- Photo from Daily Times
- cartoon from nj.com
- Glimpses of the protest in Cairo - Photos
- Bye Bye Mubarak from Ramy Rizkallah on Vimeo.
- “Our Hope Increases Day After Day”: Longtime Egyptian Human Rights Activist Nawal El Saadawi A video on Democracy Now
- Nawal El-Saadawi: "50 Pounds and a Chicken to Beat Us"
- The Egyptian Revolution engenders values and a new social decade (Nawal El Saadawi)
- Cartoonist Patrick Blower on The tweeting Sphinx
- Live from Cairo: Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Anjali Kamat on Egypt’s “Farewell Friday”
- With peace Egyptians overthrow a dictator (Leila Fadel)
- ’Revolution in Every Street of Egypt’ (Laila Al-Arian)
- DEADLOCKED REVOLUTION (Ashok Mitra)
- Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood (Editorial, The Hindu)
- For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square (Slavoj Žižek)
- Egypt’s joy as Mubarak quits (Tariq Ali)
- Egypt’s Military Industrial Complex (Ken Stier)
1. Photo from Daily Times
- cartoon from nj.com
(the original here)
— A short video of celebrations in Cairo on evening of 11 February 2011
7. secularism is a women’s issue
12 February 2011
The Egyptian Revolution engenders values and a new social decade
by Nawal El Saadawi
(Translated By Dr. Rabia Redouane, Dept of Modern Languages, Montclair State University)
I have lived to witness and participate in the Egyptian Revolution from Jan 25, 2011 until the moment of writing this essay in the morning of Sunday, Feb 6, 2011. Millions of Egyptians, men and women, Muslims and Christians, from all doctrines and beliefs, are united against the current oppressive and corrupt regime, against its revered top pharaoh who “still holds on to his throne even if shedding his people’s blood”, against its corrupt government and the ruling party which hire mercenaries to kill the youths, against its cheating and fake parliament whose members represent illegal properties, women, drugs, and bribes, against its elites who are called ‘the educated elites’ who sold their conscience and pens , destroyed education, public and private morals and culture, and misled the public and individual opinion to gain temporary interests and ruling positions, be small or big ones.
Young men and children, men and women have spontaneously gone out of their houses, led and protected by themselves , after the security and policemen have failed and the controlling elites of culture and media have crumpled down. After the collapse of the rich and powerful and the self-interested party leaders who have explicitly and implicitly supported the regimes of corrupt dictatorships for about 50 years, opportunism and double-standard and deceiving moral values have fallen down; such values have corrupted both the family and the individuals, spreading chaos under the name of safety, dictatorship under the name of democracy, poverty and unemployment under the name of improvement and prosperity, prostitution and marriage betrayal under the name of morals and freedom of choice, humiliation by and submission to the American and Israeli colonization under the name of aids, partnership, friendship and peace process…such a regime which has jailed those with sincere and creative pens inside cells to separate them and taint their reputation, or send them in to exile inside or outside the country.
Millions of Egyptian, men and women, went out in the streets in all provinces, cities and villages, in Aswan, Alexandria, Suez, Bour Said, and all parts of the homeland. In Cairo, the capital, we have encamped in Meidan al-Tahrir for 11 days, day and night till now. Meidan al-Tahrir has become our land and our camp. We settle on its asphalt and inside tents as a solid entity of men and women…we will never leave our place even though the police, disguised in civilian clothes, attack us and even if al-Meidan is attacked (like what happened on Feb 2) by mercenaries hired by the regime. Those were given bribes (50 EGP and a chick for a soldier, and the bigger one’s rank the bigger the bribe is).They stormed into al-Meidan riding horses and camels, armed with various weapons (red, yellow, and white ones). One of the horses was about to trample on me while I was standing in al-Meidan with the young men. They carried me away from this primitive attack; I saw them with my own eyes moving around in al-Meidan, shooting everywhere. Amid the dust and smoke which surrounded al-Meidan and its surrounding buildings, I saw firing flames flying in the sky, young men falling, and blood shedding. A semi-military war broke out between the regime’s henchmen and the peaceful Egyptian people who were calling for freedom, dignity and justice. But the defense committee of the revolutionary young men managed to fight back those mercenaries and captured some horses and camels and 100 mercenaries with their IDs, among them were state security officers, central security officers, policemen, and some of them were jobless and criminals who were released from prisons. Some of them confessed that they were bribed with 200 EGP and promised with 5000 EGP if they managed to scatter the youths in al-Meidan by using their swords and sharp weapons. They described the youths who led this revolution as “the kids who made the disturbance” using the language of Mubarak’s big heads who gave orders and money.
