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Freedom for Egypt

Published: Monday, February 7, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

The uprising in Egypt, the Arab World's most populous nation, is one of the most important developments in the post-Cold War period. The repercussions for the U.S. National Security can be greatly devastating or stabilizing; however, this is not just about policy but about a people's noble struggle for freedom and democracy.

For the first time in the Middle East, the U.S. is finally being confronted with its rhetoric of promoting democracy and inalienable human rights. Thus far, we still have a choice to either affirm ourselves as a nation that truly seeks democracy or one that blindly cares about its short term interests and thus perpetually damned to be perceived as being on the wrong side of history.

Growing up in Egypt I only knew one president: Hosni Mubarak. Though I went to a private Coptic school his portrait was in every classroom and every public square. He has been ruling Egypt since 1981 and his reign is older than that of many Egyptians. In 1979, Egypt signed the first peace treaty by an Arab nation with Israel. Egypt thusly had the blessing of the U.S., which invested heavily in assuring the suppression of any possibility of war between Egypt and Israel. The price for this peace was the adamant and preposterous support of Mubarak's regime.

After a short period of economic recovery, the emboldened Mubarak regime began to turn on its own people. Mubarak enforced his desire to be president for life by expanding the Internal Security forces and placed the Egyptian people under a state of constant fear. So called "Emergency Laws" that have been in place since 1967 allowed the government to: arrest anyone and detain them without probable cause, the torture of detainees, unwarranted wiretapping, outlawing of critical protests, and censoring of the press. In this atmosphere of oppression and unwavering U.S. military aid, corruption intensified in the country at every level and businessmen friendly to the regime moved to monopolize certain industries and services to be sold at inflated prices.

Abandoned by the world and their government, the Egyptian people, once proud and dignified, were again subdued and abused like the days of French and British colonial rule. Regular Egyptians still struggle to survive and provide for their families. A conservative figure puts 40 percent of the population in Egypt living on less than $2 a day. Even educated Egyptians with high degrees struggle to find employment. Only the wealthy elites are allowed to prosper in the country and receive the biggest benefit from U.S. aid. If an Egyptian man wants to get an ID card he would have to bribe a bureaucrat to get it on time. If a mother wants to see her daughter succeed in school she must bribe teachers and professors by paying for private lessons or else they could fail her girl. Police officers are the most notoriously corrupt and abusive. Many cases of police extortion and torture are widely known by the people and used by the regime to keep people scared.

This barley touches on the list of grievances held by Egyptians against their tyrannical dictator of 30 years, but I hope it at least gives you some background.

It's impossible to touch on all the nuances and possible outcomes of the current revolution. We are faced with one solution though, and that is for our government to support the wishes of the Egyptian people to have basic freedoms that they have been denied for centuries. If there is still any faith in American exceptionalism by our people we must show our support for the Egyptian people in their revolution and let our government know that we must once again be on the right side of history. A democratic and free Egypt can have a chain reaction in the Middle East, and we would see democracy prevail and elevate the intrinsic wishes for peace and justice in the hearts of every Middle Eastern man and woman.


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