Usually, the start of a year always feels a little anti-climatic and slow.
It’s only the 26th January, and worldwide, there has been a new and exciting resurgence of protest, and calls for emancipation of oppressed nations the world over, but especially in the Middle East.
I could barely believe what I was seeing in the news when the Tunisian people united in their despair and anger and exposed the illegitimacy of their leader and government. The shock of seeing this quick and unexpected successful revolution reignited my hope of change in Egypt.
Egypt has been under ’emergency’ laws preventing the right to protest, giving the state powers to detain citizens, preventing the right of assembly and any meaningful opposition for the last THIRTY YEARS. That is nearly my entire lifetime. I spent much of my childhood in Egypt and it has broken my heart to see the rapid deterioration of society every time I go back. There have been protests and opposition many times before, but each time there is any credible political opposition, they are systematically destroyed and persecuted (such as here http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2007/03/200852513218704328.html), with corruption, torture, murder the norm in police stations all over the country, which is well documented. A good example is the recent murder of Khalid Said (http://www.arabist.net/blog/2010/6/14/the-murder-of-khaled-said.html) a blogger in Alexandria who was exposing local police corruption, he was dragged out onto the street and murdered in broad daylight, causing widespread outrage and protest, which of course, was met with a violent police response. The fear created by state agencies and the emergency laws has been the biggest weapon of all against the people of Egypt. With desperation and corruption at an all time high, in a country where people kill each other out of desperation in bread queues (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7267488.stm) and much of the population is living literally below the breadline, is it any surprise that the Egyptians paid close attention to Tunisia’s revolution.
The West’s explicit support for Mubarak and his tyrannical regime cannot be underestimated as a further source of anger for Egyptians. Whilst the state so casually disregarded and abused it’s citizens dignity and human rights, Mubarak has continued to enjoy the patronage and financial support of the West, especially the US. Egypt, after Israel is the SECOND HIGHEST recipient of US military and developmental aid – over £28bn pounds worth since 1975 (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5309.htm). Seeing as the infrastructure in Egypt is in dire straits, where has all of that money gone? Why has the US never been outraged at the reports of human rights abuses and done anything about it instead of funding Mubarak’s assault on the Egyptian people? Egypt has been complicit in the imprisonments of Gaza (anything to do with the US funding, perhaps?), another source of anger for the people.
Tunisia has been a wonderful source of inspiration for Egypt, and I hope that all the anger and frustrations in Egypt can be used to free the country and its resources for the people. I am daring to hope, and I am scared. Thank you brave people, be strong and don’t give up.