The young men built their tents in the square to get some rest. Women with their infants lied down on the ground in the cold and rain. Hundreds of ladies and girls, never harassed by anyone, walked proudly feeling freedom, dignity, and equality among their fellows. Christians are participating in the revolution side by side with Muslims. I was surrounded by some young men from Muslims Brotherhood: they said to me “We disagree with some of your opinions in your writings but we like and respect you because you have not acted hypocritically with any regime or force inside or outside the country.” During my walk in the square, people were coming to me, men and women, from different directions, embracing and hugging me saying “Dr. Nawal, we are the new generations who have read your books and inspired by your creativity, rebellion and revolution” I swallowed my tears and said “This is a happy occasion for all of us, a celebration of freedom, dignity, equality, creativity, rebellion, and revolution.”
A young woman, named Rania, “We ask for a new constitution, a civil one, which does not segregate between races, gender, and religion.” Another young man, a Christian named Butrus Dawood, said “We want a civil personal statute which does not segregate between people in terms of doctrine, gender or religion.” A young man named Tariq al-Dimiri declared, “The young men made the revolution and we have to select our interim government and a national committee to change the constitution.” A young man, Mohamed Amin, said “We want to open the People’s Assembly and Shura Council and proceed with honest elections to choose a new president and new popular councils.” A young man named Ahmed Galal said, “We are a popular revolution that puts a new social contract, not just demands, slogan of our revolution.” Free equality, and social justice, who makes revolution is one who puts the new government rules, chooses the transitional government, selects National Committee which changes the constitution, establishes a committee of governors of the revolution so that opportunists (the owners of wealth and power) are not imposed on us. Committees of governors did not participate with us in the revolution, but comes now to us by plane from Europe or America. Among the Egyptians who lived their lives outside or inside the country now come to become leaders of the revolution. We say: “Who did the revolution are the ones who are leading the revolution. Among us governors from young people of thirty years, forty or fifty years of age. We have competencies in all scientific political and economic fields. We are the ones who form a committee of our governors and our government in transition, and the National Committee to change the constitution and laws. A young Mohamed Said said “I feel proud for the first time in my life because I am Egyptian. Despair and depression were gone and defeat was turned into victory. We paid the price of freedom with the blood of our martyrs. There is no power to bring us back.
Al-Meidan turned to an entire city with its facilities, and in the hospital thereabout sleep injured and wounded, doctors and nurses from the masses of young people volunteered, residents volunteered with blankets, medicines, cotton and gauze, food and water, something like a dream and fantasy, I am living with the young men and women day and night. Committees were formed among these young men and women to handle all chores from sweeping the Meidan to transporting the injured to hospital, providing food and medicines, taking over the defense of the Meidan and responding to the lies of the system in the media to nominate the names of the Transitional Government and the Committee of governors, and others. Walls for the houses, institutions and taboos that distinguish between citizens, women and men, Muslim and Christians or others faded. We become one nation, no divisions on the basis of sex, religion or other, all demanding the departure of Mubarak and his trial and his men in the party and the government, the bloodshed on Wednesday, 2 February and all days since 25 January, corruption and tyranny over thirty years of rule […].
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8. Cartoonist Patrick Blower
on The tweeting Sphinx
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With peace Egyptians overthrow a dictator
By Leila Fadel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 11, 2011; 8:03 PM
CAIRO - It was sparked on social-networking sites, and inspired by a revolution in Tunisia. In 18 days, it grew into something astounding - a leaderless people’s movement that at every turn outsmarted a government with an almost unblemished 30-year record of suppressing dissent.
On Friday, Egyptian pro-democracy demonstrators achieved through peaceful and determined protests what only a month ago had seemed impossible: They forced President Hosni Mubarak from office.
"Mubarak thought he was God," Ali Asam, 50, said as he stood just outside Tahrir Square, named after Arabic word for liberation. "He killed the people, he beat the people, and we won."
In the end, images of riot police and pro-government thugs attacking and killing unarmed civilians are what broke Mubarak. Rather than force people off the streets through intimidation, the violence simply galvanized more to join the revolt.
The government’s efforts to control the message by cutting off the Internet and phones, and by arresting scores of journalists and activists, similarly backfired. Each day, ever greater numbers of Egyptians turned out to the square to see for themselves the movement reshaping their country.
"They wanted to scare us," said Al-Marwa Mostafa Fahray, 33. Her face beamed as her two young daughters chanted with the crowd.
Fahray had never been politically involved before the past 18 days. She had a comfortable life with her husband and children. But she watched the security forces detain hundreds of people and kill hundreds more. She could no longer sit back, she said.
"I knew even if I had to die, or even if my kids had to die, I should come and fight with the people; you have to sacrifice to get something great," she said Friday night as impromptu dance parties broke out across the capital.
Despite the government’s efforts to sow violence that could be pinned on the demonstrators, the vast majority did not take the bait.
In the first days of the protests, they were attacked with high-pressure water hoses, tear gas, birdshot, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Protesters responded with rocks, but also with pamphlets instructing demonstrators to appeal to the police as fellow Egyptians.
