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Burmese Activist Claims Nobel Prize; Future of Egypt Still Unclear

Aired June 22, 2012 - 00:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, coming to you from Cairo, and welcome to our special weekend edition of the program, where we bring you two of the big stories that we covered this week.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the heroic Burmese democracy activist claims her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, 21 years after it was awarded. I talked to her about what it was like to finally be free from house arrest.

But first, a presidential election here in Egypt. As the week comes to a close, the question remains, who's in charge? Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Morsi both claim victory. But the military still seems firmly in control of this country. I spoke with two key analysts about the future of Egypt, and I heard some fascinating insights. Take a listen.


AMANPOUR: So joining me tonight, Jihad Haddad, spokesman for Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and Saad Ibrahim, a long-time Egyptian democracy activist, who was imprisoned during the Mubarak regime along with none other than Mohammed Morsi himself.

Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for joining me. Let me get to you straightaway, Jihad. So there's a victory claim by your candidate, even if he does win the vote, apparently he's got no meaningful power if the military has stripped all the meat from the bone.

JIHAD HADDAD, SPOKESMAN, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Well, I think the people of Egypt have already said their final say in the ballot box. Gone are the days that the military has a say in the will of the people.

AMANPOUR: But what's going to really happen? Yes, people have cast their vote. But what will really happen now? I know you're bringing people and people are gathering in Tahrir Square. You're talking about challenge these SCAF rules that have just come down.

HADDAD: I don't think we need to challenge them. They are fragile as it is. They do not have the authority to dissolve parliament, neither do they have the right to issue any constitutional amendments or declarations, both of which have been refused by the majority of political powers in Egypt.

Parliament is still, according to our referendum and according to the rest of the political powers in Egypt and the people of Egypt are still running, they have a next session next Tuesday. The constitutional assembly elected by the elected parliament is in session right now. So from our point of view, everything is running smoothly.

AMANPOUR: Well, that might be a little like looking through the looking glass, frankly, because you're talking about all these institutions which the military has disbanded.

Let me turn to you, Saad Ibrahim. Obviously, Jihad Haddad is talking a good game. They don't want what's been arranged already to be nullified by the military. Can a president, whoever's elected, Mohammed Morsi, Ahmed Shafiq, actually have any power?

SAAD IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY ADVOCATE: What you have now is contestation between three centers of power. One of them is the military, SCAF, and the other one is an elected parliament. And the third one is an elected president. And the three, two of them are on one side; there's a parliament and the elected president, Mr. Morsi --

AMANPOUR: But what happens, though?

IBRAHIM: But the real hold of power is still SCAF and therefore whatever the elected president, the elected parliament may say they still have only moral authority.

AMANPOUR: So what, in your mind -- you just heard what Jihad said, they're going to go to parliament; they're going to seat and meet with the constitutional assembly, even though SCAF has basically disbanded them. What is your road map for the future, at least over the next few days and weeks?

IBRAHIM: Well, I think, given the record of the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to compromise and to be pragmatic, they will broadly -- behind closed doors are seeking a compromise with SCAF.

They have had this kind of moments of victory at least three times in their history. And they lost quite a few, because of their tendency to prematurely claim victory or to prematurely challenge those who have part. I think this time they don't want that moment to slip out of their hands.

AMANPOUR: OK. A lot of --


AMANPOUR: -- a lot of allegations being leveled there. Are you in some kind of compromise, are your candidates, are your people meeting with SCAF, with the military? Is there something going on behind the scenes? Or some kind of coexistence?

HADDAD: I would agree with Dr. Saad, these are the three powers that appear to be on the scene. But the reality is that the giant has not been mentioned, which is the Egyptian people themselves.

Now this is a very different shaping factor, because the revolution of the 25th of January has changed the psychology of the Egyptian people and their will and intent to make sure that their vote is effective. And we believe that this is a game-changer, both from our side and from the SCAF side.

From our point of view, we believe that SCAF will uphold their promise to deliver power, full executive power at the end of this month. They have already delivered legislative power to parliament. Parliament still holds it up till this moment.

The verdict that has been announced by the constitutional court as well as the issue of a decree by SCAF have so many loopholes that the majority of the judges in Egypt have even refused them.

AMANPOUR: Doesn't it all boil down, though, gentlemen, to one big thing? You talk about the will of the people. The people have clearly been pretty unhappy, I would say, with both choices. Ahmed Shafiq, who I know you supported, Saad Ibrahim, was the last prime minister of President Mubarak, representing the old regime.

