Tahrir: Rebelling with a Cause

If this doesn’t exemplify people power, then I’m not quite sure what does.

Some have called it a second revolution, yet the over 22 million Egyptians who attached their name to the Tamarod (Arabic for rebel) movement by signing their petition for Mohammad Mursi to step down and the overwhelming crowds that keep filling the squares of Egypt, starting from Tahrir Square, are only carrying on with the revolution of January 25, 2011. Revolution doesn’t come easy and on June 30, 2013 it is only its second chapter that has started to be written.

The Arab world stands in awe at the determination of the Egyptian people to cement their newly founded freedom, standing in the face of one dictatorship (that of the Muslim Brotherhood) only months after celebrating the overthrow of another (Hosni Mubarak and those who preceded him). Despite the peculiarities of individual Arab countries, it brings the rest of us to shame, showing us that Arabs truly underestimate their power if they indeed have the will for genuine, deep-seated change.

Egyptians in Tahrir are rebelling with a cause, if for nothing else, to restore the objectives that led them in 2011 to take to the streets in the first place, for freedom, democracy, social justice and equitable prosperity. Today’s popular movement has given the government an ultimatum, threatening civil disobedience if Mursi doesn’t step down.Tahrir square - Cairo June 30 2013 - Protesters with banners calling on Mursi to 'Leave.'This has been slightly overshadowed by a similar ultimatum by Egypt’s armed forces, which many believe may lead to a coup d’état if Mursi doesn’t step down. It is possible that this powerful show of support by the army will give the will of the people the upper hand, forcing Mursi to give in to the crowds and leave. And even if he doesn’t, his presidency and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood  have been severely undermined already. Having said that, is the Arab world destined to have to choose between political Islam and democracy and/or secular rule that is backed and protected by the military? In the years prior to 2011, the armed forces across the region had an interest in portraying the facade of secular rule, whether to stand in the face of Islamist (e.g. in Egypt), or to protect ruling minorities (e.g. in Syria). Today, the Egyptian armed forces stand behind the people they so harshly oppressed, calling for a more democratic and inclusive regime they so strongly opposed. The irony cannot be missed, but maybe in these still delicate times, there is a role for the army to play to cement transitions in so far as it doesn’t go back to its old days and ways. One would think they learned their lesson…

What is more exhilarating than the images from Tahrir are the testimonies of those who are there and those Egyptians witnessing their history unfolding from afar- with their hopes, their fears and their prospects for the future.  “Tamarod has restored my Faith in the Revolution” and “We’re Stubborn as Hell” are two such examples I invite you all to read.

… وتحيا مصر  

(and long live Egypt)

25 Replies to “Tahrir: Rebelling with a Cause”

  1. President Morsi could not simultaneously devolve presidential powers to strengthen parliamentary democracy and use his considerable influence to achieve ad hoc justice for martyrs or the masses. So instead, he made the tough decision to do neither – or at least not to do either well. Having said that, I sense a cynicism underlying your optimism.

    And I sense the same in some of my friends who went to protest for their first time on June 30. More or less, they’re out for blood. My personal hope is that the events of the last few days spur Morsi’s administration to replace its cabinet members and thinking with people oriented toward a broader-based coalition: a coalition whose mandate would resolve big uncontroversial issues like devolving presidential powers, resolving severe economic crisis, and spreading wealth and jobs more equitably.

    The first set of mass protests were co-opted. I see no reason to believe that these won’t be also. But the demographics of these protests are also somewhat different.

    1. One could say so much has changed/been clarified since you and I wrote what we did! Then again, now there are many more questions to be asked, among the most important of which is how will the army’s role evolve as the pillars of democracy (such as will of the people) are strengthened and how the pro-Mursi camp will react to all these changes. Regardless, the Arab world has a lot to learn from Egypt’s amazing developments…

  2. We want to let all the Egyptians know that we support them against this dictator and the Muslim Brotherhood. We hope that soon you will experience pure freedom and raise our glass to your health!

  3. I wrote about this on my own blog, and while I’m not that sure that a truly democratic government will result from this second overthrow, I do want to be hopeful for the Egyptian people.
    I also wouldn’t mind if the new government is pro-Israel and detests terrorism, but that’s another issue entirely. First can a government form that even has the option of being pro or anti-Israel? That’s what we shall see in the coming months.