When police withdrew from the streets and prisoners were released from their cells, Egyptians formed security committees to protect their neighborhoods. And when pro-Mubarak forces - many of them thought to be paid thugs and undercover police - attacked anti-government demonstrators, the protesters fought back but did not escalate the violence.
More than 300 people were killed over the past 18 days, with each death giving the movement more momentum. In Tahrir Square, posters of the dead grace every corner. A curly haired girl named Sally, a man named Hassan, a boy named Mohammed.
"You will not be forgotten," many of the posters say.
On Friday night in Tahrir Square, the euphoria was intoxicating and the joy unparalleled, as women and men made up songs to celebrate their victory. The Qasr Al Nil Bridge that leads to the square was filled with people blowing horns and swaying to the music blasting from cars.
"Hold your head up high. You are Egyptian," protesters chanted after the announcement that Mubarak would step down.
People wept for the dead, but with pride and a sense of nationalism that they said they had never had before. A circle of men and women chanted to the beat of a drum, "You can sleep peacefully now," a reference to those who were killed.
"This is the holiest place on the planet," said Hassan Abu Baqr. The university professor came to the square from the hospital, where his granddaughter had been born just as Mubarak’s ouster was announced. He calls her the "liberation baby."
He stood on the side of the road and congratulated each person who passed him.
"Where else on the planet do you have a people that overthrow their dictator completely peacefully," he said.
Nearby, Marwan Saleh, 34, stood silent and absorbed every moment.By phone, he updated his Facebook status to tell people about the joy, the flags waving in the air and the songs being sung about the love of Egypt. For now the battle was over. The battle was won, he said.
"Today, finally, after all these days, after all the injustices, after all the killing. Now it’s time to enjoy and celebrate," he said. "We will never forget the people who died for this."
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11. The Nation
’Revolution in Every Street of Egypt’
February 11, 2011
CAIRO – The demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak have transformed the city from an overcrowded metropolis with chronic traffic jams to a battlefield of wills between the protesters and the president’s men, those charged with beating back the demands for change.
The battle seemed to reach a climax of sorts on February 10, as millions of people around the world were glued to their television and computer screens waiting for an expected announcement that Mubarak would step down. But that did not come to pass. Instead, Mubarak announced that he had merely appointed two committees to look into amending six articles of Egypt’s constitution, allowing for free and fair elections, and that he would lift the emergency law once the security situation improved. In Tahrir Square, shock quickly turned to anger, as hundreds of people took off their shoes and began waving them at Mubarak’s face on the huge screen playing his speech.
Earlier in the day, a military commander in Cairo, Gen. Hassan al-Roueini, had raised hopes that the end of Mubarak’s reign was near when he told tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir, “All your demands will be met today.”
Enraged by Mubarak’s refusal to leave, hundreds of thousands turned out again on Friday, filling not only Tahrir Square but marching on the presidential palace and the state media headquarters. By the end of the day, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television that the president had resigned and handed over power to the army.
I was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the second week of demonstrations, a crucial turning point, when the massive crowds of protesters were met by organized thugs from state security, which resulted in a battle that only invigorated the protesters.
On the evening of February 1, the atmosphere in Tahrir was electric. Tens of thousands of protesters huddled in the square, carrying handwritten signs, displaying banners and chanting. “Mubarak—you must leave! We will not leave!” they yelled, and “Mubarak, you coward, you American collaborator!” The mood was almost celebratory, with people serving Styrofoam cups of black tea to each other and posing happily for photographs.
“It’s like Hyde Park meets Woodstock,” one Egyptian-American who attended the demonstrations put it. In between the chants, many in the crowd whistled and clapped. “I can’t believe this is our country,” one man said, his voice filled with amazement. In a corner, a row of veiled women held an impromptu concert, singing: “We say no to injustice/We say no to oppression/Freedom will always be the essence of life."
Groups of men lined up for sunset prayer. The people were happy to defy the government’s 3 pm curfew. A banner declared, “The curfew applies only to Mubarak." Protest organizers, wanting to ensure that their rally remained peaceful, ordered volunteers to search attendees for weapons and required everyone entering the square to present identification. The atmosphere was controlled and civil.
That evening, Mubarak went on state television to announce his intention to complete his term before stepping down in September. “On this land I will die,” he vowed, dismissing the demand that he leave the country. The following day, Mubarak’s supporters unleashed their attacks against the protesters. Groups of young men, believed to be plainclothes members of the country’s vast security apparatus, arrived in buses and marched to Tahrir Square armed with clubs, knives, rocks and Molotov cocktails. Some of them entered on horseback and camels, determined to beat back the protesters they accused of bringing the country, and its economy, to a standstill. They called the democracy advocates “traitors” and accused them of being driven by foreign elements, an erroneous claim that had been constantly trumpeted on state television.
