Rock Center   |  November 28, 2011

2nd Revolution: Amid elections, Egyptians fight military

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel reports from Egypt as the country's first free elections take place after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Engel talks to Amal Sharaf, a former school teacher, who helped galvanize protesters and organized an internet-linked network of young professionals that helped topple Mubarak. Sharaf, like a growing number of protesters, is calling for an end to the military rule of the country.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: As you know the situation in Egypt has been off the hook. A lot of violence for mostly the past 10 days. And today was Election Day there. Egyptians voted in record numbers. The problem is, a lot of veterans of the revolution that ousted Mubarak are deeply disillusioned now and fearful of the election results. Richard Engel is back in Egypt where he once lived, where we all covered the uprising this past winter. He's been talking to the protesters who say what they are fighting now is indeed Egypt 's second revolution.

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Egypt 's hopes for a smooth transfer to democracy are now often hidden somewhere behind the clouds of tear gas in Tahrir Square . And caught in the middle of all this, the 37-year-old woman who is perhaps the mother of Egypt 's revolution, Amal Shareef .

Ms. AMAL SHAREEF: If the military stays in control, Egypt will collapse. All this chaos is because of the military . Nothing else.

ENGEL: The single mother and former Cairo high school teacher decided she'd had enough of corruption and police brutality. Amal .


ENGEL: How are you? We first met her last February after she organized an Internet linked network of young professionals that ended up helping topple President Mubarak . Now, 10 months later, Amal brings her 10-year-old daughter to the square for a second revolution. But all the tear gas is taking a toll. Amal was hospitalized last week and now uses an inhaler. What do you want now? What is the point of this second revolution?

Ms. SHAREEF: We want them to pass over the power to civilians. We want them to be just doing their job as the army. Not to rule the country.

ENGEL: But the timing of Amal 's new protest is somewhat peculiar because today the transition to democracy did finally begin. Egyptians went out to vote, but Amal isn't taking part. You fought so hard to bring democracy to this country. Now Egypt is having its first free elections in 30 years, yet you don't want to participate. Why?

Ms. SHAREEF: No, no. Because I don't believe that this is free elections under the military rule . No.

ENGEL: Aren't you just going to be watching other people win and other people benefit from your work?

Ms. SHAREEF: We have no other options.

ENGEL: The primary beneficiaries of Amal 's boycott could be her opponents, Egypt 's Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood . The Brotherhood was banned under Mubarak . It's often anti-American and definitely anti- Israel . But it has deep pockets. It just built a palatial new headquarters, and its power is undeniable. Just listen to people we spoke to at a polling station today. Do you mind if I ask who you're voting for?

Unidentified Man #1: Brotherhood .

Unidentified Woman #1:

ENGEL: You're going to vote for the Brotherhood ? And that benefits Brotherhood candidates like Mohammed Sayid . Look what happened in Tunisia , the Islamic party came. In Morocco , an Islamic party came. Do you think the same is going to happen here?


ENGEL: You think it will?

Mr. SAYID: Why? Because this is the choice of the people. They like the Islamic parties . If the people want the Islamic parties , why not?

ENGEL: The 36-year-old MBA wants Egyptians and Americans to know they have nothing to fear from the Brotherhood , not even Israel 's peace treaty is at risk, he says.

Mr. SAYID: I know that in the West , in US, that the image, the positioning of the Muslim Brotherhood , the Islamic parties , that maybe it's not like myself. Some people who are -- who are -- would be considered as terrorists, no. We are really respect democracy, freedom. Our party name is Freedom and Justice . And we are really want to implement that in our country.

ENGEL: Aren't you worried that you and other student activists have set the table and now the Muslim Brotherhood is going to come in and take the prize?

Ms. SHAREEF: I'm sure that in the long run that it will take some time, we will win.

ENGEL: Even if you lose this first election ?

Ms. SHAREEF: Yes, even if we lose these elections . These are not our elections .

ENGEL: But Amal 's young activists may be marginalized in Egypt 's future, a future the Muslim Brotherhood appears set to dominate.

WILLIAMS: Richard Engel with us now live from Cairo tonight. So, Richard , I know that, as a young college graduate, when you moved to Cairo to learn the area, you were in a Muslim Brotherhood neighborhood. In this day and age , people in this country hear that, they don't know what to think, and they are worried about what comes out of this election . What should people know about the modern-day state of this group?

ENGEL: Well, I think people should be very worried. It is a group that, on the ground, does a lot of charitable activities. It helps people in Egypt , it helps the poor. If you have a problem in your community, you can go to the Muslim Brotherhood , they'll be honest. But they don't have the same worldview as most Americans. They don't share the same view, certainly, of foreign policy. And if the Muslim Brotherhood did take a more powerful position in this country, Egypt would no longer be a reliable partner. If there was a crisis that involved the United States and Israel , for example. Egypt would certainly be on the other side of that argument. So it would be a very significant break in Egyptian-American relations.

WILLIAMS: And when is the first we will know about the chief message, the thrust of these election results?

ENGEL: This process could -- is going to take months. We'll have some early indications on Wednesday. But this is going to take about a year before it plays out.

WILLIAMS: Richard Engel in Cairo for us tonight. Richard , thanks again, and as always, for your