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12 February 2011

The West’s Debt to Egypt


The huge protests in Egypt that have been taking place for the past weeks have paid off. Great sacrifices have been made, and hundreds of people have lost their lives, since millions of Egyptians took to the streets in Cairo and other cities throughout the country with the same demand that the dictator Hosni Mubarak must step down. On February 11th, 2011, he did.
The mood in the protests turned from resilient determination, to celebration in minutes and this positive mood continues throughout the country as people feel renewed hope that life, in Egypt, will be better.
Protestors laid siege to the parliament, the government, and the notorious ministry of interior, which witnessed the murder and injury of thousands of Egyptians. Time was not on the side of the regime - which was obviously stalling – as the revolution gained momentum day by day.
This revolution was not based on desire for power from any one group, or even for economic reform; it was based on an overwhelming desire for freedom. It was driven by the educated youth, rather than the poorer classes who had been crushed under the previous police state. It gained popularity as Egyptians balanced values such as democracy, freedom, justice, dignity and transparency on one hand, and despotism, oppression, injustice, humiliation and corruption on the other.
Harking back to its usual tactics, the regime used the language of threats, with former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman warning the protests would not be tolerated much longer and asserting that Mubarak would not step down. As protestors protested, and the autocratic regime threatened, Mubarak’s security forces continued kidnapping, interrogating and torturing activists, even taking them from their homes. Driven by pride and desire to maintain their power and wealth, Mubarak and his regime failed to understand that activists were not in control of the will of the people which had its own impulse and power.
The regime’s security forces – notorious for their brutality – continued to murder protesters in parts of the country where they thought they could get away with it. The reasons why Mubarak was stalling for time and clinging desperately to power until the last minute becomes clear when it is known that his wealth, in British and Swiss banks alone, is estimated at between $40bn and $70bn. He also has bank accounts in other countries, property and real estate, and gold and diamonds. The people who made up his regime, past and present, also have huge fortunes in western banks that resulted directly from obscene corruption.
The significant question that must now be asked is: Why has the west remained silent about this corruption, and the terrible violations of human rights in Egypt and the region, turning a blind eye to the torture and killing? Also, what will be the policy and stance of the west in the future formation of Egypt’s democratic government? Will they sincerely adhere to their principles of social justice, or will they follow Omar Suleiman’s opinion that the Arab world is not ready for democracy?
After the unequivocal statements made by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that it seeks a civil society and democratic and economic reforms based on the will of the people, will the west continue its paranoia concerning all things ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islamic’? The overall peaceful behavior of the protestors was based on Islamic teachings concerning ethics and behavior. The masses praying publicly for justice and peace should clearly indicate to the west that their fears of a Muslim nation are unfounded. It is clear that the Egyptian revolution embraced all elements of society, seeking universal values– the most important of which is freedom.
The west now bears a moral responsibility to make up for its apathy throughout the last three decades when Egyptians suffered under the US-supported Mubarak regime. The Egyptian people lived in a police state, occupied by a two million-strong militarized police force while the west turned a deaf ear.
The moral obligation of the west toward the people of Egypt should not just take the form of mere diplomacy; but real tangible support to ensure power is passed to the people, and that the country is supported in its economic and democratic development.
This is the least the west can do to compensate for the years of western support for these injustices. The money looted from Egypt should be returned and a US-supported democratic government in Egypt should use the returned funds to resolve the huge problems this regime has left as its legacy.