They also targeted journalists, threatening anyone seen holding a notebook or recorder and physically attacking photographers. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented at least 140 attacks on journalists and news facilities since January 30. I was mobbed after I snapped a picture of a Mubarak supporter who’d been injured. He was unable to walk on his own, so two of his friends held him up. He approached me and yelled at me to delete the photograph at once. Later, at the hotel where I was staying, about a two-minute walk from the square, a waiter approached me and told me that he had seen me taking photographs of the protesters in Tahrir. When I asked him if he had been there to protest, he responded, “No. I was there to watch,” before walking away. Secret police swept through all the hotels in the area looking for journalists and seeking to seize their equipment. Many reporters were prevented from leaving their hotels to cover the events, and they were eventually told they could not enter the square without applying for local press credentials, a lengthy bureaucratic process.
Near the rock-throwing pro-government youth, a group of men approached me to share their side of the story—one, they said, that had been under-reported. “We lived here in Egypt in security for thirty years. In six days, we’ve lived without any security,” said Adel Syed, 45. “There is corruption. I won’t dispute that. But Mubarak told them everything they want to hear, and they’re still not happy."
The government supporters blamed outside influence for the protests, claiming, without providing any evidence, that they were organized, in part, by Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip, in order to ensure the opening of Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza. They also blamed Iran, the United States and the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, for having a hand in the massive demonstrations.
“The protesters want Egypt to collapse, but it won’t. It never will,” said Tarek El-Doussouky, a 46-year-old lawyer wearing a beige suit. “The Egyptian people are aware of the foreign intervention.”
Hazem Abdul Wahd, 35, who also works as a lawyer, agreed. “There are outsiders trying to implement a foreign political agenda,” he said. “Those people are not real Egyptians. They are Egyptians living abroad. There are Iranians and Palestinians in there,” he added, referring to the square. “There are 85 million Egyptians,” El-Doussouky said, “and you’re not hearing from them. The majority agrees with us." As I prepared to leave, the group started chanting, “We will die and Mubarak should live. We will die for him."
On February 3, Liberation Square looked like a war zone, with rubble strewn everywhere and shell-shocked survivors distributing sandwiches and bottled water. Evidence of the running battles between supporters of Mubarak and the protesters trapped in the square overnight was all around. Some of the protesters were eager to share their stories. Others looked like zombies, dazed and traumatized by the night’s events. There were many people with bandages on their heads, faces and arms.
Eman, a protester and volunteer who had spent the previous week at the square, stood guard at one of the square’s entrances, across from the Qasr al Nil Bridge. With tears in her eyes, she recalled the events of the past day. “Look around,” she said, pointing to the large pieces of concrete littering the ground. “We’ve been here for days, and this destruction never happened. We always made sure to keep this place clean. We’re peaceful protesters. But Mubarak’s hired thugs came here to drive us out. They didn’t succeed. We’re here to stay, because we have a cause. They don’t."
At least six people were killed and 800 injured in the battle of Tahrir, according to the Ministry of Health. People in the square are now trying to make sense of the deaths, calling those who gave their lives martyrs. Fathi Abdul-Rahman of Alexandria said he came under attack from plainclothes police officers on February 2. He pointed to his head, where he had just gotten seven stitches. He said Mubarak’s supporters called him a traitor, a collaborator and an infidel before they started pelting him with huge rocks. “They only stopped after they thought I died!” he said. Around him a crowd began chanting, “The people want the execution of the butcher,” referring to Mubarak.
“Please tell the world that the protesters in Tahrir Square spent a night in which not a single one of them thought they would see the next day because of what those mad people did,” said Muhammad Abdel-Monim, a teacher from the governorate of Ash Sharqiya. “The police, who are supposed to protect the people, killed the people. This is the regime of Hosni Mubarak, which said it would bring safety and security to Egyptians."
The protesters were convinced that the pro-Mubarak crowd was bought and paid for. Muhammad Farooq, 23, of Helwan, which sits on the Nile south of Cairo, said in his neighborhood he saw security officers distributing money and chicken dinners to anyone who agreed to disrupt the protests in Tahrir. "My mother was shocked. The whole neighborhood was. People said ‘You sold your country for forty pounds.’ They are traitors."
Ahmed Al-Sawy Ali, a doctor who treated many of the victims, said he had no doubt that the perpetrators were hired guns. “They are of course free to express their opinions, but they physically attacked us. Where would regular protesters supporting Hosni Mubarak get Molotov cocktails? Where did they get all the weapons and camels from, the knives?” he said referring to the weapons the government supporters used. "There were people, among the protesters, who supported the president after his speech on Tuesday,” Ali said. “But after yesterday’s events, they’ve turned against him. But what happened to us—these are war crimes that Mubarak should be tried for."
Ali, 26, from the governorate of Asyut in Upper Egypt, said he joined the protest on January 28 to demand change in Egypt, where he lacks opportunity as a doctor earning 350 Egyptian pounds, or $60, a month. He said he could not afford to get married. “I spent six, seven, years in medical school and my salary is so low. As soon as Hosni leaves, I told my fiancée, we’re going to get married in Tahrir Square."
