The controversial Egyptian contractor and artist Mohamed Ali revealed in an exclusive interview with the Middle East Eye website that he will not stop until his goal of ousting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is not stopped.
Ali insisted on continuing to defy the Sisi regime, saying he would not stop "until the dictator is removed. My goal is to overthrow him."
Ali sparked a wave of protests against Sisi accompanied by a crackdown in Egypt after he posted videos on social networking sites in which he talked about corruption in the army, and criticized Sisi calling for his overthrow.
In his first interview in a secret location in Spain, where he and his family fled, Ali said he did not belong to any opposition group or dissident faction within the Egyptian army, but noted that he had the support of junior officers.
He also asserted that he worked completely independently, without anyone or an organization behind him. “If there was a group behind me, it would have helped me, rather than sit in a humiliating place, on my own,” he said.
Leaks about the palaces that Sisi is building with people's money under Egypt's difficult economic conditions and government austerity measures have been met with widespread anger in the country, where Egyptians have cracked down on protests and put hundreds in prison.
Ali, who has become a leading critic of Sisi, said no group had emerged to lead the protests.He said this contrasted with the turbulent period between Egypt's 2011 uprising and the 2013 military coup that put Sisi in power when the military and the Brotherhood competed for power.
Let's talk at the embassy
From the moment Ali's first video appeared, the Egyptian government tried to lure him to its embassy in Madrid, he said.
"They told me that officials were outraged by what happened to me. They said you are a respectable man, you are our son and dear to us and all this, so come to the embassy and let us sit together." "I refused."
Asked whether he believed the fate of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated at his country's consulate in Istanbul last year, he had a reservation.
"I have received an incredible amount of threats. They tell me we know where you are. We will find you someday, ”he said,“ I don't think this was going to happen to me. God knows, of course, I just give analytics. ”
Ali said that he traveled from Egypt after the Egyptian government repeatedly failed to pay his company salaries for the work done, pointing out that the money, suddenly, was used as a temptation to return him to Egypt, "they said they will give me my money and more."
Ali said that his attempts to muzzle him were not limited to bribery, adding that he lived under constant threat of assassination.
“I'm not Spiderman. Anyone can hire a gang to kill me. I already knew I was putting my life at risk with the first video I posted. ”
Although Ali denies having much support in the Egyptian security services, he revealed the sympathy of junior officers in the army. "The junior officers who do not have the decision-making authority and who cannot resolve the situation are in solidarity with me," he said.
Faced with financial difficulties as the authorities withheld the funds owed to him, Ali discussed his cases with these officers, who, he said, expressed dissatisfaction with Sisi's administration.
“The officer cannot speak because he will be sent to a military court. But have important army generals talked to me? No, that didn't happen, of course. ”
“At first, when I was in Egypt, they used to tell me that we hope Sisi will disappear, but what can we do? When I came here, the (junior) officers used to complain and insult him. ”
Ali said his army sympathizers praised him after he published his first videos criticizing Sisi. “Then when people started to arrest, they all disappeared,” he said.
“One of the real estate projects he worked on was a multi-storey building used by Egyptian General Intelligence to house what the contractor called the Sisi Electronic Army,” Ali said.
He said that the task of this army is to monitor social media, pointing out that he believes that hundreds of employees working in the building, said "some officers, but most of them civilians."
But Ali refused to apologize for his involvement in the past, saying he was unaware that corruption was rampant in the army in his early years.
Ali said the army has an excellent reputation among the Egyptian public and is seen as a model of dignity and good manners.
“When I started working I gradually discovered corruption. I didn't find out when it first started, it took years. But the rule of dealing in Egypt .. under the table. I gradually noticed things until I reached the top of the corruption pyramid when I started building Sisi palaces. Since then, I have begun to understand the big picture of corruption and how the head of state makes decisions.
Ali sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, who called Sisi his favorite dictator, saying: "You are ready to meet a murderer, a dictator, who does not care who he is. You only care to receive money. ” "Maybe we need to save some money and then ask you to remove Sisi," he said.
Middle East Eye said it would reveal the full contents of the interview in the coming days.