Mohammed Morsi represents a growing Islamism in politics, and many people, not least the women and Christians, were very, very concerned. Isn't that really what happened? Do you think that SCAF simply saw Muslim Brotherhood in control of parliament, Muslim Brotherhood on the verge of winning the presidency and said no, this can't happen?

IBRAHIM: Well, to some extent, that is the case, is that there is apprehension about the grabbing of power that Muslim Brotherhood look to the average Egyptian now, the non-committed, the non-card carrier Muslim Brother, like my brother, Jihad.

The rest are apprehensive. They wanted to give the Muslim Brother a chance, but they saw, over the last year or so, this tendency to grab everything. And therefore many were the people who gave them their vote and are now having second thoughts.

AMANPOUR: People did say they were disappointed after the parliamentary elections that gave the parliament almost overwhelmingly to the Muslim Brotherhood. They were disappointed. They saw you got power, but it wasn't being exercised in a way that they were satisfied by.

Have you failed already? Have you failed the test of democracy already?

HADDAD: Well, let me first correct the information. The Muslim Brotherhood does not control parliament. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood --


AMANPOUR: Freedom and Justice Party --

HADDAD: -- has 41 percent, even with its --

AMANPOUR: But along with the coalition --

HADDAD: -- the coalition, 47 percent. So it doesn't --

AMANPOUR: You're the biggest -- you're the biggest power --

HADDAD: (Inaudible). So we had a good say in it. But picking up from that, this is parliament. This is the legislative power. It has been doing its job perfectly in the past couple of weeks and couple of months in legislating new laws that would make sure that the results of the revolution are safeguarded and the life salvation (ph) people can have positive realities and meanings to them.

But the problem happened when SCAF refused to hand over executive power in the form of governments. And thus those are being created but not implemented. And the Egyptian citizen that casts their vote in parliamentary election were asking for accountability.

AMANPOUR: But, again, do you think you overplayed your hand? I was in Tahrir Square during the revolution, and I saw very clearly what the Muslim Brotherhood was doing. It wasn't pushing itself to the forefront.

It didn't want to say that we are going to take charge and take power. In fact, didn't even want to contest the presidential elections. Suddenly, you're everywhere. And people seem to be a little concerned.

HADDAD: That's correct.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you've overplayed your hand?

HADDAD: I think we have gave much more confidence to the will of intent of the SCAF on delivering genuine democratic power to the Egyptian people. And when we realized that, we may have over given them confidence. We realize that this jeopardizes the genuine nature of the democracy of Egypt and we are not intent on putting this in jeopardy any more.

AMANPOUR: What can you say if, indeed, Mr. Morsi is the winner? What can you say to women, to Christians, who are genuinely worried?

HADDAD: Their rights will be safeguarded much more than it was during Mubarak's time. All personal freedoms will be safeguarded. They will have complete freedom in every one of their choices, even religion, everything that has been echoed about the Muslim Brotherhood is probably much more lie than truth. In reality, we are much more liberal than everyone else thinks we are.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think is -- is this a transitional moment? I mean, for instance, I just quoted a member of SCAF, who said that whoever is president, whether it's Mr. Shafiq or Mr. Morsi, it's only a transitional moment.

IBRAHIM: Yes, it is a transitional moment. And it should be observed. And I think the -- this gives the Egyptians a second chance to assess what's going on. There has been too much happening too quickly that, for the average Egyptian, they are feeling a sudden alienation, that they don't know their country any more.

So the people who fought, who stood their ground in Tahrir in January of 2011, now feel as if the revolution has been hijacked partly by the military, by SCAF, and finally by the Muslim Brotherhood. These two hijackers are not the ones who made the revolution. The revolution was created by the youth of the middle class.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Saad, you were, as we announced, imprisoned under the Mubarak regime, alongside Mohammed Morsi. We know the history of the brotherhood, have been hunted down and imprisoned for decades. What kind of a leader did you see him as in prison?

IBRAHIM: I did not, frankly, see him as a leader. He was a very decent, respected man in prison. But there was at least two other -- the Muslim Brotherhood are very high radical, very disciplined. I saw at least two others who were a little bit above him, and they are the ones who appeared to be the leaders of the fellow Muslim Brothers in prison.