Throughout the morning of February 3, there was a sense of foreboding in the air. The wounded were treated in a makeshift clinic, while the crowds chanted defiantly. “Oh Mubarak—wake up. Today is the last day!" Hours later, Mubarak’s supporters were back, replacing the chanting voices with bursts of gunfire. But that didn’t seem to break the protesters’ momentum. Mustafa Al-Suroor, an engineer, said he joined the gathering in Tahrir precisely because of Mubarak’s violent response. “When I heard that my countrymen were being slaughtered, I said, How could I live in the country after this? I have to joint them in support.” The more brutal the government response, the more people will come out to join the demonstrations, he said. “This is a popular movement fighting a dictatorship,” he said. “We want democracy. Either our demands are met, or we will die here.”
Since those days, the crowds in Tahrir have only grown, as the veteran protesters who have been camped out for over two weeks were joined by thousands of striking workers, including doctors, lawyers and bus drivers.
As the movement grew this week, many demonstrators were increasingly optimistic that Mubarak’s departure was imminent. But they made clear that they would not stop at the president’s resignation. “No concessions or surrender until the entire regime falls,” they roared on February 10. After they heard Mubarak’s defiant speech, their chants, too, became more defiant. “Thawra thawra hatta el nasr/ thawra fi kul shwari’ masr.” Revolution, revolution until victory. Revolution in every street of Egypt. Their resistance has now, finally, swept Mubarak from power. It remains to be seen whether his departure will bring about a genuine democracy.
Laila Al-Arian is a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English. She helped produce the network’s Palestine Papers...
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— The future may be uncertain, but the anger demands recognition
CUTTING CORNERS: Ashok Mitra
Such are the ironies of history. If Tunisia had not exploded, Egypt, it is more than likely, would not have witnessed the awesome people’s uprising. Tunisia is only one-sixth the size of Egypt; its population is barely 10 million as against Egypt’s 70 million; its geopolitical importance is piffle compared to the country mounting guard over the Suez Canal. And yet, because Tunisians had more than enough of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s long, oppressive rule and, chose, in a sudden burst of emotion, to topple the tyrant, the people of Egypt too discovered the courage to give themselves a revolution. The little one set the example, the big one took the cue. Hosni Mubarak’s regime was even more claustrophobic than the Tunisian monarchy; it was also shot full of corruption. Egyptians have suffered him over the span of three decades. They seethed in anger, but did not quite know what to do with that anger. An external occurrence now provided the enlightenment: it is courage that matters. It took a bare week following the events in Tunisia for Egyptians to break out into one of the most magnificent displays of people’s power the world has ever seen; the message is bold and clear: tyranny shall not pass.
The sequence of happenings, it could well be claimed, proves the relevance of the old theme: the valour of a few quickly draws in admiring joiners, the few soon turn into hundreds, at the next hop the hundreds become thousands and an astounding multiplier effect sets to work, the entire nation learns to march together in quest of a common goal. Only in the present instance the few who started the fire sparked it off in a different country. No matter, even an external stimulus did it for Egypt.
The crucial question, however, remains: what shape the Egyptian people will give to their revolution or whether the conspiracy of circumstances will render it into a great disappointment. It is still a complex, confusing picture. The revolt had a single-point agenda: to get rid of the tyrant-in-residence. It has been a long roster of pent-up discontent from different sections of society; about everybody joined in the collective protest — the working class and the huge multitude of the unemployed, vast segments of the middle class, the younger generation, housewives squeezed by inflation, including those who wore the burqa and those who did not. Few amongst the millions who rose in revolt had thought out a priori — not even in vague outline — precisely what kind of future they were looking forward to once their initial target was accomplished. Only after they discovered themselves as architects of an actual revolution and a panicky president of the United States of America issued a cryptic statement hoping for a peaceful transition in their country, which Egyptians interpreted as a hint to Mubarak to disappear without fuss, thought turned to the nitty-gritty issue of the nature of the post-revolution polity. Lacking a homogeneous ideological base, diverse groups among those mounting the ramparts nurture widely differing notions about how to rebuild the administration and the country, and whom to call upon to shoulder this responsibility. At one end is the generation of youngsters enthused by the writings of Edward Said, at the other is the well-knit organization of the Muslim Brotherhood keen to drag Egypt into the tentacles of rigorous discipline and religious rituals. Mubarak’s insensate, repressive rule has been the Brotherhood’s opportunity; many helpless, persecuted people, hemmed in by the regime’s authoritarian ways, tended to escape into the seeming tranquillity the sanctum of religious orthodoxy offered.
