Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt a new dawn:

It has been a long wait from January 25 to February 11.Billions around the world watched as a few thousand Egyptians responded to the call of change and walked defiantly towards Tahrir Square. Their mission was one; to remove the man who had sat in the chair of President for the last 30 years, Hosni Mubarak. They were threatened stopped and many were killed yet it did not stop the mass upsurge. Every passing day the resilience grew stronger and deeper. February 1 was one of the darkest days during this whole uprising when the Pro Mubarak group attacked the peaceful protestors. It seemed like the movement had come to end that the government had finally broken the backbone of the movement and then came the news of Alexandria. Reports began to emerge about similar mass uprisings everywhere around Egypt. The fire had engulfed other parts of Egypt and in no time the movement sprung back to its feet. Infact it was the Alexandria uprising which finally spelt doom for Mubarak. It gave strength to the few thousands battling in Cairo that their fellow Egyptians were with them. It was this final resilient push that eventually toppled the regime.

As the dust begins to settle in, people around the world began to analyse what next for Egypt. Skeptics warn that this will give rise to instability and a radical regime which in today’s world is synonymous with an Iran like structure. These are the views that have to dissected in a proper manner.

First and foremost the Egyptian public was always very clear on what they wanted. Almost every analyst around the world proclaims that the million dollar question is what next? However this question was never a problem for the youth who had led the revolt. They were always clear on what they wanted. They wanted their country to be governed by a government which would be elected under a free and fair election process. Thus it was logical that the country would be under some sort of military council until the elections were held. Once Mubarak nominated Omar Suleiman as the Vice Presidential candidate, there was no major protest to actually remove Omar Suleiman from that position. Although many resented the fact that Omar was elected the Vice President yet on ground level people did not clamor for his removal. The people wanted Mubarak to resign and subsequently an election taking place under a caretaker government in this case Omar Suleiman and the armed forces. The average Egyptian did not protest these changes. This proves that they have a basic understanding of how their country is governed. This proves the fact that they have faith in the constitution of the country. If that wouldn’t have been the case they would have further gone on strike to remove Omar Suleiman and other members of the government. However they didn’t and this proves the political maturity of the Egyptian population. Infact many youth activists across Cairo have sat together and formed a draft plan one which will take their country forward in the 21st century. Another noteworthy fact was the minimal cases of looting during the protest. Generally such large scale mass protests include mass scale arsonist activities, however in Egypt such cases were unheard of barring a few isolated cases. There were scenes of protestors forming a human chain around the Cairo museum in order to protect it from any palpable damage. In short the Egyptians wanted Mubarak out of power and had absolute faith in their country and its constitution. There concern was to remove the person who had pushed them to the brink of poverty over the past 30 years and now they wanted a free and fair government which would work for them. Thus it would be wrong to proclaim that the Egyptians have no idea of what next.

The second issue is regarding the so called Muslim Brotherhood’s rise and emergence of an Iran like structure. To understand this statement holistically we must understand the basic composition of the Egyptian society. The Egyptian society has never been one which has believed on narrow religious or sectarian lines. When the Iranian revolution had happened in 1979 it was clearly a public uprising but one which had strong religious contours. It talked about a cultural and religious revival while denouncing the moves of the ruler which was perceived as anti Islamic. Hence it was logical that a government which would emerge out of such a movement would be a government which would be radical in nature.

Such a scenario is however not the case with Egypt. From day one the Egyptian movement has been one which has been secular in nature and represented the mass aspirations rather than some socio-religious revival. The Egyptians revolution was based on fulfilling their aspirations rather than revisionist tendencies like the one in Iran. It was an obvious fact even for the Muslim brotherhood which despite having fared fairly well in the elections choose to stay away from the leadership of the movement. They could gauge that this was a people’s movement one that was not moved by religious lines but rather aspirations. If it would have done that then the mass would not have appealed to their call and it would have seriously dented their capability. Hence the Muslim brotherhood itself played a smart move by staying away from the process since the ground realities were evident for them. However as the world always finds the Middle East its favourite flagging boy; it went on to quote the whole movement as one which smacked of religo-political aspirants. It is high time that the western powers took a pragmatic view of the Middle East in terms of subaltern.

