February 12th: Algeria’s Turn?

On February 12th, Algerians plan to stage a similar protest that has been held in Tahrir Square. In Algeria, the square that is gaining recognition is 1st of May Square. This will be the sight on February 12th where Algerians will gather to show solidarity in an overthrow of the government. This is led by a pro-democracy group, however, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika understands the importance of the current uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. According to MEDEX Global Solutions, in an attempt to squash a reoccurrence of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bouteflika has ordered 10,000 police officers and 20,000 security personnel to guard the Capitol from protesters.

The difference between Egypt with other Arab countries is the leadership. Mubarak was not willing to use extensive violent force on the protesters, however, other regimes are not as understanding. As citizens in other nations take to the streets to demand more freedoms, the hope is that the autocratic rulers listen to the citizens rather than use excessive force in an attempt to subdue their uprisings.

As the domino effect continues, future uprisings will have to take the route of the Egyptians, peaceful yet non-compromising. It is amazing that we live in a day when a region riddled with autocratic rulers and corruption decides to unite together to overthrow the governments that hold them back from becoming nations where people have a voice.

It will be interesting to see if another domino shall begin to fall Saturday, February 12th.

Egypt- Almost There

On February 11, the Facebook Revolution reached an apex as news media sources reported that Mubarak had stepped down. As this happens, the critical decision is how the Egyptians remain united to create their new government. I am overwhelmed seeing the Egyptians celebrate their persistence in the streets. As Mubarak’s concession is made, a new Egypt is under way.

As it stands now, victory is not complete. Egyptians must still stand united. This was not a revolt against Mubarak, this was a revolt against a lack of freedoms, the absence of unalienable rights, and a corrupt government. It just so happens that Mubarak embodied all of these. As Mubarak hands power to the High Council of the Military, the question that remains is how the Military will begin to restructure government and allow for a representative government to take hold.

One point of concern is whether this is resignation or merely delegation. It is well thought that this is truly Mubarak’s last day in power. It is good to see that as Mubarak goes, Soliman retreats with him. If Soliman would have been allowed to remain in power, concerns would have been raised that the move by Mubarak would simply be delegation, opening the door for a return.  This brings to mind the “transition of power” that never really happened in Russia, when Putin stepped down and Medvedev stepped in. As everyone knows, it is Putin who really runs that nation. However, with the High Council in control, these fears can be subsided for a short time, allowing the Egyptians to form a new government.

As Egyptians are cheering in the streets, a democracy in Egypt is closer than ever before. As mentioned in my previous post, Egyptians must keep their minds on a plan that promotes their goals, more freedoms, more human rights, and a democratic government.

Egyptians, the world watched and you delivered hope of a new form of government, hope of a new future, and the realization of a new Egypt. Thank you for what you have done so far, and God Bless You as you now move to the difficult work of constructing a new government that embodies the values you have espoused.

Why Egypt’s Economy Needs a Plan More Than Protests Now

With concentration focused on the protesters, the resignation of Mubarak and hopefully a peaceful transfer of power, few are talking about the economic impact of the protests and Mubarak’s resignation. With tourism accounting for 11 percent of GDP and the Big Three rating companies dropping the Egyptian bond rating, the nation’s citizens are being adversely exposed to a falling economy. Additionally, many foreign companies are exiting the country.

This latter point hit home to me recently as I spoke to one of my many cousins in Egypt. He explained that the Japanese company that he works for called to inform him it has “decided to abandon projects and leave Egypt.” Another relative mentioned that her bank had been burned to the ground. While the current topics of conversation in American media are correctly focused on the political aspects of the power transfer, we should remember that the economic impact of the transfer of power will be just as critical.

There are two potential transfer of power scenarios being discussed in much of the international community. In the first, Mubarak steps down in September per his recent statement; in the second, Mubarak steps down much sooner, possibly in the coming month. However, there are great risks to both approaches. Should Mubarak step down now, it could leave a political vacuum for the Muslim Brotherhood. If he were to stay in power and protests continued then the world may see the same sad violence that was observed on February 2.

Whichever scenario holds, Egypt’s economy will suffer loss and chaos will persist. Currently in Egypt, the financial market is crashing, banks are burning, capital investments inside and outside of Egypt are disappearing, tourism revenues have vanished and foreign companies are leaving projects behind. And that is the good news, at least compared to citizens in Egypt who are not working. What’s currently at stake is greater poverty which will lead to greater chaos in the streets and perhaps years of political and economic recovery at stake.

I propose a compromise that will ease the instability and tension that will likely continue until the day a peaceful exchange of power takes place. As it stands currently, the two most likely replacements at this point are Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the IAEA, and Amr Moussa, current Secretary-General of the Arab League.

