Friday, February 11, 2011

Rejoice Egypt, Rejoice!

In a historic day that will resonate throughout the Arab world, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. But, as millions of Egyptians celebrate throughout the country, soon their attention will turn to an uncertain future.

This is a huge victory for the people of Egypt and for democracy. Leaders of countries such as Jordan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia are closely watching events unfold. No doubt, so are the leaders of Iran and China. Their people are restless and thirst for freedom and a better way of life. Will the voices of these people now be heard?

For sure, Mubarak was a great friend to America. He supported and maintained peace with Israel. But he also obscenely stole billions of American taxpayer dollars flowing into Egypt as military aid. It is estimated that his family, steeped in corruption, has amassed a fortune of $70 billion, making the Mubarak clan among the wealthiest in the world.

Even worse, Mubarak brutalized his people with a highly repressive regime. He ruthlessly controlled every aspect of his country and his police harshly suppressed dissent by jailing and beating those who spoke up against his rule. Since taking over thirty years ago, following the assassination of the Egyptian Anwar Sadat, Mubarak has maintained a state of emergency in Egypt. He snuffed out any attempts to form opposition parties. Some friend.

Now two weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations, involving millions of Egyptians from all walks of life, have toppled Mubarak. Televised on free media throughout the world, viewers were rivited to their sets watching the dramatic developments unfold. More important was the role of social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. And a local Google executive, who was arrested and then released by police, became a hero and leading figure to demonstrators. This was truly a social revolution.

As the pressure built, Mubarak tenaciously tried to hang on to power. But those around him could see what he would not accept; his time was up. So when Mubarak refused to step down it is reported that some military leaders threatened to remove their uniforms and join the demonstrators. Their stubborn leader, who had vowed to die in his homeland, finally agreed to relinquish his power and fled to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh. It is unclear if this will be his last stop.

The Egyptian military has taken control of the country. This is a transformative moment, but it is also fraught with uncertainty. The demonstrations have brought the country's economy to a halt as banks and many businesses have been closed for nearly two weeks. When will people return to work? Will the election scheduled for September take place? Who will emerge? What role will the Muslim Brotherhood, responsible for Sadat's assassination, play in the country? What role can America play in assuring a peaceful transition to democracy? There is an old Egyptian proverb, "Do not rejoice over what has not yet happened."

President Barack Obama has handled this crisis well. He spoke out for a democratic process, freedom and an end to repression. He encouraged a peaceful transition to a more representative government. He could not call for the overthrow of Mubarak without risking the ire of other Arab states. But now the real work begins for the American government.

Isis is the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, healing and magic. The people of Egypt will no doubt welcome her help as they begin to build their future.

Meanwhile, rejoice Egypt, rejoice!

No comments: