Syrian opposition activists and rebels celebrated the electoral victory of Egypt’s Mohamed Mursi as another triumph over dictatorial rule but said they were not expecting help from the Islamist leader for their own 16-month-old revolt.
Mursi won by 3.5 percentage points over Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister under ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak. Many Egyptians had feared a victorious Shafiq would reverse the gains of their revolution.
In the olive groves of the northern Idlib region, rebel fighters and activists camped out in a small building were under strict rules not to turn on any lamps or make much noise to avoid drawing the attention of Syrian army troops nearby.
But when the 15-odd men finally heard the news of Mursi’s victory - late in the night as communications had been down - they could not contain their elation.
“The noise woke me up. They were all cheering,” Ibrahim Abd, 19, who smuggled himself over the Turkish border a couple of nights before, told Reuters via Skype.
Abd is a Syrian who has been supporting the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad from Britain through online activism, but this was his first visit to his homeland since his father is a political exile.
“Everyone feels optimistic and sees the win as a success for Egypt. One man even went out and bought Syrian sweets,” he said, speaking in whispers on Monday morning so as not to wake his snoozing comrades, tired from a rare moment of revelry.
“We were all hoping he would win, it was tense last night,” he said, adding that the fighters and activists were not sure if Mursi would help their cause, but that it was a real boost for opposition morale in Syria.
Vote will not affect Syria
But Abu Yazen, an activist from one of the most battered provinces in Syria, Hama, said he and a network of young dissidents around the country did not think Mursi’s rise to power would affect events in Syria.
“In my opinion, and I think in the eyes of many young revolutionaries, the new Egyptian president will not be pushing the Syrian revolution into a new phase,” he said.
Governments in Tunisia and Libya, both of which ousted their own autocrats last year, now openly support the Syrian uprising but have provided little material aid, rebels say. And Abu Yazen doubts whether the Egyptians will do so either.
“Until now, we have not had much real international support. We have learnt to rely on ourselves. Seventy percent of all the weapons the (rebel) Free Army have are either looted or bought off the Syrian army,” he said.
Syrian dissidents, however, said they regarded Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president as a rough model for their own quest to topple Assad, although they are wary of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mursi’s party, gaining ground in Syria.
“It’s a first step along the path of democracy even if I don’t agree with (Mursi’s) political orientation,” said Damascus-based activist Rufeda Habaz.
Mindful of fears of Islamists taking power, the Syrian Brotherhood portrays itself as espousing a moderate agenda. It unveiled a manifesto in April that did not mention the word Islam and contained pledges to respect individual rights.
“I’m not that happy about the arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now the Brotherhood will try to take advantage of their victory in Egypt to influence events in Syria and push their agenda,” said Mohammed, 34, a resident of Damascus who asked to only be referred by his first name for fear of arrest.
Some others were dismissive. “I do not think it has value or an impact on us,” a rebel fighter said.