I recently returned from London (more from there later), but unfortunately missed an event at SOAS last night at which Naguib Sawiris, the founder of the Free Egyptians party, spoke. Arabist reader Dalia Malek was there, though. For background, Sawiris is the wealthiest man in Egypt, with his family playing major roles in the telecom, construction, cement and tourism industries. He also owns OnTV, which is post-revolution Egypt has become a must-watch channel for its political talk shows and interviews of political and military figures. Sawiris has moved fast, using his wealth and influence to make the Free Egyptians the first new liberal, secular party to get going.
Naguib Sawiris and the Free Egyptians Party in London
by Dalia Malek
Last night, Naguib Sawiris gave a talk on the aims of the Free Egyptians Party at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Sharing the panel with Essam Samad from the Egyptian Association in Europe, they discussed the party’s strategies before a large and animated audience.
Sawiris engaged the audience with friendly, casual banter, making a joke about female drivers while driving a more serious point about upholding the rights of women. He spoke about education and poverty, suggesting that Egypt look toward European countries like Germany as a model.
He also derided attempts at isolating Egyptians with dual citizenship or non-Egyptian spouses from political participation.
Sawiris stated that the Free Egyptians Party does not intend to counterbalance the Muslim Brotherhood, and that his disagreement with them is strictly within the context of democratic debate. He indicated that the parties only disagree on two fundamental points: the rights of women and the rights of Copts.