Thursday, June 23, 2005
What’s happening in Egypt?!
By: Maram Mazen
For the first time SOMETHING is finally happening in Egypt, after 50 years of political stillness since the 1952 coup d’etat (which Arab nationalists would call it the 1952 revolution) which ousted King Farouk and the British army from Egypt. Since then every president has ruled for life: Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar El Sadat and of course the current president Hosni Mubarak who stayed already in power for 24 whole years, and wants to extend it with another 6 years term, so he wants a total of 30 years in power. Until now he is the third longest serving president after King Ramses II and Mohammed Ali Pasha. And then his son Gamal wants to become president in succession to his father.
Presidents in Egypt reach power by a single candidate referendum chosen by the parliament which is dominated by the ruling party, and there was supposed to be a referendum next September on Mr. Mubarak but this time it’s different.
The opposition is finally speaking out, there are demonstrations almost everyday, new pro-democracy movements are founded, independent opposition newspapers are breaking taboos all the time… and that all started from the end of last year.
The opposition demands are OLD, patriotic and entirely an internal issue but I believe that after 9/11 the US shifted from supporting these suppressive regimes to supporting reformers, because they (the regimes) are the main source of extremism and so the Iraq war has caused an earthquake in the entire middle east, the Egyptians were in a state of shock seeing the statue of Saddam Hussein getting kicked by shoes of ordinary Iraqis. Alongside high unemployment rates, poverty and generally extremely harsh economic and social conditions.
Egyptians are fed up, and suddenly different movements with different ideologies and fields are all working to building a better Egypt or at least to stop the deterioration, where the “kefaya” (Egyptian for enough) movement held the 1st demo last December, and since then demos are spreading to other movements and increasing in number. They are usually peaceful, but surrounded by anti-riot police outnumbering the demonstrators, preventing passers by from joining the demo. But on Wednesday June 22nd, in Shobra Street, for the first time, there were no security at all at the site which allowed passers by to join the demo and allowed the demo to walk in the streets for two hours. On our way there we met some activists in the underground station, we sang the Kefaya anthem “Enough Enough Enough, we’ve reached the end” in “Rod el Farag” station, and it felt I was in Ukraine for a while.
But kefaya doesn’t present itself as an alternative to the regime, who does for an example is the liberal El Ghad (Tomorrow) party, the most daring and active party politically and in the streets and which already wrote an alternative new constitution and presents itself as an alternative to the NDP (national democratic party). But that wasn’t accepted, so Dr. Ayman Nour a parliament member for the last 10 years and the party president was arrested for a fabricated law suit that charged him with forging legal powers of attorneys for his party’s establishment, but his true sin is that he acted like a real opposition parliament member. He is the most prominent and popular presidential candidate till now, but has a trial on June the 28th. The ruling will be decisive for Dr. Ayman Nour, El Ghad party and the whole spirit of freedom in Egypt.
So with leftists, islamists, liberals and arab nationalists putting so much pressure on the government, alongside US pressure for reform, I have no idea how the government will be able to escape from these legitimate demands!! We’re still in the beginning of the struggle for freedom, and I’m not really sure how things will turn out, but I’m a bit optimistic about a peaceful or at least not very violent transition because of the large and well respected sectors of the community joining the opposition movement like the judges and university professors.
The future is not clear but at least something started happening!
Maram Mazen is a member of El Ghad party and Kefaya movement. You can reach Maram at firstname.lastname@example.org