Friday, January 28, 2011

Pharoah Hosni and the Angry Mob !

Dozens of people have been killed and thousands injured over the past four days of protests throughout Egypt; all demanding a change of order and the subsequent ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Was it forthcoming? Or was it abrupt? If one is to observe the country over the past 30 years since 1981, when the “senile” and “paranoid” President (as described by Foreign Policy ) came into power, Egypt has had a pretty stable and a progressive economy even after the great Arab-Israel wars of 1967 and 1973 when the whole nation came together against the continued Israeli oppression. Devoid of much mineral wealth, Egyptians made their only river, Nile, to be a symbol of upheaval and progress while our country is blessed with five rivers which turn out to be symbols of sheer inter-provincial dispute. The Panorama museum and the roadside graffiti on the walls of Cairo, would tell one much about the nationalistic fervor of the Egyptians and the passionate way in which they honor their war heroes. Still, with such people as its inhabitants, it is little surprising that they were subjugated for full thirty years by an authoritarian ruler.

Protestors riot against the security forces

“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”    -  JFK

30 years !!
Time changes a lot of things. Back in 1981, Hosni Mubarak continued the “emergency law” after the assassination of President Anwer Sadat by virtue of which the government had the right to imprison individuals for any period of time, and virtually for no reason. The new President went autocratic with his policy of near-militant lockdown on political opposition, and anyone who dared to question the authority was kept locked without trials for an indefinite time. Dr. Ayman Nour, who was the opposing candidate in the Al-Ghad party in the 2005 elections, became the victim of such autocracy when he was sentenced to five years in hard labor after he demanded a repeat of the voting process. According to a report by Transparency International, the cases of corruption in Egypt are also at an all time high, and the very mechanisms, laws and regulations currently in force by the regime are insufficient to address it.

Big Brother is Watching !

Time gave way to a change of order. Thirty years of autocratic rule brought in a new generation of Egyptians; a generation brought up in lies and deceit and devoid of opportunities to grow and excel; a generation which saw five-star luxury complexes being built for the super rich and the well-to-do in the Egyptian society - the very rich who were handpicked by Hosni Mubarak from his party to lead ministries of his choosing. This generation of people from ages 15 to 24 comprises almost half of the Egypt’s unemployed. The use of drugs and alcohol, prostitution, and cases of sexual abuse has become rampant. A sense of frustration and hopelessness seems to be haunting the Egyptian youth and its elders too, who have seen enough of bigotry and corruption in the government circles. In an atmosphere of such hopelessness, crime rate also rose to an all time high and a foreigner is warned of educated ‘professional’ thugs lurking around Cairo who could pickpocket you in broad daylight.

Time did nothing but perpetuate the President’s rule. No substantial institutional setup was evolved in the thirty years of Hosni Mubarak’s tenure with a common consent of the populace, and for a common good. Such common good of the population was no longer deemed important as the people raised a hue and cry over the constant subjugation of Egypt and its people by the American imperialism. Hosni Mubarak was termed as ‘pro-Israel’ by many of his critics. He eliminated through death sentences and imprisonment a large number of Islamist opponents and long fought to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist transnational movement and the Arab world's largest political opposition organization in Egypt, and members have been known to be arrested for their participation.

Egypt is the largest recipient of American aid, only after Jewish Israel.

Egypt is the largest receiver of American direct aid only after Israel. Even the 1.5 billion/ year Kerry-Lugar Bill to Pakistan, given under 'adverse' circumstances for a war ridden country, was not able to surpass the staggering 3.8 billion Egyptians receive every year since a peace treaty was signed back in 1978; all to subjugate the Egyptian people to peaceful terms with Israel. It would be pertinent to say that foreign support may protect and prolong the lifespan of an authoritarian regime, but it cannot maintain such a regime indefinitely. Under ‘puppet’ Hosni Mubarak, keeping in view the Egyptian wars with Israel, not surprisingly, the very 'upholder of democracy' has kept an authoritarian regime upon the ONLY country which posed a slight threat to Israel's existence - for full 30 years !!

