Walk like an Egyptian

The recent civilian upsurge in Tunisia and Egypt raises interesting questions about the changing environment in the Arab world. Egypt has been the seat of some of the oldest civilizations of the world and thus, a major influence on several of its surrounding nations.

The ousting of Hosni Mubarak has undoubtedly been a momentous event and an important example of the power of the masses – especially the youth. Now that that has been achieved, it remains to be seen how Egyptian politics will re-organize itself – whether a new democratic system will really emerge or the revolution might actually cause a worsening of the political situation. One of the major concerns has been whether the formerly banned, not to mention well-organized, Muslim brotherhood will try to convert Egypt – a free and secular country – into an Islamic State. What happened in Iran a few decades ago sets an ominous precedent for what might happen if a strong secular and democratic state, without extremist leadership isn’t quickly set up in Egypt.

This situation might seem less likely to occur though, in light of the beginnings of a mass anti-government movement in Iran itself, showing that dictatorships and fundamentalist rule cannot and must not last for long, though it would definitely be in Egypt’s best interest to avoid getting into Iran’s predicament altogether.

Another issue is that although Mubarak has been forced to step down, the constitution has been suspended and the parliament disbanded, the military regime has not made any move to repeal the emergency law that has relegated many opposition leaders to prison over the years. Also, there are concerns that Mubarak’s stepping down might have only been symbolic since his Cabinet is still in place. Some even fear that the army will continue to stay in power since they may be tempted by the lure of authority.

The economy of Egypt has suffered as well during the uprising, with rampant strikes, protests and the disruption of daily life, with tourism taking a major blow. Egypt is also witnessing a side-by-side revolution in the everyday aspects of life as people revolt against low wages, poor working conditions and corruption at the workplace.

This comprehensive effort towards positive change is truly heartening. The stirrings of similar movements in Bahrain, Libya and Iran are all symptomatic of the long-repressed frustration and disillusionment with corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Seeing the apparent success of the Egyptian protests, other Arab countries seem to be quick to follow suit. In this volatile environment, it is very exciting to see whether there really will be a shift towards democracy and freedom in many of the countries of the Middle East which seem to have been following many dogmatic and outdated laws for centuries, while the rest of the world has been progressing socially.

The fact that the internet has played such an instrumental role in enabling people to freely express their thoughts and sentiments is simply an ode to its power and it brings hope to the people of the world at large that their voices will be heard and action will be taken to improve their lives significantly and effectively.

The events that follow in Egypt are crucial to the situation in other Arab countries as well, since their success or failure in ensuring that their demands are met will set a crucial example for other countries to be able to follow in their footsteps.

Shraddha Suresh

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