Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt: What will happen next? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As events are accelerating in Egypt, there are those who are moving with the [popular] wave, those who have tried to ride upon it, and those who have tried to stand in front of this massive tide. Therefore, we have seen people pulling in different directions, and at times we have heard confusing political stances, whilst we continue to see the youth raising their voices and speaking their minds; people are looking forward to change, and everywhere attention continues to be on the Egyptian scene.

The majority of Arabs, but we will not say all Arabs, love Egypt and wish it well. Egypt has a long history, its role is difficult to discount or marginalize, and its influence cannot be underestimated. This is why people are eagerly following what is happening, with concern, hoping that the country can overcome its plight, and grant its people their aspirations and hopes of peaceful change. However, even if we love Egypt, we cannot surpass the Egyptians themselves in terms of love for their country, their pride in its history, and their aspirations and hopes for the future. Therefore we must closely listen to the voice on the Egyptian street, and we must be aware of the meaning of what is going on. Those who have come out onto the streets to demonstrate [against Mubarak] are Egypt’s own people, not its enemies. They are the Egyptians themselves, not new arrivals or foreign elements. To belittle the magnitude of their demands, or to talk about them as if they were terrorists or thugs, is a huge disservice to them and their sacrifice. It is a condemnation of their right to have a say in how they are governed, and what they want from their government. Fears for Egypt and its situation are justified, no doubt, but this does not mean that we should close our ears to the voice of the Egyptian people.

Events have developed, and the late reaction of the regime seemed to have little effect. The changes that have taken place after the uprising are significantly lacking in both effect and impact, and seem insufficient to the protestors. If such measures had been taken before the events, their effects would have been stronger, and their impact clearer. But the level of demands has now increased, and the people participating in the demonstrations will no longer accept anything less than their call for change to be realized.

What is the solution?

No one who sympathizes with Egypt wants it to descend into a vacuum or chaos, or wants to witness its collapse. The Egyptians who are demonstrating now undoubtedly have the interests of their country at heart. They want a better future, genuine, tangible freedoms, and reforms to achieve their aspirations. This is why they have come out onto the streets, and made sacrifices. The desired change must be real, sincere, and comprehensive, rather than temporary, tactical, or incomplete. Otherwise, protests will continue, and reoccur, even if they are initially stopped. There would be a risk of possible widespread confrontation, and further deaths and injuries which would further complicate the situation and put the security of the country and the region at risk.

Vice President Omar Suleiman announced a call for dialogue with all political parties, and this is a necessary step for the people to find their way out of this crisis. They must agree on a program to achieve a peaceful transition of power, and arrange new elections in which all political forces are allowed to participate, so the people can speak their minds through the ballot boxes, having spoken out on the streets and in demonstrations. However, these votes must be respected, not confiscated or forged as happened in the last election. This was the spark that ignited the fire and incited resentment in the Egyptian arena, which became evident to anybody monitoring the situation. The demands for change, for free and fair elections, for constitutional amendments, for the state of emergency to be abolished, have all been repeated for many years. The housing crisis and food shortages, the problems of high living costs, unemployment, healthcare and education, as well as the issue of corruption, have all been well known and evident, for all to see.

However, some have refused to see the image in its true light. [For years], there was a chorus of deniers, who duped the government into thinking that everything was fine, and the people were satisfied. The government thought the opposition was a minority, and consisted of either of those being paid to protest or those with personal grudges. It was convinced that by putting off radical solutions, the problems would go away, because the people are patient or would return to their slumber. The government believed the surge of young Egyptians utilizing the internet was nothing more than a virtual revolution that would prove to be nothing more than a storm in a teacup that would quickly fade. They therefore believed that there was no need for concern, or to take steps to meet the demands of those who do not understand how things work in reality, believing that making concessions would only encourage more protests or potential rivals.

This was the logic of some individuals, who have placed the regime in this predicament. This may explain why the security forces reacted with violence towards the protestors at the beginning [of the protests], the government silence for three consecutive before, then the mysterious withdrawal of the security forces, and the acts of violence, arson and intimidation that followed. Matters could have descended into further violence and confrontation had the Egyptian Army not conducted itself with discipline and commitment. The army preserved its proud history in front of its people, who never believed its army could point a weapon at them. Indeed, the army went a step further when it said it recognized the legitimacy of the people’s demands, and their right to peacefully express their grievances.

The next few days are critically important, because the departure of the president is not the end of the road. What is important now is extensive dialogue. Arrangements must be made to determine how changes will come about, changes which will meet the aspirations of the people, and place Egypt on the path towards a peaceful transfer of power, thus creating a far healthier and stable state.