Eye On Egypt: What Happens Now?
“This is their shot at a chance to write their own history,” NBC’s Brian Williams commented this morning on the Today show, describing how residents of Middle Eastern countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran are closely watching the “freedom fighting” events currently unfolding in Egypt.
Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak finally declared on Tuesday he would surrender power in September, but many Egyptians demanded his 30-year-rule end immediately. Mubarak has been accused of broaching his supposed commitment to democratic constitutional change, which according to Reuters he has resisted since inheriting the mantle of the ruling military establishment back in 1981.
The LA Times is on the ground in Egypt, reporting people are now hoping the country will emerge from the conflict with a freely elected government (with a transitional unity government in the interim), jobs for masses of idle youth, police who need not be feared and a society that cares for the poor and vulnerable.
After days of conflict, civil unrest hit a peak yesterday as more than 200,000 protesters packed the country’s capital of Cairo. While the majority of protests have been peaceful, the death toll has slowly risen. “Casualties have been mounting on a daily basis, with unconfirmed reports suggesting as many as 300 people may have been killed so far, more than 3,000 injured and hundreds arrested,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said.
For his part, Mubarak isn’t giving up power just yet and some say his announcement regarding his impending resignation is smoke and mirrors, with leading reformist figure, retired diplomat Mohammed El Baradei, telling CNN it’s a “trick.”
In his speech to the country over 80 million yesterday, 82-year-old Mubarak said, “I say in all honesty and regardless of the current situation that I did not intend to nominate myself for a new presidential term. I will work in the remaining months of my term to take the steps to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.”
Much may depend on the army, once Mubarak’s power base, which appears to be trying to ensure a transition of power that would maintain the influence of the armed forces. The military indeed has its work cut out for it—while Mubarak’s announcement that his government will step down in September is seen as good news for many Egyptians, reports out of the country today show demonstrations have begun turning even more violent as the President’s detractors (mainly students and younger adults) and supporters (older residents) have started confronting each other in the streets. It is hoped peace will eventually come to Egypt as events unfold, but as famed nineteenth century abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, without struggle, there is indeed no progress.