Ayman Nur

Role box
Chairman of the Egyptian opposition party al-Ghadd (Tomorrow), since November 2004.
Education, Career and Personal Background
Ayman Nūr was born on October 10, 1964 in Mansūrah, Egypt. In 1985, he graduated from the Faculty of Law at Mansourah University with a master of Political History. He later finished a PhD in international law1 and went on to function as a lawyer.

Nūr began working as a journalist for the newspaper of the Egyptian nationalist liberal opposition party al-Wafd al-Jadåd in 1984 later becoming editor-in-chief of the newspaper. He rose up in the party and was elected for their Higher Committee. In 1995 he ran for parliament and won a seat in Cairo's Bāb al-Shacaråyah district. He was re-elected in 2000.2

He functioned as vice president of the party3 until 2000 when he left al-Wafd4 after loosing the election. 5 As an independent member of parliament, he went on to found the liberal democratic party, al-Ghadd. The party was officially recognized on October 27, 2004 thus becoming the first political party to have been recognized in Egypt since President Husnå Mubārak took office in 1981. Nūr was elected chairman of the party at its first convention a few days later.

In 2005 Nūr ran for president as one of ten candidates in the September 7 Egyptian presidential election. This was the first presidential election with multiple candidates in Egyptian history. He was the first runner-up in the elections with officially 7 % of the votes after the incumbent president Husnå Mubārak who won with 88.6 %.

- Former vice president of al-Wafd al-Jadåd (nationalist liberal Egyptian opposition party)
- Founding member and chairman of al-Ghadd (liberal Egyptian opposition party)
- Member of the board of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, EOHR.
- Member of Board of Trustees at Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, Cairo, Egypt.
Political/Religious Involvement
Arrest, presidential campaign and trial
Only three months after establishing his new party, Ayman Nūr was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and arrested on January 29, 2005. He was charged with forging the signatures needed for the official recognition of al-Ghadd party. Legally, 50 signatures are needed. Nūr had handed in 2000, of which the prosecutor claims that around 1000 were forged.

The arrest spurred critique from numerous human rights organizations who claimed that the charges were trumped up. The case was said to be completely political and to represent a test of the Egyptian regime's real commitment to democratic reforms. European Union and the White House also called for his release and American Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt in February 2006 in protest.6

On 26 March 2005, President Mubārak announced his plans to allow for multi-candidate presidential elections. Within the same week Ayman Nūr announced his candidacy from prison. Egyptian political science professor at Cairo University, Mustāf? Kamāl Sayyid, suggested that Nūr's support was as much as 20 or 30 %.7 It is unclear whether these numbers are based on any research. It often occurs in Egypt that numbers are randomly inflated to support a case.

A few weeks later, Nūr was released against a bail of 10,000 EGP (about $1700 US) and his trial was postponed. Nūr claimed this was done because the regime "want(s) us to run in the election with a burden around our necks, with accusations."8 In the presidential election Nūr officially won 7 %. Subsequently, he lost his seat in parliament to a candidate from the ruling party, National Democratic Party (NDP), in the parliamentary elections in November 2005.

On December 24, 2005, Nūr was sentenced to five years of hard labor.9 The defense appealed the case asking for his sentence to be brought down to the ten months he had already served. At the time of writing (February, 2007) the case is still pending.

Reactions to the case
Despite international critique of the trial, Egyptian officials maintain that the case is not political but is a purely criminal case about forgery. The Egyptian daily, Rose al-Yūsuf, has accused Nūr of being a protagonist of American interests against the interest of Egypt and the Egyptian people. 10 There have been speculations in the Egyptian press that the case against Nūr might lead the U.S. to withhold its financial of $2 billion annual support. 11 However, vice president of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), Dr. Ahmad Kamāl Abū al-Majd has made it clear that the case is an internal case which was dealt with by the Egyptian government.

