August 18, 2013
By Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO (Reuters) – Mahmoud Badr, whose petition campaign helped to bring down Egypt’s Islamist president, insists the bloodshed that has followed is a necessary price for saving the nation from the Muslim Brotherhood.
And he has a message for U.S. President Barack Obama, who has expressed alarm at the violent crackdown on the Brotherhood that has led to more than 700 deaths: “Don’t lecture us on how to deal with the Brotherhood’s terrorism.”
As for aid money, he says, Obama can keep it – and “go to hell”.
Badr, like many Egyptians who consider themselves liberals, has little patience with the human rights groups who call the repression a setback for democracy.
“What Egypt is passing through now is the price, a high price, of getting rid of the Brotherhood’s fascist group before it takes over everything and ousts us all,” Badr, 28, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Badr and his two 20-something co-founders of the “Tamarud-Rebel” movement encouraged millions of Egyptians to take to the streets on June 30 in protests demanding the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi.
Tamarud’s protests led the army to remove Mursi on July 3 and nationwide violence erupted this week after security forces cracked down on sit-ins by his supporters demanding his reinstatement.
Government buildings and churches have been torched and attacked in the last couple of days, actions Badr – like the army and its installed interim government – blame on the Brotherhood and their supporters.
Badr, a journalist, believes the pivotal Arab nation could be descending into civil war. But he still thinks ousting Egypt’s first freely-elected president was the right decision and defended the military’s conduct in the violent aftermath.
“I did not see anything bad from the army. They did not interfere in politics and I am a witness to that,” said Badr. “I back its decisions on my own and without any instructions as I think they are right and getting us where we want.”
Like army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Badr sees the Brotherhood as a terrorist group that is a threat to Egypt, which straddles the Suez Canal and whose 1979 peace treaty with Israel makes it vital to Middle East stability.
“The Brotherhood protesters are armed and attack people and places and that is why there were victims from the police in the clashes,” he said.
The interior ministry said on Saturday 57 policemen had been killed since Wednesday and 563 others wounded. “No policeman was killed or wounded during our protests,” Badr said, referring to the anti-Brotherhood unrest he helped foment earlier this year.
Brotherhood leaders have alleged that former cronies of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, himself ousted in a popular uprising in 2011, funded and encouraged Tamarud along with secret policemen.
Security officials have advised Badr to stay out of sight at a secret location for his safety. He spends most of his time watching Egypt’s political upheaval on television.
He appeared on state TV in his trademark polo shirt and blue jeans this week, urging Egyptians to take to the streets and form “popular committees” to protect citizens from the Brotherhood.
At night, soldiers beside armored vehicles man checkpoints with barbed wire barricades. Groups of vigilantes block off roads and direct traffic.
Badr said he was upset by U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks condemning the military attack on the Brotherhood’s protests, and his cancellation of a joint military exercise and of the delivery of four U.S.-made F-16 fighters to Egypt.
Washington provides $1.3 billion in military aid and about $250 million in economic aid to Egypt every year.
“I tell you President Obama, why don’t you and your small, meaningless aid go to hell?” said Badr, accusing Washington of “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.”
The activist said his movement had agreed to back a call for a petition demanding the ending of American aid to Egypt.
Earlier this year Tamarud activists scoured towns and villages collecting signatures demanding Mursi’s departure. The group said it got 22 million, nine million more than the number of votes Mursi won when elected on June of last year.
“We only respect those who respect us and our will and reject those who don’t and that is the motto of the new Egyptian foreign policy,” Badr said. “I hope President Obama reads that and knows it.”
VICTIMS OF REVOLUTION
Human rights activists fear Egypt’s generals will return Egypt to the oppression of the Mubarak era.
Interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace prizewinner, resigned in protest at the violent crackdown but other liberals in government have not followed suit.
Badr, who advocated democratic civilian rule when founding his movement in May, accused ElBaradei of undermining the uprising that toppled Mubarak. “His decision made the revolution look shaky and weak,” he said. “What happened in Egypt was a revolution and any revolution has to have victims.”
Badr says he has had no contact with the military since meeting Sisi on July 3 to discuss plans for a return to democracy – in a room with generals, a senior Muslim cleric, the Coptic Christian pope, a top judge and opposition leaders.
“My role now is to act as a pressure group by observing the political transition and be ready to interfere if things go in the wrong direction,” said Badr, who cut his political teeth in the 2011 uprising.
The Brotherhood, which won every election after Mubarak’s fall, has called for more protests across the country, raising the possibility of further bloodshed.
For the next few weeks, Badr predicted “more violence and possible political assassinations” but added: “We will win over terrorism and civil war eventually.”
(Editing by Michael Georgy and Andrew Roche)