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Egypt activists launch bid to reconcile Sisi and Brotherhood

Human rights activists push for the release of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members in reconciliation initiative
A sticker, on the shirt of a supporter of Mohamed Morsi (AFP)

A group of Egyptian human rights activists and lawyers have launched a reconciliation initiative between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Arabic media reported on Thursday.

Deputy chairman for the Egyptian human rights organisation, al-Haq, Amr Abdel Salam, who leads a committe on the initiative, said the group includes Egyptians concerned about their country’s welfare and development, reported Arabi21.

The initiative to reconcile between Sisi and the Brotherhood also aims to push for the release of thousands of detained group members.

“Organisations from across the political and civic spectrum will participate in this initiative in order to ensure the release of detainees and put an end to the bloodshed,” Abdel Salam told al-Misryoon, an Egyptian newspaper.

According to the paper, the initiative will have the backing of lawyer Montasser al-Zayyat, who lead a campaign in 2015 for the release of jailed lawyers.

Zayyat, a former member of the Gamaa Islamiyya group, has been defending Islamists for decades - including those put on military show trials during an insurgency in the 1990s. He also helped mediate a truce in 1997 that ended years of militant violence against the state.

In addition to activists and lawyers, 26 scholars from al-Azhar have shown their support the initiative, Abdel Salam told Egyptian media on Thursday. He also said that a number of public figures have shown interest in taking part in the initiative. 

Support from scholars at al-Azhar, Egypt’s world-renowned center of Islamic scholarship - likened by some in significance to the Vatican - adds significant weight to the campaign.

Although al-Azhar has long been looked to by Sunni Muslims worldwide for religious guidance, it has grown increasingly politicized in recent years. Leading Azhar scholars, most notably Egypt's former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, showed staunch support for Sisi's crackdown on political opponents.

At the same time, Abdel Salam hopes that the Brotherhood, whose leaders have refused invitations over the years to reconcile with Sisi, agrees to come on board.

London-based deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Munir, told Arabi21, that the group would be supportive of the initiative as long as those invovled are respectful individuals and sincere in their efforts, reported Arabi21 on Thursday.

But group leaders in Egypt have so far refused to take part in the initiative. 

“We have declared time and again and we repeat it now - we will not concede legitimacy. We will not abandon the rights of the martyrs. We will not concede the rights of detainees. No to reconciliation with a traitor and murderer,” a statement published by the group earlier this week declared.

Leaders of the Brotherhood in Egypt believe that the military-led coup which ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and the subsequent crackdown on the group's supporters in Rabaa Square, where nearly 1000 people were killed in August 2013, are enough reason to refuse any negotiations with Sisi.

After his election in 2014, Sisi promised to develop a new road map for the country that included reconciliation with “all personalities who enjoy credibility and acceptance by all national elites and represent different movements.”

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