For an effective compromise to take place, Mubarak would need to take control one last time by helping to orchestrate the transfer of power to an interim government. Also, a leadership core must be established that will restore unity and order to Egypt while showing international governments, tourists and businesses that Egypt is, indeed, open to them. Over the next week, I believe a private meeting should be held between Mubarak, ElBaradei, and Moussa. Currently, two out of the three can provide value to Egyptians.

ElBaradei, though accused of being out-of-touch with the average Egyptian, has obtained international respect with his involvement in global equality, the International Atomic Energy Agency and being a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005. With this recognition, he would reinforce the prominence of Egypt in the Middle East and give hope of stability to international investors, companies and tourists. Domestically, Amr Moussa holds the respect of Egyptians and would be a formidable choice to orchestrate the domestic changes needed.

In this meeting, Mubarak should make Amr Moussa his “transition team” leader/interim president. Most of Egypt’s80 million citizens would approve of Moussa as the next leader and trust that he would rework the constitution. Several changes he would likely push for are installing inalienable human rights, providing more freedoms and ensuring protection against governmental corruption. At the same time ElBaradei would become a Vice President or a Senior Advisor managing all international relations. These two individuals would expedite the recovery of Egypt’s economy while also creating the democratic society that all Egyptians yearn for.

The success of Egypt and the new government is contingent upon the removal of the Mubarak regime now while recognizing the political and economic realities within the nation. Egypt literally cannot afford for Mubarak to wait until September. Even with a smooth transition of power capital investments, foreign companies and especially tourism may not return to pre-protest revenues for six months to a year after the Mubarak regime is out of office. If Mubarak truly wants the best for Egypt and Egyptians, as he said he did in his recent statement, than now is the time to step down.

February 2, 2011 was the first day that protesters lost sight of being a unified body. The ultimate removal of Mubarak, while creating a new interim government around Moussa and ElBaradei, would reunite Egyptian citizens while decreasing the likelihood that future generations would have to pay the economic price of today’s circumstances.

The Americans Are Leaving- Why Some Egyptians Want Them to Stay

As the state department of the United States urges its citizens to make emergency flights out of Egypt, the US embassy in Cairo is hard at work. The US Embassy has tasked itself with the safety of US citizens to ensure a safe and quick departure from Egypt. However, is this a bad thing for Egyptians? Egyptians are saying that this departure could be a threat to their safety. The current situation in Cairo is highly unsettled and other countries are urging their citizens to pull out of Egypt as well, including Britain and Japan.

As this is happening, reports are surfacing in Egypt that President Obama is speaking to President Mubarak. No one knows what these talks entail; however, the Egyptian people assume that President Obama is still supporting Mubarak’s regime. As I am told, “We do not need the United States’ help in our revolution. What we hope is that the United States will tell Mubarak that the United States will no longer support Mubarak’s regime.”

So, why would Americans leaving Cairo affect the Egyptian people? The Egyptian people feel that as American, British, and Japanese citizens are departing for their home countries, Egyptians are left without their “shield”. With the only people left being Egyptians, people believe that Mubarak will be more willing to order the military to start using force to deter protesters. In response to this, the Egyptian people have begun asking for a million citizens to congregate at Tahrir Square on Tuesday, February 1. Some do believe that this is going to be a “million-man march” but the sentiment in Egypt is that the calling of a million people is to deter Mubarak from using force against the people. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers.

As Mubarak’s days are numbered the reality that he would irrationally use military force on protesters in Tahrir Square which would cause a massacre is unlikely. However, it is this fear that has Egyptians concerned. They want this to be their fight and it is most certainly that now; the only individuals left are themselves, there are no foreign citizens to halt Mubarak from using direct force.

Egyptians have already seen scare tactics from Mubarak. The looters are believed to be sent from Mubarak’s regime. Public hospitals in Egypt were raided last night and the patients were stripped of any money they had. Public hospitals in Egypt care for the indigent. These are people who struggle to live day to day. Individuals who can afford more expensive, not always higher quality care, will be seen at private institutions. What does it mean that the looters choose to raid public hospitals? This would be Mubarak’s attempt to stifle the enthusiasm of the people who are, for every reason, willing to sacrifice all they have for a more equitable Egypt. These scare tactics have given most the belief that Mubarak is willing to use extreme measures until the people side with him.

