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Comment II
Last Updated: 02/08/2011
Kefaya
Annonymous from Egypt

“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty” – John Basil Barnhill.

There are no words which better captures the plight of the Egyptian people.

For over thirty years the old, young, rich, poor, secular and religious members of Egyptian society have tolerated a bogus Emergency law and dictatorial government. It can be said that their patience has been nothing short of saintly. But the people have now spoken, and they have had enough. Kefaya.

We are witnessing a turning point, a historical benchmark for Egypt. Inspired and running on adrenalin, the protests have not lost their momentum. Heroically, the Egyptian people keep rising despite the regime’s North Korea style tactics to incite mass hysteria and generate chaos. The citizens of Egypt will not be silenced, the people will not be terrorized. For too many years, there existed a permanent sense of fear and futility about the possibilities of a tangible change. But the people are no longer afraid of the government which strangled their rights and ambitions. Finally, there is hope for a REAL democracy, a concept that had almost become an impossible dream for so many.

Fighting against thirty years of repression and corruption, pro-democracy demonstrators have admirably continued to protest peacefully. However, the administration’s forces are set on a brutal and coordinated campaign of violence. These pro-Mubarak supporters are recognisably secret police equipped with weapons to suppress the voices of frustration and demoralise the patriotic people of Egypt. Yet, the pro-democracy demonstrators still come out on top as decent and dignified citizens, demonstrating utmost vigilance in their fight back against the administration’s thugs. However, an orderly transition is no longer possible due to the unnecessary bloodshed of Egyptian people. It seems this call on the Mubarak administration had fallen on deaf ears.

The scale of the demonstrations are unprecedented for Egypt, and displays a cross section of Egyptian society from all walks of life: religious Muslims, secular Muslims, Egyptian Christians, socialists, simple workers. The numbers are extraordinary. All are opposing the illegitimate dictatorship which has reigned over the country for thirty years.

It is important for the Western governments to begin to support the dream for a true democracy, and abandon its weak position towards Mubarak and his administration. There must be an end to the hypocrisy in supporting dictatorships to preserve Israeli, and consequently Western, interests. This week, Tony Blair defended Mubarak as “immensely courageous”. A man who, in this last decade, waged a war to topple a dictator in Iraq, now describes another as a “force for good”.

The United States and the United Kingdom continue to focus on protecting Israel that they will accept any kind of brutality in terms of Arab governments as long as they remain friendly with Israel.

While everyone, including the Egyptian people, remain apprehensive about the future, one thing is clear: that what will come next MUST represent the genuine will of the Egyptian people. The underlying concern of Western states is what will happen with the power vacuum once an authoritarian leader is deposed.

The fear among Western states is the possibility that a rush to elections could bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power. These push-button stereotypes are easy to invoke and the Mubarak administration has used the spectre of a fundamentalist Muslim government to justify their existence, a practice which had been carried over from the previous administration. However, over the last three decades the Brotherhood has been rebuilt as a social religious movement and would have difficulty in transforming that into a political movement. Egypt is not an Islamic state, and the Muslim Brotherhood appreciate that although, in a free election, it would win a healthy portion of seats in parliament, they will have reached a limit and will not be able to gain more considerable support. In fact, support for the Brotherhood might fade as competing parties receive attention.

It remains unclear who is trustworthy to run an interim government or talk about opposition. However, it is known that the people are against the appointment and potential role of Omar Suleiman, Vice President, and the whole regime around him. As the head of intelligence and his background in police brutality, it is unlikely that he will be a credible alternative to Mubarak, even in the short term.

Therefore, what remains important is that foreign governments must support a reasonable non-military short term acting transitional leader to effect gradual constitutional changes to ensure that future elections ensure a less powerful presidency and a more powerful parliament reflecting the government that the people have chosen and will protect their interests.

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