    1. Interesting point you made with the “can a governent form that even has the option of being pro or anti-Israel,” or for that matter anything else when it comes to international relations. Although i believe Egypt should continue to cooperate/work with Israel because it will mean less violence, it is kind of sad that Egypt doesn’t really get a choice on whether or not it wants to support because the USA won’t stand for that.

  4. I’m not sure where this is all going to lead. I respect the Egyptian people for acting rather than simply talking, complaining, or taking it. When Hosni Mubarak was ousted my feeling was one of immense joy; that in this day and age a popular uprising could lead to radical social change. Now though that the democratically elected Mursi has been toppled I can see only ongoing instability. He clearly did not have the backing of the military and therefore I do not hold with the opinion that he was becoming a dictator. The events of the last few days and weeks are evidence enough that far from being a dictatorship, Mursi’s Egypt was a free democracy in which a right to protest was not only afforded to its people as a token gesture but was he seen and heard by a military who chose to side with popular opinion. Mursi clearly did not have a grip on the military or its support.

    I hope, for the sake of the millions of Egyptians who favour public protest as a means of change, that the next leader they choose continues to allow mass public protests. A leader with the backing of the military could look at the fate of Mursi and secure his position by quashing protests with a brute show of military force.

    Choose well at the polls my friends.

  5. It could and should be argued that Mr Morsi could not sort everything out that was wrong with Egypt in only a year after decades under military rule, yet it appears that he did less than nothing for his people, alienating the poor, women and those on the very edge of society. The fact that around a quarter of the population petitioned him to stand down should have been enough reason for him to have done so rather than waiting to be removed by the military.

    Let us hope that the Egyptian people are able to elect a leader that the majority can accept in the near future.

  6. I believe there must have been a better way. It is one thing for citizens to force an early election. It is an entirely different matter for the military to depose an elected, even if unpopular, leader. I can’t see how this is in Egypt’s interests; there must have been better alternatives. This will only cause greater division, undermine many Egyptian’s faith in democracy, and set a dangerous precedent. I know democracy is about more than elections, and much has written about the importance of a constitution in setting the ground rules that all political parties must adhere to. Somehow a national coalition government must be formed and a constitution written that protects basic human rights and political and religious freedoms. The UN should press for elections and a roadmap to achieve these goals at the earliest possible date. I wish Egypt well, but in building democracy, the means is the end.

  7. Great post – thanks.

    Hearing Westerners talk about democracy struggling in the Middle East, as if it’s unexpected and that we in the West are so much more civilised, amuses me a bit. From the foundation of the house of commons in 1341 (what is now) the UK took about 400 years and two or three civil wars (depending on whether you consider the conflicts of 1642–46 and 1648–49 as separate wars or not) to have stable, peacefully transitioning, regularly elected governments.

    A whole 80 years after establishing their parliament the Americans took only 4 years to kill 625,000 troops (600 per day). Their little war killed 1,020,000 if you include estimates for civilian casualties.

    Do we really expect the whole Middle East to achieve stable democracy in mere decades?

    1. Democracy is not a Middle Eastern mode of government and I doubt if it will be in the next few centuries. A strong military with a populist puppet up front will be best for all (it certainly worked in America during the Bush era).

  8. Morsi has been overthrown by the military. A good start. But we can only let time tell us if a dictator will come from their ranks if their interests are jeopardized. I pray that the people should never have to fight for their freedom again.

  9. All I hope for is that the people of Egypt elect the correct leaders this time, so they wouldn’t have to protest soon again! I’m proud of the Egyptians for striving for their deserved freedom.

  10. Events have a strong resemblance to the French revolution – act IV is about to appear, along with the tumbrils. Expect blood running in the gutter.

  11. “Elect the correct leaders” – interesting comment. Isn’t that what we were told they did last time? And no, not everyone protests for the noble causes of freedom, equality, and justice. We want that to be the case because it reflects our own background and naively we believe that all cultures are rooted in the same values. Just because a chanting throng in Tahrir resembles what we think protest looks like in the west doesn’t mean that both crowds are pursuing a parallel course towards the same objective.

    In any event, what is absent from popular discourse and that needs to be considered is this:

    The strong possibility that the Egyptian Civil War has just begun.

    If this is the case, and I hope it isn’t, the ramifications are severe for all involved. Middle Eastern civil wars have the unfortunate tendency to drag on for decades. They tend to drag in players from outside the region. And they have the nasty ability to affect the world economy in a very bad way.

  12. Reblogged this on Nashthedon's Blog and commented:

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