A Revolution It Is!

'I am writing these lines as Hosni Mubarak is resigning from his position as president of Egypt. I am writing these lines and I am unsure what new political context will be in Egypt...'

by Ziad Abdel Tawab 

Yesterday, on 10 February I was standing in the middle of Tahrir square surrounded by millions of Egyptians, watching as my friends began to weep in response to a defiant speech by Mubarak in which he refused to step down. A friend of mine, in an attempt to revive hope yelled out 'We are revolutionaries! We don't cry! We haven't been defeated!' A few questions must be raised and most importantly: is this a wide spread popular uprising or a revolution?

I have lived through this revolution, not only since 25 January 2011, but since 2003 when the streets of Cairo saw the first wide spread protests in decades. At that time I asked one of my closest friends, 'Why are we doing all of this? We are too few and unable to attract the mass of people, shouldn't we just go home, we will never see a change in this country'. My friend looked back at me with anger and said: 'We are not doing this for ourselves, we will never see freedom, but I want to make sure that my children will live under different social circumstances, and will be able to democratically participate in the political reform of their country without being beaten like us; if we keep doing this, our children one day may live under a democratic and free Egypt'.

Today I stood next to the same friend, watching the birth of a new Egypt as millions chanted in unison for freedom.

What is happening right now in Egypt is larger and more profound than a sudden overthrow of a ruling regime. It is a sudden, unplanned, massive and active intervention of masses of ordinary people who belong to different social classes, in political and social struggle. During the past three weeks, I have seen in one single public square men and women from the petit bourgeoisie, the peasantry, the ëunder classesí, the wage laborers, Muslim and Christian theocrats, youth and elderly, students, military personal, civil servants and intelligentsia, all holding hands and unified under one pragmatic slogan.

These millions of masses were able to defy the oligarchy and divide it. They forced the kleptocracy to confess its crimes and frauds and were able to control, invade, and burn all the symbols, that represent the bureaucracy. Unlike past revolutions that have been led by a small elite of the rich and powerful, the revolutionary spirit that has animated the events occurring in Egypt has been one of spontaneous mass collaboration, and has resisted at every step the undue imposition of leadership by a single group or individual.

Thus, it is a revolution: a radical revolution. This explains why all efforts by the defeated regime has been undermined and rendered ineffective. No matter what happens to this country in these uncertain times, one thing is certain, the myth of 'Arab exceptionalism' the belief that 'Arabs' are culturally immune to the desire for representative government and human rights, has been utterly and forever refuted.No longer should this myth guide our policies and perspectives.

Should we fear this revolution? The fears are credible, since the long supported political regime of Mubarak has destroyed the infrastructure for an organized political movement in Egypt. However, again, this is a radical revolution that has changed the socio-political structure in the country. This deeper, more profound revolution in the soul of Egyptians has been one of the fundamental inspirations motivating people to return to the streets day after day despite grave personal risk, and explains a great deal the ineffectiveness of all attempts by the Mubarak regime to intimidate, discourage and co-opt the movement. This is also why the simplification and narrowing down of this profound transformation into a choice between another military dictatorship or the Muslim Brotherhood strikes most Egyptians as an absurd, even comic belittling of what has been taking place here in Egypt. While many real threats and challenges remain, concerning the creation of a genuine democracy within Egypt, one of the largest challenges - the psychological chains of fear that the Mubarak regime engineered and nurtured - have already been overcome.

Egypt's portrait of political repression was exported to the international arena, where Egypt used its international political position to ensure that the world order was being governed in a style mimicking the internal repression. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs undermined internationally the means and values of the new world order and led a coalition of repressive states to mutually ensure that the international system was used to protect their personal interests. A new Egypt should radically reform this process. The will of the Egyptian people for a democratic form of government should be exported.

This region of the world, which has suffered long repression and injustice, should be the driving force for democracy and justice. The historical role that Egypt has played in the world coupled with the new political, musical, artistic culture that I have witnessed and enjoyed during the creation and development of a new population born in Tahrir square, should be directed towards exporting the people's right to live under the umbrella of social and political protections and guarantees.


Ziad Abdel Tawab is an Administrative Board Member and International Advocacy Adviser to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). He has been awarded a LLM degree from Notre Dame University in International Human Rights Law and Master of Science degree on the theories and practices of human rights at Pierre-Mendès-France University (Grenoble II, France). He has obtained two law degrees in Commercial Law from Paris I University, Pantheon Sorbonne (France) and one in Egyptian law from Cairo University (Egypt). Mr. Abdel Tawab served in several national and international research institutes and worked for the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) as a Human Rights Officer stationed in Darfur.


Photo credit: RamyRaoofís/Flickr