The third issue is regarding the future of Israel. In terms of realpolitik it is the Israel question which will haunt the western powers more. For long the Middle East has been a grey area for world peace where dictators were backed by nations who wanted to propagate their own geopolitical interests in this regard. Israel was seen as an ally for the West in the Middle East and a balancer to the Middle East question. However if anything that the history has taught us is that it has never worked well for anyone.

As preparations begin for a new government in Egypt questions regarding the Israel-Palestine issue are being raised. Egypt was one of the few Arab allied of the Israeli nation and now there is a sense that this status quo might be threatened. On the ground level there is no indication of such a move by any section apart from the press statement of a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman. If we were to discount this political rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood then for the average Egyptian Israel is not a question that has to be discussed anytime soon. However for the world this might be a good time to actually think in terms of solving the Israel-Palestine issue in finality. The past 60 years have brought untold misery upon the population of the Israeli state and the Palestinian people. It is time the world takes a pragmatic view in this regard. With the flame of democracy fanning across Middle East there is bound to be a revaluation of the situation. The recent peace talks have seen the Palestinian authority of talking about the one state solution one which will see Israel become a minority in its own country. With Mubarak out of power in Egypt Israel have few allies left in Middle East to count on. Hence the Israeli government should pick up talks with the Palestinian Authority officials at the earliest with the two nation agenda on the table if necessary. A lasting peace to the Middle East crisis is imperative.

One issue which stood out during the whole revolution was the silence of the world leaders. Apart from Iran which has its own agenda no western power urged Hosni Mubarak to step down. As the Egyptian population desperately looked towards the western world for help the world leaders choose to remain quite. It reaffirmed the fact that was exhibited in the Cancun climate meet that in real terms there is no world leader as of today. Having said that the silence of the western powers was understandable given the fact that Hosni Mubarak has been an ally of the Western World for over 30 years while neglecting how own population. However as the stage sets in for the formation of a new government in Egypt ,the world leaders should not make the same mistake they made in refusing to recognize Hamas when it had won free and fair elections. It was a chance to engage the Hamas conclusively in the peace process however the world looked away and a golden chance to bring in peace was lost.

The same mistake should not be repeated in Egypt. Whatever government is elected in Egypt it should be welcomed with open arms by the world leaders. Since it would be a government which will rise out of mass aspirations it must be given a chance to get involved in the Middle East peace making process if it wishes so. Even if the government contains an element of the Muslim Brotherhood it must be accepted. Adherence to a religious ideology does not naturally turn a state into a rouge state.AKP party of Turkey stands out in this regard. It has brought forward a new face of so called Islamic polity. This was possible because of the cosmopolitan society of Turkey which is not divided in narrow lines. This situation is akin to the Egyptian society and hence any government which comes to power will be balanced since it is a reflection of the societal aspiration. In any case the world must accept the new Egyptian process and make it a partner and leader in furthering the cause of world peace.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

TURMOIL IN EGYPT

January 25 marked a new dawn in Egyptian history. A revolution that started in Facebook and Twitter spilled onto the streets of Cairo. As the world watched a group of young radicals took to the streets demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak had ruled Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years and it is the first time such a massive protest had occurred demanding his resignation.

The movement spawned and took strength from the Tunisian movement that had been on the streets just a few days ago. However the Egypt movement has superseded the Tunisian movement in terms of magnitude and strength. These movements in Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of Middle East have been brewing for a long time. Most of the leaders in these countries were autocrats who were placed strategically by the US in order to fulfill their own vested interests. Egypt also is in fact one of the few Arab allies of Israel. Together with the Israeli government the Egyptians had been quite harsh to the Palestinian population. Such gross human rights violation was not taken well by the Egyptian population. Growing hunger rates, unemployment and other social evils added to the people’s misery. While the United States government saw it fit to supply the Mubarak government and other Middle Eastern allies with the latest arms and equipments the general population writhed in pain. Whenever the people of these nations talked about democracy they were told that “Middle East was not ready for democracy yet.”

