The Revolution of the Egyptian Youth Still Needs Protection

By Dr. Murad Alazzany

Professor, Sana’a University

The Egyptian youth have remarkably achieved a great victory when they put an end to thirty years of autocracy in Egypt. Their historic uprising which started on the 25th of January and continued for almost 18 days has forced Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt to bow to their demands, to step down and to hand over power to the army council.

We congratulate those courageous youth for their resilient and extraordinary commitment to achieve such a historic and fundamental change in Egypt.

It is indeed a critical moment and a milestone in the history of Egypt and the history of all Arabs.  However the overthrown of Mubarak left us with two important questions regarding the Future of Egypt. The first one pertains the next role of the opposition while the second pertains the role of the army.

Regarding the opposition role, it is true that the overthrow of the president represents a pivotal turn in the three-week revolt. They did succeed in upending one of most enduring dictatorships history has ever known.

However, they should not consider that their ultimate end. They should not get overwhelmed and be overcome by the emotions of such a massivevictory .

Opposition should bear in mind that Mubarak, in spite of his autocracy and dictatorship, was not the main obstacle that hinders democratic reforms in Egypt. Though he is figurehead, he is still only one member of a repressive regime that  Egyptians have suffered from for generations.

The other members, who are plenty, have not gone anywhere – they did not step down. They were the main tools of the corrupt regime and as long as they are still there playing major roles in the Egyptian political atmosphere, then a departure of one man does not make any big difference.

They are in fact trying now to align themselves with the revolution for no purpose but to redecorate their past heinous crimes, to consign their misdeeds to history and, even worse, to perpetuate their own power.

Thus the opposition should not leave Tahrir, their focal point of uprising and change, until all of their demands get fulfilled and when they verifiably get all the symbols of the corrupted autocratic regime out of their lives.

They should return Egypt to the right path and nominate those they trust to lead their country. Otherwise all of their efforts and sacrifices will be a waste.

Regarding the role of the army, it is what worries us the most. Our concerns stem from two perspectives. We are first worried that the military men will exploit the situation and refuse to fulfill the promises to supervise the implementation of reforms and the peaceful transition of power.

We still remember how the revolutions which took place in the Arab world in the late fifties of the 20th century started and where they ended.

These revolutions started in Egypt by a group of military men who initially aimed at abolishing the monarchy there and establishing republic. The success of the revolution inspired numerous military men in Arab countries to revolt against monarchies.

But these revolutions ended in military republics which seem sometimes worse than the current monarchies in the area.

As it was the military men who led the revolution, they perceived it as a divine right to enjoy the fruit of their effort, assigning themselves many privileges.

Thus, it will be hard for those militaries to lose these privileges by handing over their power to a civil government elected by people. Our worries grow bigger as the army chiefs, or what is called the old guard, showed a strong commitment to themselves and their institution, which we expected should be dismantle at any time.

But military men will bow to the will of the people only if the youth of Egypt stay in Tahrir till Egypt becomes a full democratic society. If the Egyptian youth manage to achieve that,  it will be the first time in history that Arabs managed to get rid of military rule.

However, our concerns again stem from the fact that those military men have little recent experience in directing and governing the country. Even if they are sincere in fulfilling their promises and in responding to the demands of the youth, we still do not know how they are going to supervise the implementations of reforms and transfer of power.

Our worries could be justified, as the military signalled a light for the current government to continue administering the country and it did not indicate how it will take the kinds of fundamental steps towards democracy that protesters have been demanding.

Egyptian youth must be aware that rule by the military has only to be temporary. The dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament must be the first thing to be declared by the army, and constitutional reforms must be non-negotiable.

If those reforms are achieved, then Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – beyond the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

We Arabs support the Egyptians youth as we are aware that extraordinary change that takes place in Egypt now does not matter only for the 80 million Egyptians.

Rather, it matters for all of us Arabs, as we share with Egyptians the same situation and perhaps their destiny as well. We all share in common the social problems of inequality, corruption, autocracy and repression of unresponsive and unaccountable governments.

We know that the wind of change in Egypt will blow to shake all the authoritarian regimes in the Arab world. These regimes which first were shocked by uprising in Tunisia and now in Egypt are trying to decorate their autocracies by false promises of reform and by raising wages to buy off critics and to defuse tensions.

However, as Egypt changed the political situation of Arabs in the later fifties and sixties of the last century, it will now. The symptoms are visible from Yemen to Jordan and from Algeria to Syria.