The world’s eyes are on Egypt, and probably 90% of those eyes are in favor of the protesters, the revolution against repression, dictatorship, deceit, the rape of a country and of its people’s rights. Last night I watched BBC and CNN coverage of Tahrir Square, where maybe hundreds of thousands of Egyptians had gathered peaceably, some for as many as two weeks, and were waiting to hear President Mubarak’s speech. The square was humming, alive, electric, as people celebrated optimistically, expectations high. Dancing, chanting. Surely Mubarak wouldn’t be so stupid as to ignore them?
Then the speech. Even I was outraged – after the mind-numbing shock had worn off. What a load of drivel. The man has an angry pinched face, which told the truth of his intentions as he paid lip service – and not very intelligently – to responding to the demands of practically the entire population. He opened his speech with addressing them as a father would a son. A father who beats his son and then goes to church with him. As he has done all along he protested himself that he wants to work with the protestors to create a safe and democratic Egypt. He appealed to the youth and their vision as if he was at one with it.
Magnanimously he said he would share power with his vice president – although he didn’t of course way what power and how, and smoothly avoided the reality that the vice president already share some powers, so in fact nothing’s going to change. Seamlessly, after lauding himself and his love of his people, he moved on to mentioning that he would work with the Egyptian people to maintain a safe society until free and fair elections could take place in September. In short, he wasn’t going anywhere.
A BBC report held his mic up on Tahrir Square to record the reaction. It was the sound of a million giant angry bees. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. And my admiration of the Egyptian people, already high, soared. What was Mubarak thinking? These are intelligent, courageous, honest people with a just cause. As one reporter said, in the face of massive provocation they have been non-violent, democratic, entirely honorable. They have given Mubarak and his regime the chance to do the same.
Instead he’s opened the door for a blood-bath. Many political correspondents are saying his speech was deliberately provocative – he knew it would enrage protesters. He baited them deliberately so they would turn violent and he could call in the military, have a crack down and reassert his power. What a stupid man.
The military itself has been split. Egyptians speak of it as he army of the people, because it’s a conscript army. The soldiers are one with the people, but the generals aren’t, they are part of the regime. They have huge power. So far it’s been unclear where the army as a whole stands. Obviously the generals want to hold onto their power. But they seem to be more awake than Mubarak to how much that power actually depends on the people. Yesterday one of them was in Tahrir Square telling everybody that all their demands would be met. That’s why everybody was celebrating.
So what happened? Did Mubarak mislead the generals? Are they in it together, baiting the protesters? The mind boggles. The anger in the Square last night and this morning was and is palpable. It’s a living breathing thing. Now people are talking about being willing to lay down their lives for their freedom. One young woman who spoke to CNN said “everyone is saying the military will open fire. If that is what has to happen for Mubarak to step down I would love to be in the front line”.
How can a man sacrifice his country and his people in this way? It’s beyond me. How could he be so incredibly stupid as to think that he has so much power he can stop a revolution? One woman put it succinctly. She said when a man has been a dictator for so long he loses touch with reality. So Mubarak joins the ranks of people like Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Hitler, Stalin. Oh they were crazy alright. But they did a lot of damage to a lot of very good people.
I don’t think it’s going to turn into a blood-bath, though. Something is different to past revolutions. We’ve got Facebook and Twitter, and people are sharing their courage and consciousness every second of the day. It’s spreading like wildfire, not just through Egypt, but throughout that whole region. I believe there’s still a chance for this to be a [largely] peaceful revolution. My heart is with the Egyptians. Such brave, beautiful people, leading the way for the rest of the suppressed world – which, let’s face it, is all of us in some way or another. Talk about stepping out of history!