As early as September 2010 – before the revolution even in Tunisia had started – you wrote in an opinion piece about the need for Egyptians to mobilize against the regime. Could you have imagined what would happen in your country a few months later?
Ahdaf Soueif: We had known for a long time that something had to happen. But what it would look like, how long it would take, whether it would succeed – these were all very big questions. The prevalent view was to be skeptical that people power could effect great political change. On 24th January 2011, I still said in a TV interview that we all felt change would come, but what shape it would take we didn't know. The next day the revolution kicked off.
One of the recurrent themes of your work has been the attempt to put straight the skewed Western views of the Arab world. Do you think the Arab Spring has brought any progress in this regard?
Soueif: It probably has, although when one deals with the Western media – especially the traditional, established media – very often they only want to talk about the rise of the Islamists to power or the situation of women in the Arab world. It's the same tired old stories that there seem to be no escape from. But events have made this irrelevant. The revolutions in the Arab world are by Arabs and for Arabs, and the rest of the world needs to catch up.
The people who do matter are the people who are actually in contact with the revolution and the people that are conducting it. There is a network of mostly young people all over the world now, who are talking to each other and helping each other and are benefitting from each other's experiences. They don't have these old hang-ups about who is white and who is Muslim. I find that tremendously encouraging and hopeful.
Interview by Christoph Dreyer
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