Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lecture by Amr Hamzawy: Egyptians Need Political Awareness

Dear readers

I attended a lecture at Bassily Auditorium at the AUC New Cairo on April 8, 2011. The speaker was Dr. Amr Hamzawy. Dr. Hamzawy, who irritatingly is the exact same age that I am, earned his doctorate at the Free University in Berlin. He has announced his intention to form a new political party , the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. He has worked at the Carnegie Endowment, and currently teaches at Cairo University. Learn more about him here and also here. Again, translation was provided by a student. He spoke incredibly fast, so I have done my best here.  I summarize in some places indicated by [...] I was unable to stay for the question and answer period, but this represents the entire formal lecture. WMB

"I worked at Carnegie in Beirut. I write a monthly report. I teach political science in Cairo University. I am so happy to be teaching at Cairo University where I graduated. This is a very important time in Egyptian History. All of you are living it and joining in it."

"I am happy with the new Prime Minister. I am working with the Ministry of Youth. I am 43 years old. I am engaging with the Youth Ministry in the upper governorates of Egypt, not just Cairo and Alexandria. I have closen this role, I have not been forced into it."

"We are in a transitional phase in Egypt. It is not the role of political analysts to take a political job. They should raise awareness instead. There are four main points I want to make. {He did not immediately say what those were. They came out later} We as Egyptian youth, we need awareness and engagement. I do not think we should have one organization for young people. Youth should participate in all parties, and in all organizations."

"What is happening now in Egypt? The worry of all Egyptians, the changes we have asked for, the demands we have made are not being implemented quickly enough. This is causing worry. There is fear. People are worried because elections are taking place very fast. It is normal that we have fear and concerns. We never thought about having a real competitive election. We do not know how to participate in elections."

"Yet, do not let this fear and worry [paralyze you]. Do not become victims of the fear. Now, because of this fear, people may not engage enough in political life. There is a fear that one party will take over {Probably referring to Muslim Brotherhood here}. This will lead to where we have been in the past where only 2 to 3 percent of people were engaging in civilian life."

"We might be afraid to make a decision. It is hard to make up your mind. Or, if you go and make up your mind to vote for someone, you do not know if he will win. We must control our fear so that we can make decisions and form political parties. How do we deal with this fear?"

"We must be organized as Egyptians. We need more knowledge about politics in Egypt. The youth should care about this. We need a lot of political awareness all over Egypt. Awareness, Awareness, Awareness. We have to create awareness to make people feel secure".

"1. Make Egyptians Feel that they have freedom of choice
2. Social Media. We can use nontraditional media in an organized way to handle our fear. Discuss our fears in a written format, verbally, online.
3. Organize events like the one we are sitting in now. Encourage people to have events in the villages. Go outside Cairo, go outside Alexandria. Have an organization to teach people about democracy all over Egypt.
4. Each person has his own society, his friends, his family, his mosque. Teach them. Some people are asking for things to calm down. [Tell them that we need to ask for our rights] Discuss with family, neighbors. People are asking for their rights."

"There are four main ways to deal with fear."

"People are afraid that the religious parties will take over. [It is important to understand] that democracy will not always lead to what you want. This does not change the normal life. There is the fear that the liberal people want to cancel the identity of Islam in Egypt. There is a contrast. On the one hand, people worry that there will be a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. On the other hand, people worry that Egypt will lose its identity as a Muslim nation. [These fears are exaggerated]"

"What are the challenges that we are facing here in Egypt?

1. We got rid of some of the people in the old regime, but the system is still in place. Aside from the removal of the President and the Parliament, the entire system is still in place. We should question and investigate everyone in every hierarcy in the country. We need an appraisal. We need to question everything going forward. Everyone should be held accountable for his actions. There should be freedom of ideas. Everyone should accept others' ideas. The people should be comfortable with accountability and questioning whether something is [being done correctly in government].

2. If you want to move to democracy, all our energy should not be exhausted on [removing] the old regime. Building democracy requires a longer time frame. The first step is the Constitution. The changes to the Constitution [should take place] in September, after the elections. The change of the Constitution should take place. All of us should engage in discussion. What do we want the new identity of Egypt to be? People from the military cannot just write the Constitution. People need to engage, and the [Constitution] has to represent us. We have to believe in it and [have ownership].

3. Parliamentary elections [something about fundraising, something about legal framework]. Get to know the people. Some want liberty, others want social equality. Everyone who comes up with a party program has to be responsible for it. Each Egyptian has three roles. (1) Go for the election (2) Monitor the election (3) Be a source of news for what you see. The coming elections will not be perfect. After parliamentary elections come the presidential election. We have to think about what we want. Do not think about [which candidate] you like, but about your demands.

4. Think about the hierarchy of responsibility in Egypt. We come from an autocratic system. Do you want the old way, where one person [Mubarak] is in changre of everything, or someone who gives responsibilities to others in the country. Or do you want a president who is judged and held accountable for everything? After the presidential election, there will be a calming down. Think about the hierarchy of responsibility. Think about the organization of Egypt. What about local governance? Egypt has been centralized. The budget has been centralized. Governorates need their own budgets and their own plan."

"You have to be passionate as Egyptians. Democracy needs patience. You have to have patience and accept the other side."


  1. this is a very hopeful speech,i really get interested and i learn Hierarchy of responsibilities(go to elections,monitor it and sweep political info among your people)

  2. Hi variable. Thanks for your kind post.

  3. Democracy requires increasing the level of the individual culture, especially after overthrow the former regime. After the revolution, the Egyptians suddenly face new challenges such as electing the new parliament or the new president; however, they lack of enough awareness to determine who can achieve their needs. Hence, Dr. Hamzawy said that we are in a new democratic age, and we have to know how to deal with democracy by increasing our awareness. I really think that most of the Egyptians have to be more politically cultured by reading more about the candidates or watching the talk shows to make sure that the elected president will use his power for good.