AMANPOUR: Well, now there's -- now that we have that description from a fellow cellmate, shall we say, and we know that Mr. Morsi was the second choice, because the first choice of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, was disqualified.

Is he the man to lead the party, not just to the presidency, if he does win, but into this very strange, dark alley of not really knowing whether there's going to be a president who has actually power, and certainly one who's going to have to figure out how to live with the military as it's currently running this country?

HADDAD: He has already done so. He has been the chief of the party and its president since its inception. And he has led us to the presidency. He was the second choice of the Muslim Brotherhood because of the vote count. Not any more. And in reality, I think that he has been the choice of 52 percent of the Egyptian people.

We know that 48 percent of the Egyptian people did not choose him, and they have their complete respect and regard of the president and of his kings and his party, and we will make sure that the entire aspirations of both the revolution and Egyptians for the past 60 years will start to come into effect in this presidency.

I do concur with Dr. Saad that it is transitional in nature, because we hope that the SCAF two-year would have been transitional, but they have not been. We have not yet put our affairs in order in Egypt, and we hope that we can do so within this next presidential period.

AMANPOUR: You all, and so does this country, have your work cut out for you.

HADDAD: Indeed.

AMANPOUR: Jihad Haddad, Saad Ibrahim, thank you so much for joining me.

HADDAD: Thank you.

IBRAHIM: Our pleasure. Thank you for coming.


AMANPOUR: And beyond Egypt, the struggle for democratic freedom is not unique to the Middle East. In Myanmar, one woman who's been fighting for reform for more than 20 years, I speak with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi when we return.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Aung San Suu Kyi has been fighting for democracy, reform and freedom in Myanmar, or Burma, for more than 20 years, most of that time spent under house arrest. Now she's free. She's a member of Myanmar's parliament and on Saturday, she claimed her Nobel Peace Prize, an award granted 21 years ago.

I spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi from Oslo.


AMANPOUR: I just want to start by asking you, firstly, congratulating you on your Nobel Peace Prize, of course, asking you how you feel about being in Europe? Everything has changed since the last time you were out of your country. The Berlin Wall was up back then, and now everything's changed.

How does it seem to you?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, NOBEL PRIZE WINNER: I've been trying to find out whether it's a place that has changed or whether it's me that has changed. And I think there have been changes in both directions.

AMANPOUR: What does it feel like to be out of your country, to be able to leave and travel freely in quarter of a century?

SUU KYI: Well, to begin with, very tiring, but also very, very interesting. And I think it's beginning to become exciting as well.

AMANPOUR: What is your feeling of peace in the world? What is the theme and the message you have for the world at this time, because, really, the eyes of the world are on you as an icon of democracy.

SUU KYI: My attitude towards peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace. It really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that could threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty and other negative factors.

AMANPOUR: I'm in Cairo, as you know, and it's right in the middle of the presidential elections. I wonder how it strikes you that not only has Europe changed since you were last there, but the whole of the Arab world as well, and is longing for democracy.

Do you -- are you able to sort of take that in, and do you have any thoughts about that?

SUU KYI: Yes, of course, we've been keeping track of the Arab Spring. And it really proves that we're all the same, that we're all human beings who want peace, who want freedom, who want security, who want to be free from want and free -- and fear. So it makes me feel closer to the rest of the world.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that a spring came to Burma? Is that what happened in your country or was the opening up to democracy a different way?

SUU KYI: The opening is there, but we've got to make sure that we are -- we are able to make the best use of this opening. This is just the beginning. There is still a very long way to go and I want to -- everybody to know that there is this long way ahead, and we shouldn't take everything for granted.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, in your most recent comments -- you have been in Thailand --and I think you said -- you said to your audience that there shouldn't be a sort of a state of reckless optimism about what's happening in your country. What did you mean by that?

SUU KYI: Well, I think if we think of the word "reckless," the meaning will become clear. Recklessness means that you don't consider all the factors that need to be considered, that you're not cautious enough.

Optimism -- which does not take into consideration the possible challenges that will have to be met -- can be dangerous, because you will not be prepared to deal with the obstacles that are going to spring up in all directions as you go down a new road.

AMANPOUR: So what are you actually worried about? Because you also did say that investors should have sort of a healthy skepticism about investing immediately or grandly in Burma. What is the most concerning to you at the moment about that?

SUU KYI: I worry about the wrong sort of investments, the kind of investments that will empower the wrong sort of circles. I've always said that investments should empower the people.

