Sunday, February 6, 2011

One more Day in Tahrir Square and the Meaning of Victory

February 6, 2011

Few would have imagined that the struggle would go on for so long. Even in my last blog, I stated that victory was near. Well the fact is it is near, especially for those waiting for thirty years! As another day passes, we continue to see a strong opposition, and cracks in the Egyptian government. Everyone however is right to ask how long can this go on? And, what does victory exactly mean? Now that almost two weeks have passed, it now seems unlikely that Egypt will see their President fleeing the country on the next plane as we did in Tunis. However, this does not equal failure; in fact, the opposite is true: the protestors have shown a great amount of strength which is seen in their soberness not to be enticed into violence. Simply, they have demonstrated that they are a responsible opposition, keeping the wellbeing of the majority at the top of their agenda.

Today, banks and businesses slowly began to open their doors, in an attempt by the government to show that life is “getting back to normal.” However, the protestors’ numbers grew throughout the day and they still can be sure that they have the majority of Egyptians behind them. Once again we saw both Christians and Muslims praying and protesting side-by-side; like so much of Egypt’s modern history, and Arab history in general, we see the two main denominations uniting together for a common cause. Not to mention the fact that both the Muslim and Christian communities in the square are not monolithic, meaning they are numerous groups in the square representing a spectrum of secularists and religious groups, and alongside them are the masses of citizens, who perhaps while not belonging to a certain political grouping, certainly have voiced their opinion much louder than any political party could have orchestrated.

As the protest continues, President Hosni Mubarak has remained hiding by the scenes with his government scrambling to try to end the popular uprising. However, it will take much more than the resignation of the top leadership of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, including his son Gamal, as we saw yesterday. Today, in attempt to start negations with the opposition, Vice President Omar Suleiman met with numerous political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed since the 1950’s, with some of their leaders still in prison. One person who was not invited who is one of the symbols of the protests, Nobel Peace prize recipient Mohammed al-Baradei, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Until now, he has been the strongest voice in terms of reaching the US and Europe, demanding nothing less than Mubarak’s immediate resignation.

It is perhaps for this reason that al-Baradei was not invited since the government is interested reaching a compromise where Mubarak will remain as President without any real powers. In a sense, a move to save his image, allowing him to step down in a few months on his accord. Rightly so, the different opposition parties remain quite suspicious. With the continued arrest of journalists, the Egyptian government is still enforcing the State of Emergency Laws which has limited freedom of speech in Egypt for the last thirty years (actually since 1967, abolished for 18 months by assassinated Anwar Sadat, and then reinstated by Mubarak in 1981).

With the Egyptian establishment remaining stable and steadfast, and the army and Omar Suleiman remaining loyal to Mubarak, it seems almost inevitable that the real change will come once a deal is made between opposition parties leading to early elections. While it hard to say how this will play out, it seems safe to say that indeed the protestors have changed the future of Egypt; certainly, if Egypt will see free and fair elections in the near future this will be the true victory of the millions who sent their leaders a message of “no more,” showed other Middle Eastern regimes that they are living on borrowed time, and demonstrated to the world that every voice really can count.

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