This coupled with severe restrictions on freedom of speech - for how long will a regime survive? Egypt currently ranks 133 out of 168 nations in terms of freedom of the press.  In a very shameful way, the Egyptian government openly admitted that it is fine to lie to tens of millions of Egyptians. Currently, there is a vast internet blockade in the country and even the mobile phone networks have been thoroughly jammed. All international flights are closed and people are being denied access to the outside world. From a purely Orwellian perspective, without doubt, the current crises in Egypt are a classical example of a ‘Big Brother’s’ rule and its subsequent end due to internal strife and frustration.

 Egyptian riots do not have a central controlling figure - Sheep without their Lion !!

The underlying problem to such a bloody change of order is that there is no central figure or a revolutionary who could plan a subsequent action after the government is overthrown. At such a juncture, the analysts are anxious that someone from the military might take over soon, leading to ANOTHER dictatorial era in Egypt’s history – another classical example of Orwellian Animal Farm.  Egyptian people have now come out in the open in thousands against a dictator whose family is known to possess wealth up to $50-70 billion. Demonstrators in Cairo, Alexandria and the other cities have burnt down cars and government buildings to lodge their protest.  Although, they are united and filled with extreme hatred for their 82 year old dictator who refuses to step down; there is no Che Guevera, nor is there a Khomeini for their guidance in their midst, and in the absence of such leadership, is there a true change on the cards? Will somebody listen? 

Nevertheless, Hosni Mubarak, the modern day Pharoah, continues to hold office as of today and has declared that such a ‘bloody’ revolution would be tackled by an iron fist by his army. By all means, no wonder, it is one of the finest examples of what power can do to a person even after a thirty year dictatorship!


  1. My friend Farjad linked me to this blog. This is an excellent summary of the geopolitical and economic influences which has allowed the current Egyptian regime to maintain power for longer than many of your readers have been alive (including me!)

    As an American, I think it's important for Americans in general to become more educated and aware of how decades of American foreign policy has negatively impacted the political freedoms and quality of free life for citizens of affected countries all over the world - including Egypt, but also Iran, Arabia, and (even before the wars) Iraq.

    It's an extremely difficult subject to broach with the average American, as anything regarding American influence with foreign countries -- particularly Muslim countries -- is likely to be rejected and reframed as some sort of "terrorist" argument.

    In fact, even MSNBC - the least insane of the three major US news networks - has dedicated much of its coverage about the Egyptian protests to asking "how could the Egypt crisis affect terrorism?" To me, this question is so vague and unrelated as to be almost a non-sequitur; but in the limited world-view of many American viewers, it is to them a relevant question. Of course, the vagueness (and somewhat ignorance) of this question gives an uncomfortable insight into the limits of the popular American world-view; their ignorance about the rest of the world makes it easy to lump everything that might include a Muslim populace into one single concept. And unfortunately, that single concept is woven together from frayed strands of knowledge, propaganda, bigotry, and worn as apathy which prevents a larger American initiative to change foreign policy in a way that would curtail support for our currently favored regimes and prevent this toxic process from being repeated in the future.

    And as we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia, nothing will happen until the people demand it so. This is a universal truth that exists outside of any type of government. And I hope this will be an opportunity for all concerned Americans to demand from their government more accountability and less foreign influence and funding which has helped support regimes like Mubarak's.

    It's not something that can happen quickly, though. Meddling in foreign countries and influencing the balance of power in potentially volatile areas is much like handling a poisonous snake - the real danger lies not in grabbing on, but in figuring out how to let go.

    Best wishes for the Egyptian people for a (relatively) peaceful revolution and a new government which is appointed by, and accountable to, the people. Although American foreign policy might not always be the best example of democracy, I believe that the American public at large is dedicated to the concept of democracy itself and to the freedom and safety of all peoples.

  2. A great article indeed and a very detailed, realistic and superb analysis of the current and past scenarios.

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