And I've been talking about democracy-friendly investment, democracy- friendly development growth, which is to say the kind of investments that will empower the people, that will promote transparency and accountability, all the elements that are necessary for good governance.

I would be very unhappy about the kind of investments that will -- which will make a few privileged people more and more privileged.

AMANPOUR: You did go to the elections. You won a seat in parliament and obviously many want to know whether you want to run for national leadership. Do you see yourself as a future national leader of Burma?

SUU KYI: I think this is a question that the people of Burma must answer. First of all, of course, as things are, I cannot become the leader of the country because the constitution has sections which will make it impossible for me to become the leader of the country. So we cannot, at this moment, speculate on whether or not we -- I can become the national leader.

I think we have to speculate on whether or not we can -- or rather how quickly we can amend the constitution. This is one of the main planks of our party platform, that we have to make amendments to the constitution to make it genuinely democratic.

AMANPOUR: May I ask you a personal question, ma'am? You gave up so much. You sacrificed so much for your country and for your people. You were not able to visit your husband before he died. You also were separated for a long time from your children.

Can you tell me how that affected you and what you were thinking at those crucial times when you were under house arrest?

SUU KYI: I always considered the fact that I was actually more fortunate than many of my colleagues, who were not only in prison, where conditions were much harsher than conditions in my house, although I was under house arrest, and the fact that their families were always in danger themselves, whereas although my family were separated from me, they were living in a free, democratic country.

AMANPOUR: Well, I need to ask you just about the political situation there right now. What is your view on the clashes between the Muslims and the Buddhists there? And do you think the Muslim minority there needs to have citizenship?

SUU KYI: Well, I think that the clashes prove that there's a great need for rule of law in our country. There -- if there were rule of law, I mean, if there were clear indications as to how citizenship should be treated and should be approached and what the rights of citizens are and if there were protection for the rights of all citizens, then these problems would not have got out of hand.

AMANPOUR: All right. Thank you so much, Aung San Suu Kyi. I wish I could have met you in person. Thank you so much for being with me.

SUU KYI: Thank you. Perhaps we will meet some day.



AMANPOUR: And a final thought, imagine a man's world where a young woman is making a difference. As Egypt takes its historic steps towards democracy, a young activist and former parliamentary candidate is on the front line, making sure the country's first democratic presidential election is free and fair.

I spent the afternoon with Dalia Ziada here in Cairo, and I heard how really personal her struggle is.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's up to this woman, in her red hijab with her sparkly phone in hand to ensure that Egypt's first-ever democratic presidential election is free and fair.

Like many Egyptians, Dalia Ziada doesn't like her choices, but she knows that democracy can be a messy process.

AMANPOUR: So we're going to your center.


AMANPOUR: And it's very close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is, yes, and in the middle, in the center in the Muslim Brotherhood is a mental hospital.

AMANPOUR: A mental hospital?



AMANPOUR: Does that sum up the situation?

It's -- exactly.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Dalia is supervising 7,000 election monitors all across Egypt, all of whom will report any violations they see at the voting stations. Irregularities are carefully documented with witness accounts for every complaint.

Her own political career was born in Tahrir Square. She was there, day after day, alongside thousands of others, calling for a new day in Egypt. And when it finally came, Dalia seized the moment. She ran for a seat in parliament under the newly established Justice Party, formed by the youth who had stood together in Tahrir Square.

She lost the election. She was forced down the party ranks by fellow members who didn't believe that a woman should represent them.

For Dalia, activism has been a lifelong quest. It took root when she was just 8 years old. That's when she became an unknowing victim of female genital mutilation. Dalia decided that no other girl in her family would ever go through what she did. She managed to stop her uncle from mutilating his daughter.

And I told him, if you did this to your daughter, the next day I will come to your house and I cut a piece of her finger. He said, "No, you have no right to do this." I said, "Well, why, I have no right?" He said, "Because God created her that way." I told him, "Well, you answered yourself. God created her that way. You have no right to do this."

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So her understanding of fundamental freedom is personal. And it has fueled her political dreams.

AMANPOUR: And will you run for president, do you think?

I think in 10 years I will be doing this, not for the sake of, you know, winning the seat, but showing the world that a woman who came from the revolution 10 years ago can make it through the present.


AMANPOUR: Imagine that, a woman running for president of Egypt. That's it for tonight's program. But our inbox is always open, And we do read every single email. Thank you for watching and goodbye from Cairo.