All Articles Tagged "egypt protests"
The late Gil Scott-Heron used to say that the “revolution won’t be televised.” Nowadays, it appears that certain dictators and oppressive governmental agencies around the globe are doing their best to silence or limit the voices of their citizens.
As robust democratic movements have recently transpired in Iran amid the election protests opposing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in Cairo during its struggle against the tyrannical leadership of former president Hosni Mubarak, the world has been able to witness injustices and brutal behavior- firsthand and live- via Twitter and Facebook like never before.
In the case of Egypt, many individuals were also able to see the actions of their government to shut down the access of the Internet to limit civil unrest. One would think that similar actions to block communication in the United States should not occur due to constitutional law and state-specific legal protections. But, our nation and others have lately witnessed the now-infamous shutdown of underground cell phone service by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to disrupt protesters in San Francisco who have become fed up with alleged police brutality.
The First Amendment of the Constitution does allow peaceful demonstrations and the freedom of assembly as means to redress grievances. From a state perspective, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a 1967 California Supreme Court ruling found that a city could not prohibit non-disruptive political activity inside a railroad station. Taking this into consideration, did BART officials violate the free speech rights of the protesters by cutting power to its wireless nodes to prevent live blogging? I believe that BART did overstep its boundaries, although they may not have technically violated any laws.
Certainly, one can make the argument that BART turned off cell phone hardware on its own property to address public safety and thus restricted communication based on reasonable and neutral viewpoints. Thus, there are no legal issues. And, to be sure, this is definitely different from a case where the government would shut down private networks or interfere with communication on private property.
When I first heard of the political unrest happening in Tunisia, I, like the rest of America, was enamored. The images of a bunch of average folks waving signs of democracy, chanting a chorus of ‘Yes We Can,’ and taking their own political destiny into their own hands all seemed so surreal.
Tunisia was then followed by Egypt, which also sent chills down my spine. What we were supposedly witnessing in Egypt was the textbook case of a revolution. And it’s easy to get caught up in the images of ordinary folks toppling the entrenched autocrats and corrupt governments.
But since Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings have now taken on a life of its own with similar demonstrations occurring throughout the Middle East and North Africa in countries such as Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, and most recently, Libya.
That’s when I had to pause my celebration of the Jasmine Revolution and wonder, what the heck is really going on here?
You can say it’s my skeptical mind or a case of paranoia brought on by watching too many episodes of Jesse Ventura’s Conspiracy Theory, but all of this, all at once, and all in one particular region? Surely, I am not alone in my curiosity. So, for the purpose of exploring all options, I propose this question: Is it at all possible that a bunch of people inspired by one single event decided to just get up one day and demand their leaders to step down?
Most of these countries have little in common except for being in the same geographical region. In contrast to the Arab monarchies of Egypt, Bahrain and Morocco, countries such as Iran and Yemen both have free elections and their presidents do not rule for decades. Moreover, some of these countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, are largely modern and secular societies in comparison to the clerical caste of ayatollahs, who impose a theocratic dictatorship in other parts of the region.
Of course, the media has over-simplified the nature of these movements as being the people’s revolution brought on by a desire for democracy. However, none of these demonstrations and uprisings can be traced back to a single flagship issue.
In Tunisia, Ben Ali was ousted because of mass corruption within the government. The uprising in Egypt had a lot to do with rising unemployment and increased costs in food and energy. And in Bahrain, where it is divided unequally between Islamic denominations, the unrest there is between the Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunnis, who are the ruling class.
It’s easy to speculate that much of the unrest is rooted in attempts to destabilize the region for political and economic purposes. Saif al-Islam, son of Mummar Khadhafi, has gone on record to accuse foreigners and opposition groups that have ties to both the United States and Al-Qaeda of fomenting unrest in Libya. In the Daily Telegraph, it speculates that the U.S. government has secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising, and has been planning a “regime change” for the past three years. In most of these cases, the White House—U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in particular—has been supporting the protests across the region.