What should President Obama do today? I do not wish to be the President of the United States this week, however, our President has been on the forefront in demanding human rights for the protesters. Whether the Egyptians are correct in believing that Mubarak will now start using force as foreigners have left, President Obama must take this threat seriously. A recommendation would be to again call President Mubarak to notify the leader that if peaceful protesters are met with violence then the United States will immediately and publically call for the immediate resignation of President Mubarak. The only hope is that a man whose back is against the proverbial wall will make the best decision for his fellow citizens and treat them as fellow humans, which is exactly what they are.

An article was brought to my attention that mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood seeking other opposition groups to join forces in an interim unity government. They will all be together in Tahrir Square tomorrow. What would this mean? The Muslim Brotherhood is seeking opportunities currently to be seen as a mild group that believes in the ideologies of the protesters, unalienable human rights and personal freedom. However, the Brotherhood does not support either ideal. The Brotherhood is currently locked out of the current government. If Egyptians allow the Muslim Brotherhood to play the slightest role in the reshaping of Egypt’s government, one can expect the stifling of personal freedoms and less equitable Egypt.

Egyptians, keep your eyes on end goal, put into power those individuals that will allow Egypt to flourish not suffer.  To the military, side with your fellow citizens, they wish for you to protect a better Egypt.

America and Egypt- Stand With Your Allies?

The events that have transpired over the last few days in Egypt are breathing life into protesters and exhausting others. After speaking with family, I have gained insight as to what happens at night in Egypt. In America we have heard of the neighborhood watch groups, but allow me to paint a picture as to what it looks like. The men gain minimal hours of sleep during the day and at night stay outside walking around protecting their neighborhoods. The instruments of choice for protection are baseball bats, knives, and guns. Though guns are not allowed to be in the procession of citizens, those who have served in the military usually have obtained licenses to keep arms.

The men in neighborhoods are using a lot of strong instincts in knowing how to handle the situations at night. Homes are keeping their lights on. One reason is to give looters the appearance of an alert household, but as I heard today, “we must keep the lights on in the house because if the lamp posts go out, we need the light to stay vigilant”. These neighborhood watch groups are signifying themselves by wearing similar garments. For instance, you may see everyone in a neighborhood wear red ribbons around their arm. This provides an opportunity to easily identify outsiders as no two neighborhoods use similar garments. As looters approach, shots are fired to deter them from vandalizing homes in the neighborhoods. It is likely that night patrols will not cease until Mubarak is dethroned.

The question that is being raised most often is, what should America do moving forward? Should we speak out against Mubarak? How do we treat one of our most trusted allies in the Middle East? I do not pretend to be a fellow within the Council on Foreign Relations, however, Egypt is changing before our eyes and America must stand with Egyptians at this moment. As the men in the night watch describe the situation, “These protesters will not stop until Mubarak is out of office. There is no timetable on the passion for change.” As this being the sentiment shared by most Egyptians, it must be acknowledged by President Obama and his administration that standing with a man who is on his way out could damage the relations that the United States will need with the leader that Egyptians put into power.

If however, Mubarak does not step down soon, should United States officials try to broker peace between Mubarak and the people of Egypt? Absolutely not. This is a revolt that is led by the Egyptian people and they expect to finish the work themselves. A detrimental move for the United States would be for Middle Eastern countries to look at the next Egyptian leader as “hand-picked” by the United States. President Obama is making the right decisions in advising towards a peaceful end while allowing the Egyptian people to handle what they see as most important.

The United States is and will continue to be seen as the global police, however, we have seen how the Egyptians view police. For this reason, President Obama must stand with the people on the ideologies of human rights, freedom, and the end of corruption. If we stand with the people and encourage them to choose the leader that will restore Egyptian credibility and reconstruct the constitution allowing for more opportunity, a Middle Eastern crisis could certainly be avoided.

The Coming of a New Egypt

With family in Cairo and Alexandria, I am very well attuned to the goings on in Egypt at the current moment. After speaking with uncles and cousins via landlines (all other communication is shut down in Egypt) I have begun to understand the complexity and severity of the issue.

I have been asked by many people, why is this happening and what caused this? In response, this is an issue of a corrupt government. Close to half of Egyptians are living off less than $1 a day and the citizens simply expect basic human rights and their inalienable right to freedom. Despite the stereotype of the Middle East, religion has not played a part in the protests…yet.

All of this was compounded with the brutal police killing of Khaled Mohamed Said in June 2010. This killing of a man in his twenties ignited a spark against the government. What is more amazing about this, is the impact that Facebook has had in changing the environment in the Middle East. After the brutal killing of Said, a message on a Facebook page dedicated to Said talked about a protest that would happen on the national holiday celebrating the efforts of the police force in Egypt. The date was January 25, 2011.  After hearing about the protest, Mubarak’s response surrounded the theme of ‘well let the children do what they wish’. Not knowing how upset the people were and how much of an issue for change this would become, the police force was unequipped which bolstered the protesters.

