On January 29, I had the privilege of attending a rally in Toronto’s Dundas Square to stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia. With a crowd of approximately 1,000 people, protesters chanted “Out! Out! Mubarak” and “The people united will never be defeated!” Similar rallies in support were held worldwide in the past few days to coincide with the mass demonstrations being held across Egypt demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down.
While many participants were feeling proud of their fellow Egyptians’ bravery for standing up to Mubarak’s dictatorship regime, they were also fearful for the future of Egypt. Many were concerned about who or what party might take control over Egypt once Mubarak has finally been ousted.
Egyptians took to the streets across Egypt this past week in protest of increasing poverty, unemployment rates, restrictions on basic freedoms, and corruption within the government. Hosni Mubarak has been in power in Egypt since 1981 after he was sworn in as president six days after the assassination of Egypt’s former President Anwar Sadat. He has been able to maintain his power by imposing Emergency Law for the past 30 years that places restrictions on individuals’ rights to hold assembly, movement and residence.
It also allows for security forces to detain and arrest individuals and search residences for those they deem dangerous without going through typical criminal procedures. The government has also been known to restrict freedom of the press, especially when it comes to criticizing President Mubarak.
As demonstrations spread across Egypt, Mubarak ordered Internet and mobile phone service to be shut down countrywide in an attempt to stifle the protests.
What is most interesting to note is that while a vast number of Egyptians are unified in demanding the removal of Mubarak, North American and Western governments are having a much more difficult time being able to agree with them.
The United States government specifically has been a long-standing ally of the Mubarak regime. The U.S. relies upon their ties with Mubarak to ensure their economic interests as well as to maintain regional security. Furthermore, the United States provides Egypt with $1.5 billion dollars annually, with most of these funds going towards Egypt’s military.
What I find most difficult to swallow is how those governments, which pride themselves on democracy and pushing for the democratization of other nations, will throw their support so quickly behind dictatorship regimes. The Obama administration, for example, tip toed around the issue by urging President Mubarak to stick to his promises of reform. For me, they might as well say that they support the continuation of the Mubarak regime. The Canadian government is echoing the United States’ stance in urging President Mubarak to listen to the will of his people and reform the government.
I think we should all be listening to the will of the Egyptian people; that means supporting their call in removing their current government and seeking a new political system, whatever that may be. In saying that, I believe we have absolutely no right in telling the Egyptian people what kind of government they should have or whom they should vote for.
No government should be allowed to nose their way in and demand the Egyptian people put in place that which they see fit. In the words of Imam Amir Abdel Malik Ali at a San Francisco rally on Saturday, “Everyone has a right for self determination! Everyone has the right for self rule, and our people in Egypt are showing us all around the world that our true struggle is struggling against occupation, our true struggle is getting these dictators out of our homelands, our true struggle is self determination and self rule.”
It is time to allow the people of Egypt their fundamental right to self-governance, to seek out their own future and to continue on their journey to freedom and autonomy.