Egypt’s stolen ‘revolution’ - Dr Muzaffar Iqbal - Friday, February 11, 2011

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Cairo’s Tahrir square is fast losing its appeal for the western media. In Pakistan, there has been little awareness of the momentous events unfolding in Egypt. The Arab world is seized by it, but mostly because of Al Jazeera and because of the possible implications it carries for the dictators who rule it. Yet, for all practical purposes, Egypt’s youth has become hostage to those who have stolen its revolution.

What started rather abruptly saw some of the best on-site reporting. The use of the Internet and Facebook also took a new turn. Together, they produced stunning images and captivating narratives during the last three weeks. These can easily be called the best of what has appeared in the media in recent years. But is that all? Is this the end of this strange uprising which has been called a revolution?

To be sure, a revolution it is not. Anyone serious enough to look up the word “revolution” in a dictionary is bound to find its use problematic for what took place in Tunis and what is taking place in Egypt. To be honest, one cannot speak of the Tunisian or the Egyptian “revolutions” in the same manner in which one speaks of the French Revolution (1789-1799); the Russian Revolution of 1917; and the Chinese Revolution (1927-1949). True, there is a certain amount of energy akin to a revolutionary zeal, but Cairo’s Tahrir Square has nothing in common with any known revolution in history. It is a mass of oppressed people who have found a voice, but the best a mass of vocal people without a revolutionary leadership can hope to do is bring down one dictator and replace him with another face. That is exactly what happened in Tunis and that, sadly, may be the end of this saga in Egypt. Yet, one hopes it will not end with a whimper.

Initially, there were comparisons with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but soon, those were set aside and focus shifted to violence and the death of as many as 302 people. But the blood has hardly dried and the western media has already found other topics more appealing. Or is it Mr Obama and Ms Clinton who have finally put a gag on the sound and the fury?

No matter how one looks at these tremendous events, there is no better proof of the west’s hypocrisy, that is, if one needs one more proof. From Washington to Bonn, there has been a unanimous display of the same double standards one is loath to repeat. Ultimately, the script reads: “Democracy must remain a catchword for the Muslim world, but it must never be put in place. If one ex-air force general, Mubarak, is in danger, find another ex-intelligence general, Suleiman, who can take over and safeguard our interests.” No wonder, Fox News has already raised flags about the Muslim Brotherhood just about to take over America’s key partner in the Middle East!

There is nothing new in these double standards. Anyone who has studied American foreign policy already knows this. But this time around, it is particularly painful because the youth in Egypt has put all it has on line for a change that they cannot seem to bring about because there is no leadership. The so-called “wise elders” they initially found turned out to be such a disappointment for them, although if one had just looked them up on the internet, one would have never expected anything from them.

A revolution means destruction of one system and enactment of another. Without destruction, there is no revolution. This need not be violent, but the entire state apparatus has to be drastically re-formed in order for a revolution to take place. This means a change of rules; a change of procedures; and a change of those who sit in high offices. This is what Egypt’s youth is craving for. Now, for the sixteenth day in a row, they are still out there, chanting slogans, braving teargas and bullets and midnight knocks but the western world is increasingly becoming callous to these brave young men who are angry but not angry enough. They want a change but don’t yet know how. Who are out there, shaking off their fear with which they were born – it has been thirty years!

As these words are being written, there is one significant change taking place. Young men and women have moved out of Tahrir square and have arrived where they should have been in the first place: in front of the parliament building. If they succeed in reaching the presidential palace, then a helicopter is bound to appear to take the 30-year-old terror out of Egypt. But even that will not be enough as the next in line is of the same mould, unless the helicopter is big enough to take them all!

This will, however, still not be enough as it is not just one, two or ten persons; it is the entire rotten system, built by these men who have made Egypt an American colony that needs to go. And that system is thirty long years old, with its steel nails reaching down to the lowest policeman who makes his living by taking bribes and who goes on the streets to terrorise people. That system is surely shaking, but Egypt’s stolen revolution yearns for a leader to appear on the scene. This may not be impossible as the youth learns to rely on its own wisdom rather than finding wise old men who cannot even imagine a future without the “fatherly figure” they are supposed to remove from the scene.

Uncertain as Egypt’s future now looks, this stolen revolution is also bound to produce waves all across the Middle East and even beyond. Only time will tell what kind of waves will appear from Cairo during the next few days, but no one should think that Egypt will remain the same, even if its revolution is stolen.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:

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