As of 6:00 pm EST on January 28, 2011, President Mubarak spoke to the people promising to remove his ministers but remained bold in his belief that he should stay in power. This will not happen. Protesters are upset with the Parliament in Egypt but they are more forceful with their words and actions as it relates to President Mubarak and his corruption.

What does this mean for Egypt going forward? Egyptians must make it known quickly that they want a moderate in power. If this does not happen then the Muslim Brotherhood will find itself in power, despite what others believe. Egyptians’ best choice at the present time is Mohammed ElBaradei, though seen as an outsider and unaware of Egyptians concerns; he gives Egypt the greatest opportunity to remain credible in the Middle East. Other names like Amr Moussa (former Minister of Foreign Affairs) have come to the surface as a potential replacement. However member of Mubarak’s ministry is an unlikely choice.

The protests right now are focused on all the right things: corruption, human rights, and freedom. If however, the Muslim Brotherhood gains power it would make this protest about religion. If this does happen, it is over for Egypt. What would that mean for the rest of the Middle East? With similar revolutions happening in Tunisia, Algiers, Jordan, and Yemen; what happens in Egypt will likely control how the citizens in other countries decide to elect their leaders.

If we look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as an example for how countries under this type of rule act, we see irrationality in foreign affairs. Fault is absolutely on both sides. However, many of the demands from the Palestinians are so dramatic that Israel has to deny them. They are dramatic because if there is peace there would not be a need for Hamas or the PLO. If these types of regimes take over the Middle East, you can expect the same irrationality (or rationality whichever way you think). Also, if this type of regime took over, what would happen to the economy of Egypt? Despite what others believe, Egypt is not as oil rich as their neighbors and a large portion of the economy is driven by the tourism of the history rich nation. However, if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, you would see a decline in tourism revenue resulting in even greater poverty.

It is very crucial for Egyptians to continue to fight for the right things, freedom from an authoritarian and a corrupt government and human rights. It must be stated that in this fight, Egyptians must not lose sight of a better Egypt, an Egypt that is credible around the world and a beacon for true freedom for other Arabs to see.

Make the right decision Egyptians, the world is watching!

The Reality of the Real World

Well today I was amazed at how real the MTV show The Real World actually was. I have always thought that there is nothing real about The Real World. In my “real” world I do not go off for 3 months and live in a house with strangers and perform lewd acts of debauchery and cause enormous amounts of drama…or do I? No I don’t. But aside from that I feel that the season of The Real World in Washington D.C. has captured something real…the ignorance of the left. I have not watched the show more than the scenario I am about to describe so if the following character has changed her ways (doubtful) I will correct myself.

I came in from running a few errands and the television was turned on and MTV’s The Real World was showing the sites of D.C., so I stopped and thought that I would like to see what they would show of our nation’s capital. How could I have been so naïve? Well this episode was the first and the housemates were choosing rooms to stay in and all of the rooms had pictures of different presidents (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, J.F.K., and Ronald Reagan). One of the girls, I believe her name was Ashley, saw the room that had Ronald Reagan’s picture and quickly dismissed it. Then she came to the room that had the picture of Abraham Lincoln and was ecstatic and proclaimed that this was her room. I hope you see where this is going…

Well another housemate came in, sorry I don’t remember her name. Ashley said, “I can’t wait to see what room she picks so I can see if we will get along…” Well this girl picks the room with Ronald Reagan and when questioned about why she chose it proclaimed that Reagan was her favorite president…now the kicker…Ashley then said, “Oh no! You’re a Republican…I can’t handle that, left is right!”

I tried to remain calm when I saw this realizing that this girl is completely ignorant and she herself chose the room of a prominent Republican! Wow, I was shocked at her ignorance to put others down for choosing the room of a Republican when she herself unwittingly did the same.

The reason this ‘grinds my gears’, as a friend of mine always says, is because we are living in a day when people are thinking with their feelings and what they are taught no matter if it is wrong. The day when we as a general population reasoned and made decisions based on logic and valued knowledge is long gone. It is as if we are living in a Nietzsche society where people cling to existentialism and think that the meaning of the world we live in is entirely up to their own interpretation. Now, I do understand that this is far from my earlier point and I can touch on this later, however Ashley, my dear, I do not blame you for your lack of knowledge but this is the battle cry of the left in general, “left is right and if you disagree you must not understand.” God, give us a zeal for the Truth!

-will