The American University in Cairo’s Leadership for Education and Development students held their seventh annual conference under the title “Masr teliet omy” (Egypt is my mother) from Thursday, April 7 to Saturday, April 9. The conference’s theme was political awareness in a post Jan. 25 Egypt and featured guest speakers such as Egyptian presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei, Cairo University political science professor Amr Hamzawy, and Muslim Brotherhood guidance office member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Sohier Saad, the director of the LEAD program, introduced the conference while AUC President Lisa Anderson delivered an opening speech where she said it was the youth’s obligation to build a new Egypt after Jan. 25.
Margaret Scobey, the United States ambassador to Egypt, then took the floor, saying that the heroism of the Egyptian youth has impressed the world and praised the youth for their non-violent approach.
The scheduled main speaker for the conference’s first day was ElBaradei, who emphasized the importance of democracy and standing up to the “counter revolution.”
He asked the military to find what he said were “the leaders of the Mubarak stability.”
When asked about how best to approach the masses with regards to political awareness, ElBaradei said that it was mainly the job of the youth. “Politics is your life and future, it is a model way of life, in order to be in control of what kind of life you lead and to lead a good, stable life you must be aware of your country’s political situation,” he said.
The second day of the conference hosted Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood who expressed his admiration of the youth and condemned the split in the country following the referendum on constitutional amendments. Aboul Fotouh said he understood people’s fear of the Brotherhood taking power but that Egypt has always been a Muslim country and that Islam is a religion not a political ideology. He added that any system of governance where people elected their leaders and could hold them accountable was acceptable to the Brotherhood because that is the way of Islam.
Towards the end of the day, Amr Hamzawy, political science professor at Cairo University, lectured on the feeling of confusion Egyptians are facing as a result of corrupt officials not being tried fast enough, the struggle between secular and religious political forces, as well as the very busy electoral schedule.
Hamzawy said that this confusion is normal as people often feel that way in times of rapid changes in the political scene but that they must not let this feeling stop them from political participation and that the media has a large role to play in that regard. He also emphasized the importance of informing people that what is going on in Tahrir Square is a peaceful and legitimate activity. Hamzawy was asked if he was going to run for president by a member of the audience.
“I am one of those who have been denied this right due to my dual nationality, in addition, I have just returned to Egypt and I have lots to learn about Egyptian society,” he said.