Maswood Alam Khan from Maryland, USA
First in Tunisia, now in Egypt, people in Africa have been learning to dethrone the autocrats. The Tunisian turmoil began with frustrations over rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption. The same and similar problems have also left many people in Egypt feeling frustrated and resentful of their leadership. Tunisia had erupted. Egypt has erupted.
The latest uprising in Egypt, after 30 years of autocracy by Mr Mubarak, has united all the Egyptians, irrespective of their social and religious status. Under Mr Mubarak, all social and political segments, call them secular democrats, socialists, communists and even the Islamists, had to bear the unbearable weights of suppression and oppression. The economically struggling or the prosperous, the secular or the religious, the Christians or the Muslims are all on the streets of Egypt to see Mr Mubarak deposed. The question no longer is whether Mr Mubarak should go, but who may take his place if he steps down.
Sensing Mr Mubarak’s ploy to kill time and let the momentum of the protest run out of steam by cosmetic changes in his cabinet Egyptian protestors have become adamant; they want a CHANGE in the truest sense of the term, not simply political or cultural changes, but a change for their living a better life in financial terms. They want jobs, money in their pockets, a comfortable shelter to live in. But such a CHANGE may not be in the offing in the Egyptian horizon immediately with the change of the Mubarak regime. The country has been crippled by corruption and mismanagement during Mr Mubarak’s 30-year tyrannical rule.
Many Egyptians and many critics of Mr Mubarak’s autocratic rule may find it heartening to see him on the ropes and some may even draw a comparison to the fall of Shah of Iran in 1979. But one should not forget that the present situation in Egypt is different; there is no Khomeini in Egypt. The present upheavals are a revolution without a leader to lead the masses. The masses have ironically been rallied not by any conventional politician but by messages posted on two new information tools: FaceBook and Twitter.
A new mode of revolution has arrived in the world of politics. Those holding dictatorial power in the name of autocracy or democracy, those who think they can afford to turn a deaf ear to the protesting voices of the suppressed people and those who think by crushing the opposition leaders they can perpetuate their reign should take a lesson from the Egyptian unrest: nowadays masses without a leader may also come to streets and force the tyrants out of their thrones, thanks to unprecedented social networking in the modern civilization of information technology.
The ongoing events in Egypt have unnerved the political pundits and media giants alike. It is inconceivable to many how a country which enjoys near-unparalleled relationship with America, being the recipient of the largest amount of US Foreign Aid in the Arab world, be in such a political quagmire!
Washington is truly worried. The other day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her conciliatory tone stated that the United States supported “the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people”. President Obama stressed the need for Mr. Mubarak to enact reforms and show restraint. In a joint statement, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed: “We call on President Mubarak to avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians, and on the demonstrators to exercise their rights peacefully.” It may be mentioned that Egypt has been one of the United States’ closest allies in the region since President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel at Camp David in 1977.
Egypt is burning. People have started drawing all their money they can from ATMs. People can’t get into the supermarkets because all are stocking up on food. Tens of thousands of protesters defied the curfew to remain on the streets. There have been clashes in Alexandria, Cairo and Ismailia. At least 74 people have been killed in the last few days.
The fate of Mr Mubarak, his entire state apparatus, and that of the popular uprising confronting them now depends largely on the action of Egypt’s army and security forces. The military, the West, and many powerful and rich people who have big investments in Egypt will try their best to keep Mr Mubarak, or at least ensuring an orderly transition to another leader friendly to the West and to business. But across the Middle East now, the situation is so unpredictable and events are moving so fast that almost anything can happen.