Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt – Days of Rage

Having been to Egypt twice and admittedly having a soft spot for the country and its people, I have been following the Egyptian Revolution closely. Inspired by the successful uprising in Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets last week protesting poverty, rampant unemployment, government corruption and the 30 year autocratic governance of President Hosni Mubarak. With protests turning violent and the death toll currently standing at over 300 and rising, Mubarak refusing to relinquish power before September, and the rest of the world watching in horror as violent clashes are broadcast over the news, I thought it appropriate to sit back and examine my own opinion on the turn of events.
With my first visit to Egypt, I was expectedly overwhelmed by the breadth of history and culture of the country. A nation with thousands of years of history, monuments, temples and pyramids symbolic of a nation steeped in mystery, a people who are resourceful and understatedly passionate. Watching images on CNN over the last few days, I saw places that I have been and even some people I have met and I saw the usual organized bustle replaced with chaos and violence. Watching the images on television I was haunted by the words I heard 4 years ago “One day the Egyptian people will have had enough of Mubarak and we will stand up and fight” and that day came!

During the last 30 years Mubarak became increasingly unpopular being uncomfortable bed fellows with the likes of Israel and the US and were perceived as serving the interest of the West and not that of the Egyptian people. A view that also seemed to have permeated through to the Arab world. Throw in oppression, poverty, abuse of power and torture and no matter how patient a nation is, a point will be reached when the pot will boil over. A nation can only be oppressed for so long before the cracks will start to show and power will shift.
For many the Egyptian Revolution brings a sense of discomfort as the perceived status qou have been disrupted. Allies are uncertain of their future relations with Egypt; fear the strengthening of the Arab world and the radicalization of Muslims. The West’s strongest Arab ally is about to transform and uncertainty is gnawing at their already tested nerves. And as the whole world watches political and economical fallout seems to overshadow the actual plight and fight of the Egyptian people.

We far too often forget about the human aspects of violent revolutions. We forget that the people we see being tear gassed, shot at and run over by tanks or trucks are someone’s brother, father, son or grandchild. We neglect to understand the history and oppression on a grass root level and how the people protesting have been affected in their daily lives and what drove them the boiling point they find themselves. We speculate about their futures and our governments try to influence the outcome in favour of their own political agendas, and this in my opinion is wrong.
Egypt is a country with so much more to offer than pyramids and temples. Sure this is one of the reasons people visit the country as tourism is one of the larger contributors to its economy. When I read reports of Egyptians protecting and warding off looters at libraries, museums and temples in Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria, I once again came to realize that the true value of that country is its people - People amidst violent chaos risking their own lives to preserve and protect their heritage and culture. People who are proud, patriotic and passionate.

Egypt is facing a precarious and volatile time. As the protest gets more violent and more people are killed and injured and as Mubarak is systematically ousted a void will need to be filled. New leaders will emerge and whether they will be nationalist or Islamist, civilian or military is anybody’s guess and everybody’s concern. Whatever happens in Egypt in the following days and months to come is sure to make and leave a large impact on the region. Similar protest have broken out in Yemen and said to soon spread to Jordan. I believe nations should not interfere unduly in these protest and provide Egypt and similarly other affected countries the opportunity for their own people to resolve their issues. We as the voyeurs to this historic event in Egypt’s history should be mindful of our responsibility as well – making sure it is accurately documented, people survive it with dignity and applying an uneasy patience of which so many of us are unaccustomed too.
As the Egyptian Protests (also being referred to as Days of Rage, the Papyrus Revolution and the Lotus Revolution) continues, let our thoughts be with the people living through what can only be described as frightening and let’s not forget their humanity. I, for one, am looking forward to again visit Egypt sometime in the near future and to be with its people but the next time finding them free and living in a democracy.

Till next time.


Jason said...

Deeply interesting post, Egypt is a lovely Country and one can only hope that there is not further blood shed in the fight for freedom, although, a democracy, I fear is a long way off.

Pierre said...

@Jason, I agree a democracy is optimistic, but then again I am cursed with always trying to see the glass as half full.

Jason Shaw said...

The glass, half full. I agree, but sometimes its hard to look on the bright side with positivity.

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