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 However the Egypt movement has superseded the Tunisian movement in terms of magnitude and strength.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.