Standing Firm to Defend Egypt's Revolution

Can humans survive without food and drink? Of course not. These are fundamental needs and humans die when they are denied. Can humans survive without dignity? Unfortunately the answer is yes. For thirty years, millions of Egyptians lived without dignity under the rule of Hosni Mubarak. They put up with humiliations and flattered the person in power to win his favor. They grew accustomed to having their dignity ignored, because they feared punishment or coveted material gains. They put up with arrogant police officers and called them “pasha.” They put up with detention camps, torture, and sexual abuse, turning a blind eye as long as the abuses happened to someone else. They told their children to walk close to the wall and to neither demonstrate nor object to the ruler, however much he abused, plundered, and humiliated them.

Millions of Egyptians thought that cowardice was wisdom and that failing to speak the truth was common sense and safe. In return, the Mubarak regime held Egyptians in contempt; they thought Egyptians were an ignorant and lazy people, accustomed to anarchy and unfit for democracy. It was this contempt for the Egyptian people that made the Mubarak regime so confident that it was in full control—until it woke up to the revolution.

The Egyptian revolution was a miracle by any standard. A generation of Egyptians emerged that was untouched by all the diseases of despotism; a generation that was fearless and would not take injustice in silence. These young Egyptians, who make up half the population, have a courage and commitment to noble values that is difficult to explain. These young people grew up with misleading media and a poor education system. Nonetheless, the youth of the revolution appeared suddenly, as if in one great leap. It was as if Egypt were a giant, bountiful tree that, despite its many diseases, continued producing fresh green leaves.

For Mubarak and his men, revolution was a shock: Egyptians had submitted to humiliation for years. What had made them so determined to recover their dignity?

Twenty million Egyptians took part in the revolution, to which we can add twice as many who were sympathetic toward the revolution although they did not participate. On the other hand, there were several million “feloul” (or remnants) who had benefited from the Mubarak regime, who naturally hated the revolution.

These estimates suggest that there remain close to twenty million Egyptians who did not benefit from the Mubarak regime but neither took part in the revolution nor were sympathetic toward it. The attitude of these submissive people has been fickle: they would be happy to see the revolution achieve its aims but are unprepared to make any sacrifices for it. This silent group of submissive Egyptians suffered under the Mubarak regime but went along with it. They watched young people the age of their own children face bullets with bare chests, fearless and without retreat; for these youth, death was better than an ignominious life.

When the military council took power amid overwhelming popular support, Egyptians trusted it to fulfill the aims of the revolution. Egyptians have been surprised to find the behavior of the military council strange and confused. When we look back at everything that happened, the picture is clear.

The military council resisted any real change and managed to keep the Mubarak regime in power. The military council refused to write a new constitution but made some amendments to the old one and held a referendum. It then bypassed the will of the people and declared an interim constitution of 63 articles, outlining the political system without reference to the wishes of Egyptians.

Then the military council allowed the security situation to deteriorate. It did nothing to solve the successive crises that made life hell for Egyptians and made a sector of Egyptian society (those I just described as submissive) turn against the revolution and consider it the cause of all daily problems by leading a campaign to discredit the revolutionaries. After initially portraying the young revolutionaries as national heroes, the official media began to describe them as tools of foreign governments; thugs and saboteurs who wanted to bring down the state.

From the start, the military council divided the revolutionary bloc into Islamists and liberals and stoked each camp’s fears of the other. Sometimes they would cozy up to the Islamists and gesture to the liberals, who would come running, frightened of an Islamist constitution. Then, after having appeased the liberals, the council worked to win back the Islamists’ favor. In this way, those who were once comrades in the revolution have moved into an endless cycle of infighting and accusations that have fragmented and weakened the forces of the revolution.

Furthermore, the military council organized elections in a way that completely excludes the young revolutionaries from Parliament and will likely ensure that the Islamists obtain the majority. To be fair, I admit that the Islamists do enjoy a real popularity in the street and are bound to obtain a large number of the votes in a fair election. But what has happened is something different. A supreme electoral commission was brought in to help, but rather did nothing to enforce the law and completely ignored electoral crimes committed by the Islamists. Then, when it was clear to all that the Islamists would win most of the seats, the military council exploited the fears of the liberals and formed an advisory council to cut the Islamists down to size. The conflict has raged on between the revolutionary partners in a way that will maintain the military council’s place in power.

In this way, the Egyptian revolution has been thwarted. One final step is still needed to put an end to the revolution. With the revolutionaries excluded from Parliament and discredited, all that is left is for a crushing blow to break the will of the revolutionaries. As for the submissive sector of society, its anxiety about all the crises and conflicts has turned into real hatred for the revolution; such Egyptians are openly nostalgic for the days of Mubarak, when their lives might have been servile and humiliating but they were stable and safe.

Massacres have been organized, all in the same manner: the security forces deploy thugs, who start fires at government buildings and carry out acts of vandalism. Egyptians panic and believe that the revolutionaries are the culprits. Brutal attacks on demonstrators follow, not just to kill and blind them, but to frighten all Egyptians back into subservience and submission.

Anyone who has seen the appalling crimes the security forces and army have committed against demonstrators is bound to wonder why they deliberately beat and abuse demonstrators in the open. The only purpose is to break the will of Egyptians and make them submissive again. The aim is to make us submit to the will of overwhelming authority, to make sure the rabbits go back into their cages so that the military council can lock them up. Then the Mubarak regime can do what it likes with Egypt.

The demonstrators’ determination to stand firm against the security forces, whatever the sacrifices, stems from a feeling that they are the revolution’s only remaining force. They are dying, not to defend Mohamed Mahmoud Street or the sit-in at the prime minister’s office, but in defense of the revolution. Every time the Mubarak regime rallies to deliver the final blow to the revolution, it has met fierce resistance from the revolutionaries, a resistance that upsets their plans and forces them to commit more barbaric crimes in order to break the will of the revolutionaries.

The will of the revolution has not yet been broken and the more brutal the Mubarak regime grows, the stiffer the resistance. Now it is our duty to rise above all differences and unite against the Mubarak regime that is committing all these crimes. Despite the many flaws, I think we must accept the results of the elections and give our full support to the next People’s Assembly, because in the end it is the only body elected by the Egyptian people. All efforts must be concerted in one direction: a transfer of power from the military council to a civilian government formed by the People’s Assembly, today rather than tomorrow.


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