The trial was condemned by the European Parliament, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate. 12 The U.S. furthermore delayed negotiations for a new trade treaty with Egypt during the trial but apart from that there have been no economic pressures.13 The trial against Nūr was also a concern in many Arab newspapers outside Egypt.14

The case against Nūr was by some observers compared to another much publicized case against another Egyptian activist, who had also announced his intentions to run as a president if allowed, namely the case against Sacd al-Dån Ibrāhåm in 2000. Many observers commented on the similarities between the two cases and their implications in Egyptian politics, notably that they were both convicted by the same judge who is seen by some opposition groups to be carrying out the regime's dirty work15. Sacd al-Dån Ibrāhåm himself, in an open letter to the European Parliament to call for their support for Nūr's case, contended that they were both accused of "equally false, almost identical trumped-up charges."16

Since Nūr's arrest and through out his trial, his wife, Jamålah Ismācål, who also functions as deputy of the party, has been promoting his case through numerous articles and interviews given to foreign media.17 She was spurred by some party members to run for president of the party in 2006, but declined on grounds that she did not want to add to the image of "hereditary reign" in Egyptian politics. 18

The presidency was won by Īhāb al-Khūlå gaining just 16 more votes than his nearest compeditor, Wā'il Nawārah. The close run caused Nawārah to call for a re-election between the two based on a difference in interpretation of the word "majority." Nawārah claimed that since none of the candidates had gained more than 50 % of the total number of votes a winner could not be declared even if al-Khūlå got the largest number of votes. In an article published on al-Ghadd's website, Ayman Nūr called on his "dear brother" Wā'il Nawārah not to cause a split in the party, but instead to accept the result of the election and join forces with al-Khūlå and other leading members of al-Ghadd to build the party during al-Khūlå's one year electoral period.19

Ayman Nūr is a strong proponent of liberal political reforms in Egypt. He has used his seat in parliament to carry out "investigations on everything from bread prices to torture." 20 In 2000 he published a book in Arabic presenting liberalism as an alternative to Islamic politics. 21

Nūr has a strong profile on human rights. He has been on the board of trustees of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, EOHR, for many years. The website of al-Ghadd contains numerous examples of videos that expose police violence. In 1999 he opposed a new law that was supposed to enhance the position of NGOs in Egypt but which, according to Nūr and others, in reality limited their room of activity considerably.

The political program of al-Ghadd party proposes secular humanism based on the international Charter of Human Rights and the implementation of a republican, parliamentarian, constitutional, democratic, socialist system. 22

In his constituency in Cairo's Bāb al-Shacråyah district, Nūr has run a charity office and community center that provides medical advice, a hall for free weddings and school lessons for children. c23

Despite his opposition to Islamic politics, Ayman Nūr has been willing to cooperate with the Islamic organization and Egyptian opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood during his presidential campaign. The depth of this cooperation remains disputed.

Involvement in Arab-West/Intercultural/Interfaith Relations
In a much debated incident in 1998, in which 20 Christians and one Muslim24 were killed in al-Kushh, a small Egyptian village, Ayman Nūr defended the viewpoint that this was not a case of persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. British politician, Lord David Alton had criticized the Egyptian government of persecuting Copts and of trying to cover up the real events of the incident in al-Kushh. Nūr invited him to come to Egypt to see for himself that Copts are not persecuted. Alton declined and instead the two met in London for a meeting that Nūr promised would be "a lesson in history, respect for other's rights and the people's independence and dignity" 25. Nūr subsequently send a copy of EOHR's report about the incident to Alton. 26.
Ane Skov Birk, April 2007.
Additional Information on Other Issues
http://www.meforum.org/article/753 and http://www.freeaymannour.org/.
4 http://www.meforum.org/article/753
5 RNSAW, 2000, 48, art 6.
6 http://www.meforum.org/article/753
7 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28427-2005Mar11.html
8 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8598275/site/newsweek/
9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_Nour
10 AWR, 2005, 30, art 64.
11 AWR, 2006, 1, art 3.
12 http://www.freeaymannour.org/
13 AWR, 2006, 3, art 28.
14 http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP107506
15 http://www.freeaymannour.org/
16 Ibid.
17 http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20050306-1046-egypt-jailedreformer.html
18 http://www.elghad.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=504
19 http://www.elghad.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=523
20 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28427-2005Mar11_2.html
21 Yawmåyāt sahafå mushāghib, Cairo, Dār al-Hurråyah, 2000.
22 http://www.elghad.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=110
23 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28427-2005Mar11.html
24 The exact number varies in different sources.
25 RNSAW, 1998, 47, art. 6
26 RNSAW, 1998, 46, art 26.
Biographical material:
http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%A3%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86_%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1 (Arabic)
http://www.elghad.org/ (Arabic)

Further readings:
Yawmåyāt sahafå mushāghib, Cairo, Dār al-Hurråyah, 2000. (Arabic)

Contact Information:
Contact site of al-Ghadd party:
Ane Skov Birk, April 2007.