However, there is no clear link to prove that the U.S. or any other group had a hand in any of the uprisings. Nor is there proof of how destabilization of the Middle East and North Africa region would greatly benefit the U.S. Government.
Perhaps this is just a peasant uprising, or maybe there are more orchestrated agendas occurring behind the scenes. Either way, it’s pretty clear that the Middle East and its people are heading for uncharted destinations that will take years to fully understand the implications. As the demonstrations and uprisings in both Bahrain and Libya turn deadly, and with the Jasmine Revolution now spreading to Iraq—a country with a government less than six months old—we in the Western world should watch carefully but resist taking sides too quickly because we really don’t have a clue as to what’s going on.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
(New York Times) — With Facebook playing a starring role in the revolts that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt, you might think the company’s top executives would use this historic moment to highlight its role as the platform for democratic change. Instead, they really do not want to talk about it.
The social media giant finds itself under countervailing pressures after the uprisings in the Middle East. While it has become one of the primary tools for activists to mobilize protests and share information, Facebook does not want to be seen as picking sides for fear that some countries — like Syria, where it just gained a foothold — would impose restrictions on its use or more closely monitor users, according to some company executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal business.
And Facebook does not want to alter its firm policy requiring users to sign up with their real identities. The company says this requirement protects its users from fraud. However, human rights advocates like Susannah Vila, the director of content and outreach for Movements.org, which provides resources for digital activists, say it could put some people at risk from governments looking to ferret out dissent.
(The Root) — Only now am I becoming able to make peace with something that has nagged at me lately: I don’t think of the protesters in Egypt as my brothers and sisters. There, I said it. I am heartened daily by their victories. If someone asked me to help in some way, I would do all I could. But I do not see the people in those streets as “my people.” Some would say that I am supposed to. But here’s why I, at least, am no longer feeling a pang of guilt when I see photos of Tahrir Square and do not see the faces as comrades of mine. Reason 1: We are to perceive the Egyptians as fellow “Africans,” but designating people as culturally united simply because they share a landmass is dicey. Imagine the newspaper headline “Asians Found Adrift on Raft.” We would be properly horrified at Chinese, Vietnamese and Sri Lankans being lumped together as one entity. Calling an Egyptian, a Senegalese and a Malagasy all one thing suffers from a similar problem. Spontaneously, most of us process Egypt as culturally a part of the Middle East — because it is. Oh, but “black” Egypt was the source of the ancient Greeks’ intellectual legacy? Well, for one thing, it wasn’t (try here or here). And besides, the arrival of Islam in the seventh century made Egypt a culturally and demographically distinct place from the land of the pharaohs. And the problem only gets worse when you really think about what it means to treat an Egyptian, a Senegalese, a Malagasy and a black man from Detroit all as one thing. Black Americans are descended from Africans, but my, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?
(Network Journal) — As the Egyptian government and opposition figures met for talks earlier this month, the country’s financial system, businesses and traffic seemed to begin to creep back toward normal. The massive protest against 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, insisting that he step down, sparked outflows of funds and a clamor for the U.S. dollar, weakening the Egyptian pound. Analysts at French investment bank Credit Agricole said the turmoil was costing Egypt at least $310 million a day. Fueled by fury over financial deprivation, the unrest in Egypt threatens to diminish the country’s economic growth. The stock market plummeted 20 percent within a week as investors fled in droves, undermining a vibrant private sector led by a construction boom and vibrant. The protests in Egypt, triggered by an uprising in Tunisia that led to the departure of President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, spotlight popular distaste for “Big Man” politics elsewhere in Africa, where autocratic leaders are increasingly resisting change and struggling to hang on to power at all costs. These leaders may not last very long, however. “The region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trend,” warns U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “This is what has driven demonstrators into the streets in Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the region. The status quo is simply unsustainable.” Among recent holdovers, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, accused of stealing an election and plunging his country into a deadly civil conflict in late 2007; Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, accused of doing the same in 2008; and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, who lost elections in November but has so far refused to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally-backed winner.