Even as millions were shouting themselves hoarse demanding Mubarak’s departure, dissonance, therefore, reared its head over what arrival should follow the departure. Mubarak and his confidants could have been waiting for this moment. The president disowned by the people has finally made his much anticipated statement agreeing to vacate the seat of power, but has added a defiant proviso: he would leave only after the verdict of the national elections he has scheduled for September is out. He has also reshuffled his cabinet of ministers, installed a vice-president, and his prime minister has apologized to the people for the casualties caused by police and security excesses, and invited rebels for talks. At the time of writing, the vice-president is confabulating with representatives of a cross-section of the insurgency groups on the issue of a new, democratic constitution for the nation; there is, however, no mention of Mubarak’s agreeing to go away at this instant.
Conceivably, all this is a façade. The US has been the guardian angel of the Mubarak regime all along. The Egyptian army has a symbiotic relationship with the Pentagon. Perhaps advised by friends in Washington, it has behaved with circumspection with the chanting crowds choking the streets and squares of Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere. There was enough confidence too that the insurgents would begin speaking in different voices the moment talks are initiated on the details of the interim arrangements to follow. Whatever the intensity of Egyptian determination to see the last of Mubarak, it could not sway the US to overlook its global strategic interests. Mubarak has been America’s most faithful friend in the Middle East after the Saudi kings as also one of the two pivots of their policy planning for the region. The other pivot is, of course, Israel. No administration in the US can afford, for reasons of domestic politics, to alienate the Israelis. President Barack Obama cannot quite give marching orders to Mubarak without considering its consequences. The set-up replacing the Mubarak regime, Israel needs to be assured, would not affect its security concerns.
For both the US and Israel, the major imperative is to prevent the best organized national group, the Muslim Brotherhood, from infiltrating into power in the wake of Mubarak’s dethronement. The American administration will be most reluctant to let go of its tacit support for Mubarak unless it is sanguine that, whatever else happens, the Brotherhood would be no part of the new administration. But it has also to take into account the other danger: a prolongation of the impasses in Egypt might actually aggravate anti-American sentiments across the entire region.
It will obviously be wishful to think that an ideal people’s republic would be the bequest of the revolution. Passion ignited the revolution. Passion by itself, though, cannot reconstruct the rundown system. Other inputs are called for, including exercises aimed at balancing the interests of different social groups that have been an integral part of the uprising.
Once the emotional fervour has abated, exhausted citizens can be expected to withdraw from city squares and street corners; the process has already started. People will be going home with a sense of half-fulfilment. At this point they do not quite know whether they have succeeded in removing their bete noire; they have, however, extracted from him at least half a promise to quit in about six months or thereabouts. This commitment, it is being assumed, is underwritten by the US.
Is there much reason for despondency at this dénouement of the people’s wondrous awakening in Egypt? Perhaps not. Revolution is always an uncertain quantity, its outcome satisfies some, disappoints many others, or it can be the other way round. The overriding objective reality still cries out to be taken cognizance of: the Arab world, the full stretch of it, is in a ferment. The fire must have been burning subterraneously for years; it has now emerged to consume one ancient regime after another in the region. Sultans and sheikhs have shortchanged the Arab people for long, ensconced in their belief that the US, where they have stashed most of the wealth they have amassed by exploiting their subjects, would protect them for ever. The internal combustion is of such force that the support of an external ally, even if the ally happens to be the world’s mightiest power, is of no avail. Tunisia has been followed by not just Egypt; the rulers of Yemen and Jordan, too, have failed to escape the heat.
What is amusing is the coy, frightened reaction of the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi to the developments in Egypt. Half a dozen heads of government in Europe, including those of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, have issued a joint statement suggesting Hosni Mubarak abides by the will of the people; they are surely worried no end over the prospect of another ‘oil shock’ in case instability in Egypt shuts down the Suez Canal. India, though, is awaiting a more positive signal from the US of which it is the most loyal strategic ally. Is it equally anxious not to ruffle the feathers of its other strategic ally, Israel? There is food for thought here: India, once the self-proclaimed helmsman of Afro-Asian resurgence, has now its closest relationship in the Middle East not with any of the Arab countries, not with Iran, but with Israel.
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13. The Hindu, 11 February 2011
Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood
It is apparent that the Muslim Brotherhood is positioning itself for a role in a post-Mubarak Egypt. The al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen has emerged as the largest and most organised political opposition in the country. The group initially stayed away from the uprising, perhaps unsure of how, as an Islamist movement, it should respond to the spontaneous and non-religious character of the protests. But when it became clear that the snowballing protests had loosened President Hosni Mubarak’s grip on Egypt, the Ikhwan made it known that it could not be ignored in the transition to a new set-up. Using its organisational strengths, the Ikhwan mobilised large numbers of its supporters for the protests. And despite being banned from political activity, it accepted with alacrity an invitation from Vice-President Omar Suleiman for discussions on how the political transition should take place. The objective of the Brotherhood is to create a state governed by the Sharia but in recent days it has hastened to project a more pragmatic image of itself to domestic and international audiences. This has been through reassurances that it was working towards a democracy in Egypt.
