Leitura para o fim-de-semana: O democrata que acabou no Estado Islâmico

Foi polícia, um dos defensores da primavera árabe no Egipto e candidato a deputado nas eleições de 2012. Mas com o desmoronar da revolução, acabou por partir para o Iraque onde se juntou ao Estado Islâmico – onde morreu em Maio deste ano. A história foi agora contada pelo Finantial Times.

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Egyptian’s radicalisation a story of despair, say friends

He had held on for months. But when the Islamists and leftists, who had united in the 2011 revolution he had championed, began fighting each other on the streets of Cairo in late 2012, something inside him snapped.

Ahmed al-Darawy, a one-time police officer turned revolutionary, had been a mainstay of Egypt’s uprising in Tahrir Square.

“He told me, ‘That’s it! That’s the beginning of the end’,” recalls his brother, Haytham, younger by two years. “He told me, ‘Did you see what happened? The revolution is coming to an end, and the counter-revolution will rise. There is blood now between them, they will never reunite. And this means they are both going to be wiped out.’”

Once gregarious and outspoken, he became reclusive, shying away from public life. After the July 2013 coup d’état felled the country’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and led to the installation of a military-backed regime, Darawy left the country, telling relatives he was seeking medical care.

The call came on May 29, 2014. Darawy, a 38-year-old father of three, had died on the battlefields of Iraq, the man said. The one-time democracy activist, who had run for the Egyptian parliament in 2012 as an independent, had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda offshoot known as Isis, and died in battle.

“The Darawy matter actually horrifies me,” says Yasser al-Hawary, 36, a liberal Egyptian activist. “He adopted the same demands and ideas as all of us and he was just like anybody else. This means other people, that don’tshow violence , could join Isis as well.”

Darawy’s path from non-violent democracy activist to fighter for a group so extreme it has been disowned by al-Qaeda reflects the unsettling course of the Arab revolts of 2011. A heady season of hope and optimism that stirred longings for democracy and citizenship rights also unleashed demons many observers did not expect: political repression, internecine and sectarian fighting, and chaos in what had been authoritarian societies.

With the possible exception of Tunisia, all the nations that have risen up are now mired in intensified repression or armed conflict. A moment of hope that the Arab world was emerging from authoritarianism has been eclipsed by Isis and its efforts to draw men and women like Darawy into its orbit.

“This story is very important,” says Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics and the author of a book on jihadis. “Not only does it tell us about Egypt’s past, present and future, but also it tells us how the great aspirations and hopes of the so-called Arab spring have turned into despair, and how some of these men have turned to jihadism.”

Darawy belies the stereotype of jihadis as misfits. He was born to university educated parents in 1976, and grew up in Cairo’s upscale Maadi suburb. Those who knew him and his family describe them as well-to-do. Darawy’s sister studied at the expensive American University of Cairo. Darawy received a prestigious spot to study law enforcement at the police academy.

”We were not just middle-class, we are a rich family,” says Haytham, who now lives in the Gulf.

After years as a cop, Darawy became disillusioned with the police, under the interior ministry, known for its brutality and corruption. “He saw what the regime was doing,” says Mr Hawary.

He left the police to join Etisalat, the country’s UAE-operated mobile phone carrier, as a marketing manager setting up sponsorship arrangements with local sports clubs for the company. His brother says Darawy and his wife earned the equivalent of $7,000 a month in a country where monthly income averages $500.

Activists recall meeting him first in late 2010, at the offices of the Socialist Renewal Current, among the liberal and leftist groups that spearheaded the drive into the streets the following January. “He was very expressive and outspoken and was very balanced in his ideas,” says Mr Hawary. “He was in harmony with us.”

He became a leading figure in the tent community that sprang up on Tahrir Square in the days before longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011.

“He had indescribable hope and energy,” says his brother. “I once told him, ‘Ahmed, I think your activism is affecting your work and your home.’ So he told me something very important; that the future of the country is being formed now, we are making history.”

But Darawy was no starry-eyed idealist dreaming of transformation. Not only had he been a police officer but he had worked in the private sector and was by the time of the revolution a parent. He knew how institutions operated and understood the slow pace of reform, so when he came forward to call for reform of the interior ministry, his proposal was full of concrete steps to improve an organisation whose abuses lay at the heart of the 2011 rebellion.

He urged a reduction in work hours, paperwork and administrative tasks to encourage the police to provide proper security, as well as salary reforms and training programmes to reduce brutality. “He wanted police resources to be focused on the security of the citizen,” says his brother.”

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