(Washington Post) — In Egypt, the tried-and-true tool for opponents of President Hosni Mubarak in recent years has been Facebook. Most recently, it was on Facebook – which boasts 5 million users in Egypt, the most in the Arab world – where youthful outrage over the killing of a prominent activist spread, leading to the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Mubarak’s promise to step down this year. But Facebook, which celebrates its seventh birthday Friday and has more than a half-billion users worldwide, is not eagerly embracing its role as the insurrectionists’ instrument of choice. Its strategy contrasts with rivals Google and Twitter, which actively helped opposition leaders communicate after the Egyptian government shut down Internet access.
With current protests in Jordan and swift actions being made by King Abdullah II, it appears that recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia against oppressive regimes are spreading like wildfire throughout the North African and “Middle East” regions. A plethora of commentary has been written over the past few days about the protests in Egypt, the character of President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak and the failure of the Obama administration to expediently speak out against the Egyptian leader. However, there has been a substantive shortage in essays that focus on proposed solutions and potential paths forward relative to Egypt and other countries where citizens suffer under the overbearing arms of dictatorship.
Indeed, many across the globe are inspired by the courageous and gallant voices and acts of the citizens of Tunisia who fought against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 24 years of oppression. However, it is fairly tragic to know that Tunisia only represents a snapshot of countries under autocratic and imperialistic leadership. When assessesing the nations that have been under such leadership for decades–such as Egypt under President Mubarack for almost 30 years, Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi for nearly 42 years, Oman under Sultan Qaboos biri Said Al Said for 41 years, Sudan under Omar al-Bashir for 21 years, Yemen under Ali Abdullah Saleh for 32 years, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe for 23 years and the list goes on–one begins to realize that democracy, freedom and rule of law are not ubiquitous throughout the international community.
Some commentators believe that human rights will simply never exist in certain nations. They postulate that most citizens that live under tyrannical and oppressive authority will never experience democracy and just have to expect to live in their respective societies without any freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion, and must come to terms with arbitrary arrests and being held in prisons without any reason. Certainly, some of the above-mentioned leaders and their respective countries make these hypotheses seem very valid.
A myriad of critics have exclaimed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and similar documents (e.g., African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and Arab Charter on Human Rights) simply do not guarantee that member states of the United Nations will promote human rights of their own citizens. To a large degree, this assessment is correct. The Universal Declaration, which is not a treaty or legally binding, is a fundamental standard that member states can commit themselves to at face value. But, it is relatively safe to state that more objective evidence is needed across the globe for dictatorial, corrupt governments and human rights “violations.” Some scholars and thinkers have suggested that term limits be established as universal law to preclude iron-handed, autocratic leaders from holding their positions for long periods of time and in some cases, for life. Would this be the panacea for solving this historical and current dilemma? Well, the answer remains to be seen, but I think that it is a plausible solution that warrants a thorough analysis and civil debate.
First, in examining countries around the globe, it is safe to state that a large number of nations do have term limits (e.g., two five-year terms, two consecutive five-year terms, one six-year term, two four-year terms, etc.) for the head of government. Conversely, there are a plethora of countries that have no term limits. Of course, many critics would make the argument that some of the countries without term limits do enjoy democracy and basic human rights. This viewpoint would likely be valid. However, the rebuttal of this stance would simply be that there are many nations without term limits for the head of government that are enamored with inhumane circumstances such as Egypt.
In some instances, term limits do terminate the “good” politicians along with the “bad” and cause a loss of knowledge and experience. But the limits can help to prevent career or lifelong heads of government, preclude corrupt politico-economic plutocracy and introduce new ideas and thinking. Does the United Nations need to establish a “one-world government” type of international law where every country has to adhere to the same term limits? Absolutely not. In the context of a country’s “sovereignty” and interests, this should be left up to the respective nation. But maybe there should be an international law developed by the UN, upon consensus by its members, with restrictive clauses to prevent 20, 30 and 40 years of despotic domination by heads of government, including members of their family who would aim to carry on imperialistic and elitist societies. This international law should also embody punitive clauses for countries that violate the agreed term limits.
