As I am writing this, Egyptian police officers are firing tear gas out of armoured cars at massive crowds of peaceful protesters and hosing down people praying in the streets. Journalists – both national and foreign – are being beaten, harassed, or arrested. Men and women, old and young are putting their lives on hold for the sake of returning to better ones – free from the domineering spectre of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime. Yet for every police officer who fires, two more put down their arms and join their civilian brothers. Inspired by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, the people of Egypt seem to be in the midst of their own revolution.
The key word here is people. The Middle East as a whole has been late to the “people power” movement. Between Gaddafi and the House of Saud, Arab nationalism and the prospect of democracy have been stifled by regimes that perpetuate the antiquated tradition of monarchy and despotism rooted in a colonial legacy. It’s too early to tell what the result of this pan-Arab political upheaval will be, but the fundamental ideas that the people are fighting for are worth every sacrifice.
Despite the criticisms that have been hurled toward these crackpot regimes in the Middle East by the Western governments, those same Western governments have found trade partners and cooperative allies amongst them. Mubarak and Ben Ali, Tunisia’s ousted dictator, both found political legitimacy and support from abroad, and while many in the West have kept mum about this turn of events, there is no doubt that revolution in the Middle East was not in their plans. For this very reason, these protests are crucial. It’s time for not only Egyptians, but all the people of the Middle East to reclaim their countries and climb out of the shadow of imperialism.
What does this all mean for the rest of the world? It could mean the rise of real democracies, or at least responsible governments that govern for the people by the people. It could mean a new landscape for international relations based on real values and concerns – not dirty back-room politics and private interests. The potential for meaningful dialogue between the Arab world and everyone else has never been greater. As long as the world places its support behind the masses, another tyrant will not fill the leadership vacuum if Mubarak or any other Arab leader is ousted. This revolution belongs to the people and when the dust settles, it should be them who determine their destinies as free men and women.
Yasqut Yasqut Hosni Mubarak!
Haaris Khan is a U2 IDS and Software Engineering student. He is also a representative to the International Development Studies Students’ Association, but the views expressed here are his own. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.