Egypt’s Brotherhood seeking to regroup in exile: report

Egypt’s Brotherhood seeking to regroup in exile: report
Fri May 23, 2014 18:16:54

Exiled leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are struggling to regroup, targeted by hostile Arab powers and cut off from senior colleagues imprisoned back home.

Gathered over the past 10 months in Qatar, Turkey, Britain and elsewhere, hundreds of activists have set about trying to isolate Egypt's army-backed government diplomatically for last year's removal of an elected Brotherhood-backed administration.

The senior figures keep busy, shuttling between London, Doha and Istanbul to strategize in countries that still accept the movement, founded in Egypt in 1928.

But a political rebirth will be tough, even for a movement long adept at surviving repression and exile.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed the Brotherhood's elected President Mohamed Mursi last year and has since led a violent crackdown against its followers, is all but certain to win Egypt's presidency in an election next week. He says that when he takes charge, the Brotherhood will cease to exist.

Hundreds of Brotherhood followers were gunned down on Cairo streets when the army destroyed a protest camp after Mursi was toppled last year. Thousands more have been rounded up and jailed. The 70-year-old leader of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and 682 supporters were sentenced to death on April 28.

Nothing has come of tentative contacts via intermediaries to explore the idea of some kind of interim compromise with Cairo allowing Brotherhood activity, diplomats say.

Brotherhood figures in exile say they are trying to learn the lessons of their failure to hold power. "Within Ihwan (the Brotherhood) there is deep self-criticism and they have long meetings to discuss mistakes and what can be done in the future," Ahmed Yusuf, a prominent, Turkey-based member of the youth section of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

"The Ihwan will learn a lot of lessons from this coup and will come out stronger."Abdelrahman Ayyash, a former Egyptian Brotherhood member based in Turkey, said the movement should now seek allies and form coalitions with others harmed by the military takeover.

Others say the Brotherhood's error was taking power too soon, before its cadres learned how to keep allies and govern.

"It was a mistake for them to enter something they were not ready for at all, and we are seeing the results today," said Tarek al-Zumor of the Building and Development Party, the political arm of the Gamaa Islamiya, a former hardline militant group that supported Mursi during his year in power.

The Egyptian government blames the Brotherhood for Islamist unrest that killed hundreds of police and soldiers since Mursi's fall.

The Brotherhood insists it opposes violence but says it is hard to get that message across when followers face such harsh repression and their democratic victory ended in disaster.

Along with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, Riyadh sent billions of dollars in aid to Egypt after Sisi overthrew Mursi.In April, Britain announced it was conducting a "review" - led by its ambassador to Saudi Arabia - to determine whether the Brotherhood posed any domestic or foreign security threat.

The Brotherhood said it would cooperate, but UK-based Arab Islamists say the inquiry showed Britain had caved in to Saudi pressure, an assertion British officials deny.

"Everyone knows (Prime Minister David) Cameron is trying to please the Saudis and UAE government. It is a gesture, and there is no evidence" of a Brotherhood threat, said Fareed Sabri, a London-based member of Iraq's Brotherhood-allied Islamic Party.

Qatar's tolerance for the Brotherhood has created a deep fissure among Persian Gulf Arab states. Diplomats in the region say Riyadh bluntly told Doha to stay out of Egypt's election. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also complain over Qatar's granting of refuge to exiles after Mursi's fall, including Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein.


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