Friday, March 11, will mark one month since Hosni Mubarak’s resignation as Egyptian president — a milestone in the history of Egypt and the Arab world. Apart from ending Mubarak’s 30-year autocratic rule, the revolt triggered similar protests throughout the region, notably in Bahrain on February 14 followed by Libya on February 17.
The revolt in Egypt is not over, however — at least, not yet. New developments every day show that plenty of unfinished business still needs to be taken care of before the proud young Egyptians can say: ‘Mission Accomplished.’
Last weekend, 2,500 young men stormed the headquarters of the hated security agency in Alexandria and Cairo. They had one objective in mind: permanently dismantling the security branch because it had arrested, tortured and terrorised Egyptian dissidents during the Mubarak era.
Those branches are to the Egyptians what the Gestapo was to ordinary Germans during the Second World War, and what the Savak was to the Iranians under the Shah’s rule. Many of those who took part in the Egyptian raid had been interrogated, detained or tortured at one of those many branches, dotted throughout Egypt.
Dismantling the Security Bureau — an agency first introduced to Egypt by Jamal Abdul Nasser in the 1950s — was one of the many demands of the glorious 18-day revolution. The people of Egypt now need to follow what the Germans did when they dissolved the Gestapo’s 33,000 strong force on May 8, 1945, eight days after Adolf Hitler’s death.
By November 1945, 22 Nazi war criminals stood trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity — two charges that probably will soon surface against Mubarak’s henchmen.
Job half done
The young men and women are making a point loud and clear; they are an immutable force that will not settle for Mubarak’s resignation alone. They want to erase all memory of his 30-year rule. The fact that his property has been seized, his assets frozen, and he and his family prevented from leaving Egypt is clearly not enough.
Last week, the Egyptian youth staged massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square, similar to the ones of last February, aimed at toppling Mubarak’s appointed prime minister Ahmad Shafiq and his foreign minister Ahmad Abu Al Geit. It was ridiculous to keep them in power, they argued, because both men brought back haunting memories of an era that was now history.
Instead, they brought the US-educated civil engineer Essam Sharaf, a former minister who had defected and joined the angry masses in Tahrir Square, as the new prime minister.
Mansour Al Issawi, in turn, became the country’s new interior minister, replacing Mahmoud Wagdi — another Mubarak appointee — who in turn had replaced the much loathed — and feared — Habib Al Adly who in turn, was brought to court on Saturday on charges of corruption.
The Military Council, which assumed control of the state after Mubarak’s downfall, has promised to answer all of the demands of the protesters, including lifting of emergency law before elections next September.
A referendum on constitutional reforms is scheduled for March 19. Among the drafts proposed is limiting the presidential term to four years, renewable only once — to prevent repetition of the Mubarak scenario.
When Egyptians go to the polls next September, they will have to keep that in mind when choosing Amr Mousa, Mohammad Al Baradei, or any other ambitious politician aiming to become the fifth president of Egypt.
The world needs to take a long hard look at what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya. That might explain why British Prime Minister David Cameron landed in Cairo on February 21, ten days after Mubarak’s fall.
The young Egyptians were not pleased with his presence, arguing that the old British coloniser was there to lecture them on democracy and how to shift from military to civilian rule.
It is precisely because of men like Cameron that Mubarak stayed president for 30 long years. The Egyptians wanted Cameron to understand that a country like Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali’s Tunisia, despite having economic reform and openness, could no longer survive in the 21st century because it also had plenty of corruption and repression.
A country with staunch American backing, limited economic reform, plenty of corruption, and cosmetic political change — Mubarak’s Egypt — is also clearly not going to work. And nor is a sheer police state like that of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.
Arab countries need to understand why these leaders collapsed, and why their regimes were dismantled with little respect and no tears. Those Arab countries after all, are a little bit of Egypt, a little bit of Tunisia, and a little bit of Libya.
Two months ago, observers said that the Tunisian revolt was a unique case that cannot be repeated in other Arab countries. The Egyptians proved them all wrong and are now showing the world that it doesn’t stop with Bin Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi.
It’s a revolution from below, ripping throughout the upper echelons of power from a catalogue authored by the brave young men of Egypt and Tunisia. It would be wrong to claim that these revolts are over — clearly in Egypt; they are only warming up!
This article appeared in Gulf News on March 8, 2011 entitled, “Egyptian Youth Want to See Results.”