For 30 years this status quo was maintained until the people spawned to the streets of Tunisia demanding the ouster of Ben Ali. This fired the imagination of other nations and they too began to take to the streets demanding the removal of their autocratic leaders. And then it caught Egypt on Jan 25.From that day for two weeks now the Egyptian streets have been burning. Despite repeated calls for his resignation from leaders across the world Hosni Mubarak has remained defiant. The army which was initially in favour of the people movement was advised to keep out of the crisis. The state police have carried out massive repression policies against the protestors. Yet the protestors have been defiant. Buoyant by the support that the movement has gained in the internet worldwide the protestors have moved on.

There have been repeated talks by people around the world to classify the movement as a protest dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood was an organization which left its path of violence in 1970’s and has stuck to a low profile since then. However this protest has got to do nothing with the Brotherhood it is totally secular in nature driven by the youth and the rising middle class. Their aspiration is to see a thriving democracy in one they have opportunity to a better life. The goal of the youth is to bring in a change and usher in a democracy that’s truly representative of the aspirations. As the role of Muslim Brotherhood itself has shown it has taken no interest in leading the revolt. It has merely called its supporters to join the revolt against the President. Infact this movement qualifies itself as a leaderless movement with people joining in to a common call to save their nation.

Another argument that has spawned is that the dictators in these so called US back regimes have been quite soft on the protestors compared to the Iranian or the Chinese government (during the Tiananmen square debate).Once again this debate is subjective. Such movements have to be seen in totality of the arguments. Egypt had traditionally been a more free society compared to Iran and China. Hence the people in Egypt are more confident of carrying out the movement. As the events of 1st February has shown Hosni Mubarak has been no less a dictator unleashing his supporters to brutally suppress his detractors. Yet the Egyptian protestors have been resilient. The failure and success of the movements depends a lot on the ability of its people to sustain. Any authoritarian rule will always react back; the success of the movement depends on the people of the nation to withstand the onslaught. So these debates are subjective to a lot of factors. Also due to its own international pressures the US did not condemn the Iranian dictator in the same tone that it condemned the Egyptian president. As such using comparative scales assessing movements is not a proper movement.

A third argument that has popped up is the future of Egypt with regard to its relation to Israel. There have been repeated talk shows about how anxiously Israel watches the events unfold in Egypt. I think it is wrong of anybody to voice such concerns as of now. The utmost importance should be given to the wishes of the Egyptian public and its demands to a better future. Any government that comes to power will undoubtedly exhibit the capacity to understand the dynamics of international politics. While there might be a redefinition of the warm and healthy relationship between Israel and Egypt yet this will not threaten the peace and the stability of Middle East. Even nations like Syria which were original opponents of the idea of Israel have fast moved forward to accommodate ‘peace’ in the Middle East. As such we can safely assume that a backward looking government will not sit at the helm of Egypt if and at all there is a regime change in Egypt.

There are many lessons to be learnt from this popular movement even as it burns. The foremost being the power of technology. The crisis in Tunisia was no doubt the matchstick that lighted the flame however the groundwork started long back in 2008 when intellectuals of the Egyptian society gathered in Facebook to think about a better future tomorrow. They wanted to see a change in the way things were run and thus they started their revolution in Facebook and Twitter collecting worldwide support throughout their journey. Scenes of the public unity between the Muslims and the Christians during the protests laid rest to the theories of deep fault lines running between the communities worldwide. There are problems as many would like to ascertain but as the events of Egypt testified there are road to reconciliation as well. It was heartening to see Muslim youths guarding their Christian brothers while they held their Mass. It gave hope to people worldwide. Another basic lesson that this crisis taught us is that technology has actually brought the world closer. In the 1940’s it was ideology that had brought people closer. As the Spanish Nationalists closed on the Communists in Barcelona in the final weeks during the run up to WW 2, millions of people around the world arrived in Barcelona to save their beloved Communism. The countries of US, Britain and France had refused to help the Spanish government fearing a backlash from Hitler, yet people from these countries came in scores to join the Global Volunteers front which was floated to save Communism in Europe. The same way millions today have supported the Egyptian movement, once again the world has come closer and this time due to technology. As such we have truly arrived in a global era where technology is helping us cross the barrier that nations build and move closer to each other. And finally seen in totality it has seen the emergence of youth again as the true voice of the world. The scenes of young men and women marching together rekindle hopes of a better world once more.