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May 12, 2011

Egypt’s Revolution: The first 100 days

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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A revolution releases latent forces within a people. Scholars differ over what is the essence of the French Revolution, disagree about how long it lasted, debate its results and even discuss when it began. But they agree that what began in 1789 was very important. It changed the whole concept of a revolution.

It is too early to evaluate the Egyptian Revolution, its achievements and its impact on Egypt and the world but January 25th was a very important day indeed. I was honoured to be an eye witness and the first 100 days (January 25 – May 5, 2011) were telling. Here are my reflections.

  1. The brilliance of the Egyptian Revolution is that it has proven that people can produce massive change towards liberty, democracy and social justice through nonviolence. This has been/will be emulated by people around the world.
  2. To achieve results, revolutionaries must be willing to scarify their lives, they must be team players and most importantly they must not be looking for recognition.
  3. A democratically elected secular government is the best option for all Egyptians, including those who base their political agenda on the teachings of Islam. Amazing that this is now approved by the vast majority of Egypt’s political parties and political activities. This is an experiment soon to be imported to other Muslim countries representing 1.5 billion of the world population.
  4. Extreme political views will be rejected by a mature politically savvy population. It is important to take steps to implement that thesis by spreading political awareness and reducing political apathy.
  5. A New Egypt is already regaining its status as pivotal state; as an African, Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Arab and Muslim country all at the same time. No other country has that unique global position. And the Egyptian Revolution is determined to regain it, not by being a nuclear power, or by having the strongest army, but simply by tapping 7,000 years of civilization.
  6. The youth of Egypt translated the concept of our-future-is-in-our-hands into practice. They managed to be the catalyst for all Egyptians, the 80 million of them, not only to demand drastic political, social and economical reforms but also to do a follow up. They knew and clearly articulated their priorities. They pushed to change two governments in 100 days. They demanded the replacement of many top government officials. They persuaded the government to bring the old regime to a court of law, charging them with corruption, and more importantly with torturing and murdering protesters. Youth around the world are watching.
  7. The Egyptian Revolution has proven that it is possible to reach consensus on a common political agenda to move forward to achieve prosperity for all, not only for the elite. There are challenges in the implementation in months and years to come but a milestone has been achieved in this regard.
  8. Gone forever are the days when a president can rule for more than two terms. Gone are the days when he can groom his son to replace him. This change is now the norm not only in Egypt but also in many republics in the Arab and the Muslim Worlds and in the Global South.
  9. Political reform can be achieved, including the ease of forming new political parties, having fair elections and forming a government that represents the will of the people. Again these reforms are now values embraced by countries in the Arab and the Muslim Worlds and the Global South.
  10. A harsh lesson for the Global South was this: the U.S. supports dictators and all the talk about promoting democracy is just that. The Egyptian revolutionary youth refused to meet with Hilary Clinton when she requested to meet them in Cairo after Mubarak was forced to leave office – it was their message to her and her administration that they have been exposed; the U.S. is not a friend to democracy, freedom and social justice despite the propaganda to the contrary.
  11. Egyptians discovered their collective soft power to gain their fundamental human rights – they brilliantly have summed it up as – to live with dignity. This includes having rights not even recognized in western countries such as the human right to breathe clean air, to have access to clean water and to have healthy, not cancer-producing food. These rights also include having a decent living, affordable housing, education and health care, and having adequate employment and an equitable future for their children. In effect the Egyptians wrote a new social contract which was approved by the masses. This will have a worldwide impact, even if it takes Egypt’s Revolution years to make it a reality.
  12. Egyptians are insisting on protecting and enhancing the freedom of media, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly and protesting.
  13. They believe that this is the only way human dignity can be achieved. This is another important lesson to be learned by the Global South.
  14. Bringing the country’s security forces to their national duty to protect the nation--not a regime--and to be accountable in a court of law is in progress.
  15. Being critical of a government or a president (the Supreme Council of the Defence Forces in this case) without the fear of prosecution, intimidation and detention is now a right that was put to test following the January 25th Revolution.
  16. The long Israel/Palestine conflict can and will be solved by ending the occupation and at the same time by rejecting the extreme ideology of Zionism. Egyptians are accepting responsibility and a role in resolving that conflict.
  17. The New Egypt is becoming an important ally of a durable world peace that is based on justice, and in deeds as well as words is saying no to oppression and occupation.

As I record these reflections, I realise how much I have learned from watching all those Egyptians who are building a New Egypt, how honourable they have been and how proud they make me. The world has watched them with admiration and will continue to benefit from their courage.

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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