Dr. Laila Soueif: Mother of a revolutionary household

One of Egypt’s courageous mothers is Dr. Laila Soueif, mother of activists Alaa Abdel Fatah and Mona and Sanaa Seif. She’s a teacher, an activist, and founding member of Kefaya and the Movement for the Independence of Universities. We met the wonderful Dr. Laila in her apartment 24 hours after her son’s release and due to the crowd caused by media channels all over her apartment; we sneaked into her kitchen where she offered us coffee and breakfast as if we were her own and told us why her children got into politics and why the revolution is still in Chapter Zero.


How do you feel now that Alaa has been released?


I woke up this morning to a florist bringing a basket of flowers from a neighbor who I don’t know. He just signed his name. Every time I walk down the streets I’ve had phone calls from all over the world like ex-students from 20 years ago. Some of them are working in the Gulf, so imagine the effort they must have gone through to get my phone number! I’m very grateful.


Large networks have been created to stand against military trials for civilians. How do you think these networks could be used now?


There are like 7 to 8,000 people who are already sentenced, very harsh sentences, most of whom were sentenced without a proper trial at all. These have to be reviewed. It cannot be done in case-by-case fashion because they’re too many. The new parliament, though, has to pass a law that gives amnesty to them, even those who were convicted with violent crimes, because the trials were completely bogus. A civilian court should review them and this has to be tackled and it has to be tackled en masse. Otherwise, you’ll spend like 10 years getting people out!


The university has made some bold moves in regards to sit-ins, what is it that is going to move the university as an institution to take specific action like it did before?


The fact that we’re now electing our deans and our chairmen is very significant, even though a lot of those elected were the same faces but they are behaving as elected leaders. Harassments of activist students have gone down, to almost zero proportions. Students are now able to freely participate in several activities and you can see the improvement in the quality of university life.


To what extent are you satisfied with the outcome of the revolution so far?

I’m a mathematician. In mathematics books we always have a chapter called Chapter Zero, which gives you the background that you need to read the rest of the book. We’re still in Chapter Zero!


You’re known as a revolutionary family. How did you raise your children to be that way?


We didn’t raise our children to be anything! Each and everyone of my children was determined not to have anything to do with politics and each and every one of them became very active on their own by the events around them. For Alaa, it was the demonstration that was on the 25th of May 2005 where women were harassed and stripped. This is what brought Alaa into politics. Before that, he was interested in media and in popular journalism and things like that. I used to demonstrate and he would stand with the journalists. He didn’t demonstrate and he didn’t chant, until that day when we were beaten up and a lot of his friends were harassed. For Mona, it was the Khaled Said case that brought her into politics. Finally for Sanaa, it was the revolution. Every single one of my children used to claim they were sick of politics because their father and I were so active. It was their way of revolting against us!

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