It is day six for Egypt’s protesters, the death toll has surpassed 100, and the message is clear: Mubarak is out. Egyptians will tolerate no other outcome. And Mubarak knows this. His three decades of power are drawing to an ignominious close and in two last ploys for survival he has thrown his government under the wheels of the uprising and attempted to shut down the internet. Note to dictators: you can’t shut down the internet. Nobody can shut down the internet. You can try. You might even meet with a certain degree of success, depending on your country’s technological infrastructure. But information will get it out. Just ask the Iranians.
Though I’d say Mubarak has already done just that. The restrictive measures his regime has placed on internet access mimic the Iranian government’s panicked response to the public backlash that followed its controversial 2009 presidential election. In Egypt, as in Iran, video data has escaped the regime’s restrictions. For Iran, that meant the death of Neda Agha Soltan became global news. Egyptians do not have a Neda, but 100 people have died in the name of democracy and video evidence of police brutality is being released: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xWiBCIxjIk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55zw5oOmpF0, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phFd-Kgd7rg. And police violence is hardly new to Egyptians. This video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8KG5N_yq1s, was shot in 2007; this one was shot in early 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7vwdIsXc4I. Those are only two examples of the evidence that can be easily accessed via Youtube. Forms of new media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Youtube have joined instant messaging services as tools of the 21st century political dissident, yet these tools by themselves are not enough to achieve democracy. The backing of wealthier, more powerful nations can signal the ultimate success or failure of a movement.
Yet the US government has refused to offer its support to Egypt’s protesters, in a repeat of their reaction to Iran’s Green Movement. My theory is that the US is concerned about Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power in the void left by the Mubarak regime. Mubarak is also an ally against Hamas. Yet if this is their concern I believe it is misplaced. To assume that a majority Muslim nation will prefer an Islamist regime over democratic elections reflects an Islamophobic attitude and ignores the fact that Egypt’s protesters are not calling for an Islamic state. They call for democracy, and Mohamed ElBaradei has emerged as an acceptable alternative to Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood appears to have had no role in the protests. Certainly, it’s possible that Islamists will take advantage of the unrest, in Egypt and elsewhere. Rachid Ghannouchi of Tunisia’s banned Islamist Ennahda party returned to his home country today, and though he has stated that he has no political ambitions for the present Ennahda’s future goals remain unclear. But it is premature to posit, as John Bolton and other right wing figures have done, that Islamist regimes are inevitable. To suggest this is to assume that Muslims are somehow incapable of building democratic society, that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity or any other world religion. History disagrees, and so do the families and friends of Egypt’s 100 dead.
If you’re interested in contacting the Egyptian embassy with your concerns please feel free to use the letter authored and shared by my friend Soumia. The addresses of the embassies in the US and the UK are included. Here’s the text of the letter:
To whom it may concern at
The Egyptian Embassy in the United States
Brigade General. Mohamed El Sangak
Defence Sector, Egyptian Embassy United Kingdom
24 South Street, London W1K 1DN.
Alistair Burt – Foreign Commonwealth Office – Head of Middle East and North Africa desk
Alistair Burt MP
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
Below is the sample letter. You can change this if you want to. But do make sure you do not insult any of the people above, do not use foul language under any circumstances regardless of your frustration as this will not help in aiding the situation and only make matters worse. We urge everyone to send the email below to the listed individuals. No, we don’t expect to work miracles. And no, this is not about you. This isn’t about making a so-called “difference” or launching into a world-salvation escapade.
Dear (enter name)
It was with deep sorrow and regret that I write to you to express my concern over the policies and practices of the Egyptian governments’ retaliation against its people. I do this in hope that you will use your authority to help fight against this oppression.
Article 20(1) of the International law states “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” Yet For the past 6 days there has been constant unrest and turmoil. The facts are the people in Egypt, our people, have been denied access to the Internet, phone lines have been cut and in consequence communication with relatives, friends and the outer world. They have been held Incommunicado as one would hold a prisoner behind bars.
It is alarming that such measures have been taken. The basic liberties to the rights of life, security and democracy have been unnecessarily denied and as proven by the present situation in Egypt no one has been allowed the right to voice their opinion.
The Egypt that was thriving with culture and revered for celestial ancient civilization, is now being burnt to the ground, live ammunition rounds being shot into crowds, resulting in hundreds of deaths, and hundreds more yet to be confirmed. Jets being flown low in the sky as a subtle threat to the protestors and as of Sunday food and gas supplies are running low. No government should be so tyrannical that its people are afraid to speak out against it.
It is of the utmost importance that all individuals stand up and protect each other’s rights. I urge you to help us stand against this instability and injustice. These are what define inhumanity and persecution.
Thank you. I trust that you will act promptly.
Very respectfully yours,
Thanks to Soumia and her coauthor Rawan.