[Letters] Some reflections on the Egyptian revolutionMany things make this Egyptian revolution special. Political transition in this largest Arab country (by population) neither faced a military coup nor any bloodshed. Following the principles of peace and nonviolence, the Egyptian people had only one demand: that President Hosni Mubarak should step down and let democracy prevail. Mubarak tried hard to remain on the throne. Later, he transferred many of his powers to the vice president, promising that he will not run in the next presidential election. But the people were unrelenting. Insecure Mubarak chose to use violence to suppress the movement, but in vain.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter played a major part in this historical change by facilitating quick and rapid information dissemination. This movement was not led by any political party or leader. The Tunisian uprising, which forced out President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was surely an inspiration for the people of Egypt. In fact, Egyptians were fed up with the indifference of Hosni Mubarak towards the people’s aspirations. He didn’t allow opposition parties to raise their heads. The Egyptian people continued to watch and tolerate this silently. People even accepted, though unwillingly, the accord reached between Egypt and Israel in 1979. But now when it came to poverty, unemployment and question marks regarding their children’s future, Egyptians couldn’t tolerate it anymore.
Mubarak’s staunch friend and supporter, the United States, is also singing the tunes of the Egyptian people. Talking about “stability” until last week, it is now supporting the installation of democracy. U.S. President Obama, known for his nonviolent approach, expressed satisfaction at this change and said that the protestors had proved wrong the approach that justice could only be achieved by violence. The protestors had the moral power of nonviolence. No terrorism, no mindless killings, and this history led to justice. In his statement, Obama clearly indicated the shift in future American policy toward Egypt. Now the U.S. wants to see a functioning democracy with respect for human rights rather than the so-called stability of Mubarak era.
Many concerns are being expressed after the fall of Mubarak. Presently, the Egyptian army is headed by Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. He has vowed to hold free and fair elections soon and hand over the country’s control to the civilian government. But after Tunisia and Egypt, many Middle Eastern despots who were hitherto running their administration based on coercion and violence against the people, are worried about the domino effect. Most worried is the richest and most oil-rich autocracy - Saudi Arabia.
This revolution has also cast a shadow on the future of Arab-Israel “peace talks.” The United States and its allies are worried about the possibility of increased influence from Iran as a result of this change in Egypt. Concerns have also been expressed regarding the impact of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt’s politics. On the other hand, European countries are worried about the Suez Canal, which accounts for more than 8 percent of world trade transport. This route is also significant because it reduces the distance between Asia and Europe.
However, the true impact of the Egyptian revolution on the West and the world will be clear only after a new democratic government is created. But judging by the joy spread around the world regarding Mubarak’s departure, one thing is clear: that the people are now well aware and concerned about their future. They are not in the mood to give a free run to any despot. It will not be a surprise if dictators in other Arab states have to face the people’s wrath.
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Tanveer Jafri, a columnist based in India