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Egyptian Revolution: The Fall of Mubarak

Posted November 14th, 2011 at 03:59 PM by Gile na Gile

Earlier this year the Egyptian people rose at last to claim their freedoms. After thirty years of rigged elections, rampant corruption, arbitrary arrests and more recently, food riots and labour unrest hundreds of thousands of protestors flocked daily to Tahrir Square in Cairo to demand of their government only one thing, that President Mubarak should "Go". At a sermon on the so-called "Day of Departure", the imam enjoined the crowd and the world's gathering press that this was not a religious or ideological revolution but simply a call for regime change. The response from Washington has been one of shock, Mubarak had been a close regional ally and a heavy recipient of US foreign aid but such had been the clamour for change even the White House wasforced into a volte face, echoing calls by EU leaders that an orderly transition towards a new democratically elected government must begin 'as soon as possible'.

The world's media have been generally sympathetic towards the demands of the Egyptian people but a significant proportion of commentators have instead taken the opportunity to point to the role of the Muslim Brotherhood and see not a burgeoning democracy but the makings of a Sunni religious state. This, however, is both absurd scaremongering and cynical stage management; while mischaracterising the nature of religious belief within Egypt it also drained international support from the revolution. This type of misrepresentation is in fact also the counter-revolutionary gambit of an increasingly desperate regime who for the first time on state television in late January, after six days of protests shown worldwide, acknowledged that there were even demonstrations in the country and it did so by blaming the unrest on the Muslim Brotherhood.

But I think we have to distinguish here between the several gradations of 'being Islamic' in Egypt. If we can point to an imaginary spectrum whose bottom end is; "adhering to all the principles of the Koran as evinced by those of the Wahhabi faith" (commonly regarded as the most fundamentalist version of Islam) and move our way through the intermediary stages whose top end is unadulterated secularism, that is to say a political position which is in no way, shape or form influenced by any religious tenets, then we will find an agreeable middle bulge of the populace who retain a faith, practise it daily like all Muslims, yet are sufficiently temperate in their outlook to adjust themselves to a fledgling democracy which is not intent on morphing into a theocratic state. That is the situation, it appears, in Egypt at present.

Few, if any, of the protestors were calling for a reprisal of an Iranian style theocracy; what they desired most of all was to be rid of Mubarak and secondarily the ability to elect, in free and fair elections, a representative government that will endeavour to work for their own interests.

No power on earth could have put a stop to that process. After Mubarak himself, the army chain of command represented the last barrier between the Egyptian people and their long denied right for legitimate self-determination. We saw the will of the middle ranking officers dissolve amidst their own feelings of solidarity for the demonstrators. They told the crowd they shared their anger, that they were gathered only to dissuade looters, and some of them had even helped the people daub their own tanks with anti-Mubarak slogans.
Scenes like those were the true catalyst for a genuine revolutionary moment; the lapse in army discipline and the transference of its loyalities signalled a crucial lack of resolve amongst the higher army command. It didn't take long for this acid of public outrage to corrode Mubarak's scaffold of state; how many wise heads within the army were now ready to place themselves at the people's disposal? All was practically lost for the regime at this point; and the longer the stand-off went on without an unconditional abnegation of power by Mubarak the more many deduced his hands were soaked in blood.

Of all those who stuck closest to him, amid the central cabal, it was the army generals who faced the most excruciating dilemna. Each of them had it in their power to either pre-empt an unthinkable bloodbath or become the fateful apostle of the hour and command their troops to down weapons. It should'nt have to come to this impasse and Mubarak had the wherewithal to cater for his ultimate departure; negotiations were ongoing between the "people's emissaries" and unofficial channels of the government - bartering away his walking papers and ensuring his wealth either left the country or was at least secured ($45 billion according to the Guardian Middle East expert) - all the final moments of horse-trading legalese, the last will and testament of a failed experiment in despotism.