Indeed, some of the fears surrounding the Ikhwan were clearly exaggerated by Mr. Mubarak to his main benefactor, the United States, in order to perpetuate his regime. Even so, concerns remain about what the rise of the “brothers” could mean for Egypt itself, for the volatile West Asian region, and for the rest of the world. Formed in 1928 as an Islamist nationalist movement to fight the colonial regime, it spawned several offshoots and has become influential in countries across the region. A key question to emerge from the unfolding uprising in Egypt is what it holds for the Palestine-Israel conflict, particularly as the Palestinian Hamas is a wing of the Brotherhood. The group has officially renounced violence and is critical of al-Qaeda. For Egyptians who count themselves as secular and moderate, the Ikhwan’s views on religious minorities and women, and its other illiberal beliefs are a source of major concern. But it is still an open question if it can emerge as the most powerful political force in a democratic Egypt. In the Mubarak regime, it enjoyed support among Egypt’s middle classes as it was the only opposition. It fared well even in the country’s notoriously fraudulent 2005 elections, winning as many as 80 parliamentary seats out of a total of 454. A brutal crackdown on the Ikhwan by a rattled regime ensured it did not win any seats in the 2010 elections. Even though in recent days it might have lost points for its initial reluctance to join the protests, and then for engaging with the regime on transition talks, a fair election would see it doing well. For now, though, it would have to compete with other political forces.
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For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square
There is no room for compromise. Either the entire Mubarak edifice falls, or the uprising is betrayed
by Slavoj Žižek
One cannot but note the "miraculous" nature of the events in Egypt: something has happened that few predicted, violating the experts’ opinions, as if the uprising was not simply the result of social causes but the intervention of a mysterious agency that we can call, in a Platonic way, the eternal idea of freedom, justice and dignity.
The uprising was universal: it was immediately possible for all of us around the world to identify with it, to recognise what it was about, without any need for cultural analysis of the features of Egyptian society. In contrast to Iran’s Khomeini revolution (where leftists had to smuggle their message into the predominantly Islamist frame), here the frame is clearly that of a universal secular call for freedom and justice, so that the Muslim Brotherhood had to adopt the language of secular demands.
The most sublime moment occurred when Muslims and Coptic Christians engaged in common prayer on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, chanting "We are one!" – providing the best answer to the sectarian religious violence. Those neocons who criticise multiculturalism on behalf of the universal values of freedom and democracy are now confronting their moment of truth: you want universal freedom and democracy? This is what people demand in Egypt, so why are the neocons uneasy? Is it because the protesters in Egypt mention freedom and dignity in the same breath as social and economic justice?
From the start, the violence of the protesters has been purely symbolic, an act of radical and collective civil disobedience. They suspended the authority of the state – it was not just an inner liberation, but a social act of breaking chains of servitude. The physical violence was done by the hired Mubarak thugs entering Tahrir Square on horses and camels and beating people; the most protesters did was defend themselves.
Although combative, the message of the protesters has not been one of killing. The demand was for Mubarak to go, and thus open up the space for freedom in Egypt, a freedom from which no one is excluded – the protesters’ call to the army, and even the hated police, was not "Death to you!", but "We are brothers! Join us!". This feature clearly distinguishes an emancipatory demonstration from a rightwing populist one: although the right’s mobilisation proclaims the organic unity of the people, it is a unity sustained by a call to annihilate the designated enemy (Jews, traitors).
So where are we now? When an authoritarian regime approaches the final crisis, its dissolution tends to follow two steps. Before its actual collapse, a rupture takes place: all of a sudden people know that the game is over, they are simply no longer afraid. It is not only that the regime loses its legitimacy; its exercise of power itself is perceived as an impotent panic reaction. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice but goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down …
In Shah of Shahs, a classic account of the Khomeini revolution, Ryszard Kapuscinski located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroads, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman withdrew; within hours, all Tehran knew about this incident, and although street fights went on for weeks, everyone somehow knew the game was over.
Is something similar going on in Egypt? For a couple of days at the beginning, it looked like Mubarak was already in the situation of the proverbial cat. Then we saw a well-planned operation to kidnap the revolution. The obscenity of this was breathtaking: the new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a former secret police chief responsible for mass tortures, presented himself as the "human face" of the regime, the person to oversee the transition to democracy.
Egypt’s struggle of endurance is not a conflict of visions, it is the conflict between a vision of freedom and a blind clinging to power that uses all means possible – terror, lack of food, simple tiredness, bribery with raised salaries – to squash the will to freedom.
When President Obama welcomed the uprising as a legitimate expression of opinion that needs to be acknowledged by the government, the confusion was total: the crowds in Cairo and Alexandria did not want their demands to be acknowledged by the government, they denied the very legitimacy of the government. They didn’t want the Mubarak regime as a partner in a dialogue, they wanted Mubarak to go. They didn’t simply want a new government that would listen to their opinion, they wanted to reshape the entire state. They don’t have an opinion, they are the truth of the situation in Egypt. Mubarak understands this much better than Obama: there is no room for compromise here, as there was none when the Communist regimes were challenged in the late 1980s. Either the entire Mubarak power edifice falls down, or the uprising is co-opted and betrayed.
