Egypt: Listen to the Roar of Freedom

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Egypt Channel: Opinion Views: 3286
3286

"Just listen to that roar," urged a CNN correspondent in Egypt, as thousands of Egyptian protesters charged, fists pumped, against hundreds of armed Egyptian security forces. What a roar it was, indeed. The protests have shown the world that Arabs are capable of much more than merely being pitiable statistics of unemployment and illiteracy, or powerless subjects of 'moderate' but 'strong' leaders (an acronym for friendly dictators). 

The times are changing, and British MP George Galloway's comment about the Arab lion roaring again seems truer by the day. The Egyptians have revolted in style, and their revolution will go down in history books with such adjectives as "great", "noble" and "historic". 

Truth be told, Arabs have had their fair share of conjured 'revolutions'. Arab regimes have always been generous in how they ascribed the loaded term to their military coups or other stunts designed to impress or intimidate the masses. Any modern history of the Arab world will reveal an abundant use of the term 'thawra' - revolution. The label has been useful, for those who dared criticize a regime, or demanded basic rights (such as food) could then be dubbed enemies of whatever make-belief revolution the men in power championed. Innumerable Arab political prisoners were designated 'a'da' al-thawra' - enemies of the revolution - and they paid a heavy price for their 'crimes'. In Egypt alone, rough estimates put the current number of political prisoners (from different ideological backgrounds) at 20,000. The figure must be much larger now that the new enemies of the revolution - i.e. most of the Egyptian population - have dared demand freedoms, rights, democracy, and the biggest taboo of all: social justice. 

If there is any revolution deserving of the name, it is this one. Thanks to Egypt, people the world over have been forced to re-think their previous idea of "Arabs". Even many of us who insisted that the future of the Middle East could only be decided by the people themselves had eventually started to lose hope. We were told our words were redundant, sentimental, and, at best, an opportunity for poetic reflection, but not realpolitik. Now we know we have been right all along. Egypt is the clearest possible manifestation of the truth of people shaping their own history - not just in the Middle East, but anywhere. 

The spontaneous popular revolution in Egypt was a most befitting uplift to the collective humiliation that Arabs have felt for so many years, but even more acutely since the US invasion and utter violation of Iraq. 

"It became almost a burden being an Arab", a caller told Al Jazeera. Looking "Middle Eastern" became sufficient grounds for suspicion in international airports. It was not considered entirely racist to ask such questions as "Are Arabs capable of achieving democracy?" In fact, heated media discussions emanated from the type of questions that pondered what Arabs were - or rather, were not capable of achieving. Every war against the Arabs was done in the name of "bringing" something to people who seemed impeded by their own collective failures. In one of my first political science classes at the University of Washington, years ago, the professor told us that we would be "examining the Middle East, which consists of strong governments and weak peoples." With the exception of Israel, of course. 

The media has long repeated the mantra that Israel is the Middle East's only democracy. Combined with serious doubts regarding the Arabs' readiness for democracy, the conclusion offered is: Israel carries similar values to the US, the West, the First World, the civilized hemisphere, and the Arabs epitomize all the ailments of the world. It matters little that Arab regimes were made 'powerful' by the backing of their western benefactors, or that oppression - in the name of fighting the enemies of peace and progress - was urged, financed and orchestrated with western interests in mind. The fact that the bullets and canister teargas that killed and wounded numerous Egyptians had the following words inscribed on it in Arabic: 'suni'a fi al-wilayat al-mutahida al-amrikyia' - Made in the United States - was also deemed entirely irrelevant to any discussion on how and why Egyptians were being suppressed or why the Arab Lion must never find its roar. 

"The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise," wrote Uri Avnery. The CIA was too, although US lawmakers are trying to determine "whether the CIA and other spy agencies failed to give President Obama adequate warning of the unfolding crisis in Egypt" (as reported by Greg Miller in the Washington Post, February 4). Senator Dianne Feinstein who heads the Intelligence Committee, accused the intelligence community of 'lacking" performance. The CIA should have monitored Facebook more closely, she suggested. 

But there can be no telling when a nation revolts. Most of the chanting multitudes have no Facebook accounts. They don't tweet either. In Tahrir Square, a man with a moustache, dark skin and handsome features carried a cardboard sign on which he had written, rather hurriedly: "I want to eat. My monthly salary is 267 (Egyptian) pounds - approx $45 - and I have four children." 

Others want to breathe the air of freedom. Others still want justice. Dignity. Equality. Democracy. Hope. How can such values be measured, or safeguarded against? 

There is a very popular word in Egypt - al-Sabr. It means patience. But noone could predict when the patience would run out. Arab and Egyptian intellectuals didn't see it coming, and even the country's opposition parties were caught by surprise. Everyone tried to catch up as millions -of long-oppressed Egyptians erupted in astounding unison: hurriya, hurriya, adalah igtimayyia - freedom, freedom, social justice. 

Just when we were told that a religious strife was about to engulf Egypt, and that the people were subdued to the point that there was no hope, millions of brave Egyptians declared a revolution that brought Muslims and Christians together. The courage and the bravery they displayed is enough to restore our faith in the world - in the human race, and in ourselves. Those who are still wondering if Arabs are capable of this or that need not ponder anymore. Just listen to them roar, and you will find the answer. 

*****

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

 


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Egypt  Channel: Opinion
Views: 3286

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Older Comments:
AHMED FROM INDIA said:
The wind of change, freedom and justice must bless entire Arab and Muslim world. The change began with Tunisia and reached Arab. Muslims must work with patience and persistance to root out tyrant dictators who submit to zionist empire rather than serving their people. Next corrupt and tyrant to be targeted is Jordanian king who is ardent supporter to zionist genocide and has fully backed their criminal leaders and their policies. He must make way for people of Jordan to decide their fate and policy and not US and Israel to decide.
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PAAGLE FROM USA said:
This is exactly the sort of incomplete, us-vs-them perspective that will poison Arab Muslim - western relations from here on out. When Ramzy's professor said the ME was characterized by "strong governments and weak people" he was right at the time - and for a long time after. The "we were told [blah blah blah]" was reasonable analysis given what we in the west could see.

So the tear gas, tanks, etc were "Made In the USA"? For all his having lived here, Mr Baroud clearly understands little about the USA. "Made in the USA" simply means some private company produced a product. It is not a stamp of approval by the government or the American people, because the government largely stays out of private business. Now, I'm not saying the US is without responsibility. Arms makers in the US influenced (bribed) key decision makers in the US to find markets for their goods, and those interests correlated with other interests that wanted stable and prefferential access to the Suez Cannal.

These things happened under the nose of the US people - who like people everywhere are busy enough dealing with their daily life. It takes an uprising like this to bring the injustice to the attention of the American people. More importantly, it makes it clear there are people fighting the injustice - people worthy of supporting. It should be noted that Americans are overwhelmingly in support of the people of Egypt in this revolution. Its true we worry about the revolution being betrayed by Islamists the same way the Iranian revolution was betrayed by Islamists (and in Iran we were far more complicit in the dictatorship). But by and large we're happy to sit back and see that our fears are unfounded.

So if you need an external (western) "they" for "they said we couldn't" and "they stood aside while" and to feel good about this magnificent revolution, then you're sowing the seeds of further misdirected resentment and conflict in the future.
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MUSLIM SISTER FROM CANADA said:
My prayers are with you and the whole world, we need peace all of us. I pray that one day the whole Arab world will achieve peace for all its people.
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