Here lay a sponsored military state like Tunisia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia (favoured redoubt of all Middle East tyrants) whose internationally attested "aid budget" was nine tenths repression and one tenth succour; a staggering haul of cash, annually secured, to combat a half concocted war on terror. The more concocted it became, the more cash they generated, largely through China, and by way of the US national debt. How many victims will now emerge? How many have been real "terrorists" and how many the fabrications of a self-fulfilling institutional paranoia?
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  1. Old Comment
    Mohammed the Persian's Avatar
    Good analysis, Gile.
    The same sort of problem happened here. Protestors called for the formation of a republic (instead of the present monarchy) and the govt portrayed this as an attempt to form an Islamic Republic (similar to that of Iran) & with the Wilayat al Fiqh leadership concept.

    Pretty sad story indeed

    Nonetheless, good post (even though I'm a bit late at reading it )
    Posted December 12th, 2011 at 09:06 AM by Mohammed the Persian Mohammed the Persian is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Gile na Gile's Avatar
    Thanks Mohammed, I try my best

    Yes, I think there's definitely a parallel there in that respect to what I understand to have happened in Bahrain. In both instances there is an attempt to colour democratic opposition groups in sectarian terms when the root of the disagreement is over the extension of political rights.

    Take some of the criticisms that Nabeel Rajab levelled against the process of 'National Dialogue' (which was lauded in many Western diplomatic circles as representing a sea-change in attitude by the monarchy) but which was dismissed as a 'chit-chat room' by the Bahrain Human Rights Centre ;

    "The dialogue is not between Sunna and Shia as the regime establishes, because the problem and political crisis is not between the components and sects of the society as the regime pushes forward. However it is between people of Bahrain and the ruling regime."

    The Independent Commission's Report was released a few weeks ago. What was the reaction in Bahrain to that? I haven't read it yet myself but it would be interesting to know whether it was perceived to be a satisfactory assessment of the root cause of the unrest. I know the BCHR were unhappy with it at the onset;

    BCHR Open Letter to Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) re statement to Reuters | Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    On the democratic front (and if there is to be any genuine dialogue) I would imagine the 2002 Royal-imposed Constitution will have to be scrapped and the original proposed powers for the elected chamber restored. The Bahraini king seems to be taking a leaf out of his GCC backers, particularly the Sauds by attempting to buy the population's loyalty through gifts and subsidies.

    Also, there's the wider geopolitical game - when the Bahraini unrest can be depicted as possibly favourable to Iranian interests you can be assured of an uphill struggle;

    Bahrain and the Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia | STRATFOR

    It seems there are larger forces at play who are determined to view calls for democratic reform within Bahrain as a pro Shia/pro Iranian phenomenon - and one possibly backed by the latter.

    You have my sympathies; a very tangled political web indeed.
    Posted December 13th, 2011 at 07:39 PM by Gile na Gile Gile na Gile is offline
    Updated December 13th, 2011 at 07:50 PM by Gile na Gile
  3. Old Comment
    Mohammed the Persian's Avatar
    Your scholarly ability has once again been proven by your knowledge about Bahrain! (mashallah )

    The reaction was different among many groups. The pro govt parties and supporters went ballistic. Whole articles and web pages went online from newspapers denouncing the report as being biased.

    The opposition criticized it too. It said that it shows nothing new and that the report states everything that they've been trying to tell people for 10 months now. It also criticized the report for failing to indict or name any officials responsible for what seemed (in the eyes of the opposition, and this [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Bahraini_uprising"]article[/ame] [third paragraph highlights the systematic nature of the crackdown]) a systematic campaign against protesters, specifically the Shia sect.

    What is sad is that the government succeeded. The sects have been polarized in ways that have not been seen since the 1950s (or even earlier!). Shia religious processions were attacked for the first time in decades by Sunni extremists (and lately, a call has been made for the formation of a Sunni Militia).

    Terrifying situation indeed
    Posted December 14th, 2011 at 04:17 AM by Mohammed the Persian Mohammed the Persian is offline
 

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