarak regime and are afraid that, following the establishment of civilian rule, some of them could find themselves under investigation.

[Matsarskiy] The elections are in danger of being aborted, that is?

[Sudan] We are very much afraid that the Supreme Military Council will try to postpone them or cancel them altogether, this is why the leaders of the parties intending to take part in the elections have already announced that no claims will be lodged against any military leader, none will be asked questions about cooperation with the regime. I hope that the elections will be held at the appointed time. But we expect provocations at the time of the vote – Mubarak’s supporters could go in for assassination, abductions.

[Matsarskiy] If the elections are held at the appointed time, for what sort of percentage of the vote is your party hoping? Its spokesmen have said repeatedly that they will get no less than 50 per cent of the seats in the new Egyptian parliament.

[Sudan] Indeed, it sounds optimistic, but I, incidentally, have never voiced such figu res. My calculations are somewhat more modest – 35-40 per cent of the vote. But considering the votes of the deputies that will get elected to parliament on the slates of parties that are ideologically close to us, we will obtain the vast majority of seats, all the same. Go onto the street, ask people for whom they will vote. I assure you that approximately one-half will be for us.

[Matsarskiy] Who is your main voter?

[Sudan] I know that this will sound pompous, but we are prepared to defend the interests of each and everyone. This is why we called our party the Freedom and Justice Party.

[Matsarskiy] But many people in the West are convinced that the party’s name is merely a disguise for the Muslim Brotherhood movement backing it.

[Sudan] Yes, indeed, the party was founded by our organization. But the choice of name is not a trick. Going into the elections under the name "Brotherhood," we could have caused confusion, after all, our organization operates not only in Egypt but in a number of other countries as well. Employing a common name for victory in Egypt alone is wrong.

[Matsarskiy] How will the Muslim Brotherhood, albeit under the name of Freedom and Justice Party, champion Islamic values in a country in which the activity of political associations built on a religious basis is prohibited?

[Sudan] Our country has no constitution as yet. There is a provisional constitution, which does not, indeed, permit the creation of a party on the basis of religious views. But nor are we intending to champion some exclusively Islamist principles, we are defending common human values: respect for the individual, his labour. Coptic Christians constitute 17 per cent of our members.

[Matsarskiy] But at the same time the party’s programme rejects the assumption of the presidency by a Copt or a woman.

[Sudan] We have extreme respect for women, they are our mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters. But they are periodically irritable, they have problems. You know what I mean? Ultimately women become pregnant and no longer have time for other concerns. And a Christian leading a predominantly Muslim country is wrong. But all of us here in Egypt understand full well that we are not each other’s enemies. We have one enemy, that is Israel. The Supreme Military Council cannot handle the Israeli threat, it lacks the political will. But we know what needs to be done: once again commit troops to Sinai. And we will do so as soon as power passes from the military to civilians.

[Matsarskiy] But parliament will be elected, strictly speaking, for the sole purpose of adopting a new constitution, on whose basis a president will be elected.

[Sudan] Not only for this, of course, but you are right, preparation of elections is one of the main tasks. It has historically been the case in Egypt that the president is a strong figure. Parliament and other bodies, secondary.

[Matsarskiy] What are the chances of the presidency being occupied by a candidate whom your party supports?

[Sudan] Time will tell. I hope there’s now not long to wait.

Source: Izvestiya website, Moscow, in Russian 23 Nov 11

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