26 January 2011

'Day of Rage' - 25 January 2011

Egypt is not Tunisia. It's much bigger. Eighty million people, compared with 10 million. Geographically, politically, strategically, it's in a different league. The Arab world's natural leader and its most populous nation. Tunis and Cairo differ only in size. If Egypt explodes, the explosion will be much bigger, too.

But Tuesday's large-scale protests were different in significant ways, sending unsettling signals to a regime that has made complacency a way of life. "Day of Rage" demonstrators in Cairo did not merely stand and shout in small groups, as is usual. They did not remain in one place. They joined together and they marched. And in some cases, the police could not, or would not, stop them.

The marching en masse, uncontrolled and officially undirected, along a central Cairo boulevard, heading for the regime heartland of Tahrir Square – this was something new and dangerous.

The language and symbolism were different, too. "Enough, enough (kifaya)!" they shouted in 2005, giving a name to the movement for change. Now the message is: "Too much, too far, for too long!". "Mubarak, Saudi Arabia awaits you," the demonstrators chanted, referring to the refuge of the Tunisian ex-dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. "Out! Out! Revolution until victory," shouted a group of mothers, babies in arms. Across Cairo, Alexandria and beyond, the banners of the Tunisian intifada waved liked semaphore flags, wishfully signalling an end to the ancien regime.

But Egypt is not Tunisia. Egypt is a much more efficient police state, a much harder nut to crack. Its leader is as tough and as canny as an old fox. Its military and ruling elite is in hock to the Americans to the tune of $2bn a year and the American republic, itself born of revolt, has no love of revolutions. Mubarak, 82, has held power for 30 years. He is his own, and Washington's man. According to WiiLeaks cables, he likely plans to die in office and then hand over to his son.

There is no revolution in Egypt, yet. But, hypothetically, if Mubarak were to fall, the consequences would be incalculable for Israel and the peace process, for the ascending power of Iran, for US influence across the Middle East, and for the future rise and spread of militant, anti-western Islam. And not least, for 80 million Egyptians.

*praying for the Malaysians' safety*


ashaari said...

i've been looking for malaysian views on what is happening to egypt and it led me to your blog. because people here don't seem to care much at all. hope everyone is safe. thanks for putting up this post

Balqis Latiff said...

insyaALLAH kami di sini doakan nana dgn kwn2 yg lain selamat...aminn..

Afiq Khalid said...

we're here always praying 4 all of u there...
be strong, cuz Allah is with us~