If the international community does not start moving toward solutions relative to this issue, we will continue to see nations devoid of democracy, freedom, fair and just political and social systems and basic human rights.
Anthony Jerrod is a bestselling author, speaker, and public policy expert.
In the joke, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was ill and the people of Egypt sent a message through his emissaries that they’d like to see him and say goodbye. Upon being told that the people wanted to say goodbye to him, Mubarak quipped, “why, where are they going?” Friedman, surprisingly, surmised that the joke just isn’t funny anymore. He’s right. Egyptians are fed up.
As Egyptian protesters increasingly up the ante, it is even more unlikely that Mubarak will maintain his grip on power. This is a good thing. And if the protests we’re seeing across the Arab world are any indication, more straw men will fall before the passions finally calm. From the Green protests in Iran, to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, to Egypt to Jordan, the Arab world has been set ablaze.
Sadly, and predictably, many paid American pontificators have been asking all the wrong questions and reaching all the wrong conclusions. The question you hear from most commentators is ‘what does this mean for the U.S?’ or ‘what action should a great democracy like the U.S. take in the face of the opposition to Mubarak’s regime?’
Firstly, this is not about us. This is about freedom. Egyptians have the right to live and govern as they please, whatever the outcome. And the U.S. has the obligation to allow sovereign nations to plot their own course to self-governance, unhindered by coercion from the West. Secondly, as a moral question, we should never have been in the business of propping up violent dictators or undermining free elections or freely elected leaders. Now, our inaction is more impactful than our action.
In his 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama boldly asserted to Egyptians that “given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail”. Asking ‘what about the U.S.’ undermines President Obama’s comments and opens the door for America to, once again, impose her will on the Arab people. Now, at a time when we’re witnessing the rot of the fruits of U.S. paternalism is the perfect time for a course correction.
In the days and weeks going forward, we’re sure to hear calls for pragmatic action from both think tank gurus and national security jackals. But in epoch times like ours, we should be wary of all who call for pragmatism since pragmatism is a stalling tool used by the powerful to initiate action intended to interrupt the momentum necessary to bestow freedom upon the powerless. Equally, we should avoid the ‘devil we don’t know’ argument.
Whispers of this argument are already being advanced by those who believe that the Muslim Brotherhood may fill the leadership void if Mubarak’s regime is ousted. Those who make this argument believe that the devil we know, Mubarak, is better than the devil we don’t know – at least so far as U.S. interests are concerned. And for what it’s worth, they may very well be right. It is still, however, not our call. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over and if they present a problem for the U.S., then we should deal with it then – not pre-emptively.
For America, this is our era of reckoning. If we believe in the words of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech or those of Thomas Jefferson, who thought that we should have “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none, “then it’s time we live by those words. For far too long, the U.S. has been immersed in the avarice and grabbiness which have come to define all Western nations. We need only look around and bear witness to the deterioration of an empire to know that our blueprint will always inevitably give way to organic upheaval.
All bad jokes aside, it may be the people of Egypt who are finally saying good riddance to their dictator. And if the U.S. has any virtue left, then it should be us who look the Egyptian people squarely in the eye and congratulate them on a job well done.
Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, Spatterblog.com and GoGirlGuide.com.
(Fast Company) — The Internet is all around us–on our cell phones, our computers, even in the dashboards of our cars. It seems impossible that such a mammoth presence can just be shut off. But that’s exactly what the Egyptian government did this week as a reaction to political uprising in the country. How did this happen? Turns out, it’s pretty easy, at least in Egypt. “At the end of the day, the Internet is a bunch of cables in dimly lit, pretty chilly rooms. A country like Egypt probably has a dozen of these,” explains Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, an Internet security company. “It’s as simple as literally unplugging these devices. From a practical standpoint, it’s more likely a phone call and then making a few changes on the computer to change the configuration.”