And what about the fear that, after the fall of Mubarak, the new government will be hostile towards Israel? If the new government is genuinely the expression of a people that proudly enjoys its freedom, then there is nothing to fear: antisemitism can only grow in conditions of despair and oppression. (A CNN report from an Egyptian province showed how the government is spreading rumours there that the organisers of the protests and foreign journalists were sent by the Jews to weaken Egypt – so much for Mubarak as a friend of the Jews.)
One of the cruellest ironies of the current situation is the west’s concern that the transition should proceed in a "lawful" way – as if Egypt had the rule of law until now. Are we already forgetting that, for many long years, Egypt was in a permanent state of emergency? Mubarak suspended the rule of law, keeping the entire country in a state of political immobility, stifling genuine political life. It makes sense that so many people on the streets of Cairo claim that they now feel alive for the first time in their lives. Whatever happens next, what is crucial is that this sense of "feeling alive" is not buried by cynical realpolitik.
• Slavoj Žižek is coeditor of The Idea of Communism, published by Verso Books.
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Egypt’s joy as Mubarak quits
With Hosni Mubarak’s departure, the age of political reason is returning to Egypt and the wider Arab world
by Tariq Ali
Egyptian anti government protesters shout slogans as they continue their presence in Tahrir square Egypt’s turning point: Anti-government protesters in Tahrir square. Photograph: Andre Pain/EPA
A joyous night in Cairo. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square they’re chanting, "Egypt is free" and "We won!"
The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his $40bn loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.
Arab history, despite appearances, is not static. Soon after the Israeli victory of 1967 that marked the defeat of secular Arab nationalism, one of the great Arab poets, Nizar Qabbani wrote:
Corn ears of the future,
You will break our chains.
Kill the opium in our heads,
Kill the illusions.
Don’t read about our suffocated generation,
We are a hopeless case,
As worthless as a water-melon rind.
Don’t read about us,
Don’t ape us,
Don’t accept us,
Don’t accept our ideas,
We are a nation of crooks and jugglers.
Corn ears of the future,
You are the generation that will overcome defeat.
How happy he would have been to seen his prophecy being fulfilled.
The new wave of mass opposition has happened at a time where there are no radical nationalist parties in the Arab world, and this has dictated the tactics: huge assemblies in symbolic spaces posing an immediate challenge to authority – as if to say, we are showing our strength, we don’t want to test it because we neither organised for that nor are we prepared, but if you mow us down remember the world is watching.
Egypt’s vice president Suleiman makes the announcement that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman makes the announcement that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down Photograph: AP
This dependence on global public opinion is moving, but is also a sign of weakness. Had Obama and the Pentagon ordered the Egyptian army to clear the square – however high the cost – the generals would have obeyed orders, but it would have been an extremely risky operation for them, if not for Obama. It could have split the high command from ordinary soldiers and junior officers, many of whose relatives and families are demonstrating and many of whom know and feel that the masses are on the right side. That would have meant a revolutionary upheaval of a sort that neither Washington nor the Muslim Brotherhood – the party of cold calculation – desired.
The show of popular strength was enough to get rid of the current dictator. He’d only go if the US decided to take him away. After much wobbling, they did. They had no other serious option left. The victory, however, belongs to the Egyptian people whose unending courage and sacrifices made all this possible.
And so it ended badly for Mubarak and his old henchman. Having unleashed security thugs only a fortnight ago, Vice-President Suleiman’s failure to dislodge the demonstrators from the square was one more nail in the coffin. The rising tide of the Egyptian masses with workers coming out on strike , judges demonstrating on the streets, and the threat of even larger crowds next week, made it impossible for Washington to hang on to Mubarak and his cronies. The man Hillary Clinton had referred to as a loyal friend, indeed "family", was dumped. The US decided to cut its losses and authorised the military intervention.
Omar Suleiman, an old western favourite, was selected as vice-president by Washington, endorsed by the EU, to supervise an "orderly transition". Suleiman was always viewed by the people as a brutal and corrupt torturer, a man who not only gives orders, but participates in the process. A WikiLeaks document had a former US ambassador praising him for not being "squeamish". The new vice president had warned the protesting crowds last Tuesday that if they did not demobilise themselves voluntarily, the army was standing by: a coup might be the only option left. It was, but against the dictator they had backed for 30 years. It was the only way to stabilise the country. There could be no return to "normality".
The age of political reason is returning to the Arab world. The people are fed up of being colonised and bullied. Meanwhile, the political temperature is rising in Jordan, Algeria and Yemen.
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16. Egypt’s Military Industrial Complex
by Ken Stier Wednesday, Feb. 09, 201