"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton, the 19th century British historian. This statement describes best dictatorships where power is lodged in the hands of one person, usually a deified Pharaoh. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is one.
When Mubarak assumed power in 1981 after the assassination of Anwar El Sadat, he was particularly keen to announce that he hated corruption, loathed despotism and encouraged hard work. Good start, it really sounded promising. However, after 30 years in office, before his resignation on Feb. 11, the man’s family’s fortune is estimated as potentially $70 billion. He was willingly surrounded by a handful of the most corrupt businesspersons in the country, if not in the world; tipped off by the most-hated, steel industry monopolizer, cold-blooded vote-rigger Ahmed Ezz; and was shelled by an evilly sophisticated, brutally repressive, extremely unpopular police force.
"Dictatorship is what the Egyptian youth, quite justifiably, could no longer stand, not even for a few more months."
A 30-year-old dictatorship was what Mubarak presided over, and dictatorship is what the Egyptian youth, quite justifiably, could no longer stand, not even for a few more months. The Egyptian people have, for decades, suffered from oppression, poverty and corruption. This is what a cursory look at any world report, be it economic, political or health-related, clearly shows. And this is the reason behind the current, largely unpredicted, youth-organized revolution.
The last nail in the Egyptian dictator’s coffin was the killing of the father-orphaned Khalid Saeed, an Egyptian young man killed last year in controversial circumstances -- some maintain he was beaten to death -- at the hands of two detectives, typical of the police force of Habeeb El Adly, the 13-year interior minister now deservedly accused of crimes against humanity.
Abhorred by the incident, Human Rights Watch issued a statement stating that the photo of “Saeed’s battered and deformed face published on the Internet show a fractured skull, dislocated jaw, broken nose and numerous other signs of trauma.” Another crime, anything but an exception of the police state brutality, to be added to the regime’s black history of governing under a 29-year-old emergency law.
"The last nail in the Egyptian dictator’s coffin was the killing of the father-orphaned Khalid Saeed, an Egyptian young man killed last year in controversial circumstances."
Saeed was detained in a cyber café, and it was in the cyberspace where the Egyptian revolution was triggered. Quickly after Saeed’s murder, a Facebook page movingly labeled “We are all Khalid Saeed” was created to commemorate the young man. In a few weeks, the page attracted more than a quarter million Facebook users and emerged as a platform for resisting the oppressive and hegemonic regime.
In the beginning, Facebook activists managed to organize a number of protests, where protesters intentionally did not shout any slogans to avoid being harassed by the police. They definitely were trying to find ways to get around the limits the emergency law imposes on freedom of expression and assembly. On Jan. 25, 2011, the activists succeeded in convincing thousands and later millions to go out and protest in several major Egyptian cities, calling for freedom and justice.
Not without a price, though. Mubarak’s brutal police forces lynched protesters and, according to the Human Rights Watch, killed 297, as of Feb. 7, 2011.
Importantly, most Facebook activists, and the bulk of citizens who later joined them, have never been members of any political party. These young people, as outspokenly expressed by Wael Ghonim, are convinced that the existing political parties in Egypt are weak and cannot fix the catastrophes piled up by the regime over the years. The regime has been intentionally suppressing and eventually practically getting rid of any emerging political figures so that no leadership can emerge. Given that absence of a true and strong leadership, a collective social media-based leadership seems to have been in the making.
As millions of peaceful, empty-handed but courageous Egyptians went out to the streets in almost all major Egyptian cities, the regime turned quite shaky, although in the beginning, viewed by the eye of a typical dictator in a worst-of-its-kind police state, protesters first seemed like a few hundred immature, easy-to-silence, “Facebook” young people.
"Mubarak’s brutal police forces lynched protesters and, according to the Human Rights Watch, killed 297, as of Feb. 7, 2011."
Shutting down cell phone networks, blocking Internet access and muffling some “troublemaker” journalists is the solution. It has worked in Iran and elsewhere, and it should work here as well, the dictator’s evil machinery perhaps thought. And, oh, let’s block Al Jazeera, accuse this “gang of troublemakers” of being paid and infiltrated by foreign forces (which will automatically be understood as Iran) and increase the dose of brainwash possible through our national, allied, malleable and potentially yielding media.
Such was the plan, a plan that backfired and eventually led to more outrage on the part of citizens who, on Friday, surrounded the dictator’s palaces in Cairo and Alexandria, as well as the state-owned Orwellian TV and radio building.
Under these escalating pressures, Mubarak was forced to step down, but the revolution is not yet over. Egyptians are still in Tahrir Square pressing for real changes: they are calling for freedom of expression, dissolution of the parliament, formation of an independent government capable of overseeing free elections and end to the long-lived police brutality.
As the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces holds power, the world watches. How the situation in Egypt is going to develop remains an open question.
Muhammad Abdul-Mageed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.