Change for Egypt

Protest in Tahrir Square
Photo by: AlJazeer


Soon after large demonstrations started in Egypt on January 25th, support poured in across Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter for Egyptians seeking freedoms, a better future and asking Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to immediately step down.

Protestors had gathered in Tahrir Square and said they would not leave till Mubarak he had given up his 30 year position as President of Egypt. As time passed, the crowd grew. The numbers following via Facebook and Twitter also grew. (#Egypt #Jan25)

Many of the demonstrators were tweeting and texting directly from their locations and also giving information of what would be going on the following hours and days. In today’s fast-paced Internet world, picture uploading, video uploading, texting, blogging and sharing information is instant and with the world’s changing times, this allows millions of people to know instantly what is going on across the world and to alert others.

Egypt’s government has in its constitution a law, the “Emergency Law” which, among other things, gives the government the right, at its discretion to shut down the Internet and on January 28th, Internet Service Providers were told to cut services.

This “Emergency Law” has been in place nearly all of Mubarak’s time in office. This law is one of many grievances the people have with the Egyptian government and it was recently extended to remain another two years. When the law is enacted, it gives the government the right to arrest people without cause, hold prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly and more. At the time Internet was cut, most mobile phone services also were disabled especially text messaging. This greatly handicapped the ability not only for Egyptians to communicate internationally but also with one another in the country.

Until February 1st, the protestors mostly were peaceful. Tahrir Square remained full of protestors waiting for President Mubarak to step down. News had come that he had sworn in a Vice President which was a first in the country in over 30 years.

However, on the 1st, Mubarak made a speech on State T.V. which played on a large screen for all to see in the square. He stated he would not seek another term as president in the upcoming elections. The people quietly watched his entire speech and closer to the end he stated he would not be willing to step down before the end of his term in September, later this year.

On the ground in Tahrir Square and close by violence grew as the crowd became angry. There became a rise in violence and coverage of this was being shown internationally soon after the world had viewed not only this speech by President Mubarak but also a speech by President Obama on his thoughts concerning the situation in Egypt.

The rise in violence around Tahrir Square grew as pro-Mubarak groups grew larger in the square and clashes between them and the anti-government group became more violent causing a growing number of injuries and fatalities.

The following day as journalists were covering the clashes, they themselves became the targets of violence. They were being harassed, beaten up, having their equipment confiscated, being arrested, vehicles or teams attacked and as this grew increasingly worse, some were forced to leave for their safety and others went into hiding to continue reporting but to protect themselves and their crews.

This same day, Internet service began to slowly return across the country and as this happened, updates from Egyptians started to come in on Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other sources. These updates showed personal accounts of what had been happening around Egypt and confirming an even greater desire for freedom but also confirmed the fact journalists were being targeted on the ground, in hotels and around the country. Egypt’s government, it appeared, did not want the continued coverage of what was going on in the streets of Egypt during this crisis.

The question was, why?

Was the fear this coverage was making Egypt look bad internationally or was the fear the international coverage and the feedback it was getting influencing Egypt’s youth, inciting more displays of protests? Whatever the reasoning, the amount of international journalists in the country was greatly diminishing and those remaining were not being able to cover the revolution on the streets, the people, Tahrir Square up close as they had been doing, they now needed to look out for their safety and cover the crisis from afar.

The fact is though, covering the situation in Egypt is extremely important. It is extremely important to see the crisis and transformation as it unfolds. It’s more truthful and honest to see it from the eyes of the people and the government’s reaction and the angles there in Egypt and to have those views involved.

Egypt’s crisis and this transformation as some view it or revolution as it is turning out to be is not just a small event or something that will soon pass. It is much larger and significant.

Egypt has a population of more than 80 million people, the largest population in the 22 Arabic speaking countries.

Although the overthrow of Tunisia’s president in December ignited many frustrations and long held grievances of the citizens in other countries across the region, eyes are now on Egypt and at the moment, the leaders of Jordan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere are looking at their own government and making tremendous changes and reforms to try to prevent many of the same actions. Protests are currently taking place.

As for the U.S. and its involvement in this crisis, of course there is a great deal of concern and the crisis in Egypt has great significance to the U.S. We have many Egyptian-Americans living in the United States and many have called this their home for generations but still, Egypt is their home as well. Compassion must always be shown not only to our fellow Americans but, all others.

What would you go to a demonstration for? What freedom would you not be willing to give up?

Much of what the Egyptians are protesting for, Americans not only have but take for granted. Fair elections, presidential term limit restrictions, freedom of speech and assembly and the right these freedoms can’t just be taken away at the whim of the government (like what is currently happening in Egypt and has been over the past 3 decades due to “Emergency Law”).

What is the United State’s position on making Mubarak step down being President?

This is a political revolution of the Egyptian people. They desire freedom and change in the way their country and government functions. Therefore it is up to Egypt and its people to unfold their new political system, laws and government, not outside countries. True change will come from within.

Since Mubarak has been an ally of the United States, there has been communication between Mubarak and President Obama as well as the Administration and other key officials in Egypt. It is important for the U.S. to point out certain views pertaining to matters that does affect the U.S. as well as what effects U.S. citizens in Egypt, humanitarian efforts and the safety of international journalists. The U.S. has remained a close ally with Egypt for many years and as long as diplomatically possible, this is important to continue without forgetting about the rights of the Egyptian citizens.

However, for the U.S. Administration or U.S. Citizens to act as though we can tell another country’s leader to step down does nothing to aide that country or the real long term efforts toward transformation they are working on. It also hurts our diplomacy efforts with other countries and in the long run would hurt our relations with the government that ends up being formed in Egypt. The U.S. cannot see itself as the strong hold over the world.

The best seat for the U.S. to strategically plan for what needs to be done after Egypt’s transition and the actions that follow in Yemen, Jordan, Syria and other neighboring governments may be in the observation area allowing the people of Egypt and its current government to build its own future out of its current turmoil.

Allow them to have change.