Behind Bars

Egypt: A Good Beginning

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The events in Egypt of the past few weeks have raised more questions than answers, and while things seem in a state of flux, some things are clear, among them:

1. Revolutions don’t just change rulers—they change systems.

2. Revolutions designed to gain democracy cannot lead to military rule, for the two are inherently opposed to each other.

3. The Egyptian struggle is at its beginning—not its end.

The forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak from the reins of power was accomplished by a convergence of forces: the demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria and throughout the country (including numerous strikes); pressure from business interests who lost billions from empty tourism buses; and from anxious elements in the military, who saw the potential for greater and greater chaos, and perhaps their loss of power.

Mubarak didn’t go easily or willingly, and his choice of Omar Suleiman as his No. 2 would’ve been, at any other time, considered a masterstroke, for Suleiman’s primary distinction was his expertise in torture. This was designed to send a ripple of fear and dread throughout Tahrir Square.

Surprisingly, it had the opposite effect. It spurred more resistance, and hastened Mubarak’s departure.

But power still rests in the hands of military, as the Tunisian and Egyptian examples illustrate. Both Ben Ali and Mubarak were military men, who depended on force to preserve their power and to control dissidents. In Tunisia, Ben Ali bore both titles: President and General! Mubarak was a fighter pilot. Thus, their instincts were to fight—not negotiate.

The eruption in Egypt had its origin in the desperation of Mohamed Abouazizi of Tunisia, who, after repeated efforts at justice from an unresponsive and corrupt regime, set himself aflame.

Abouazizi was a 26-year-old man who earned a Ph.D., couldn’t find a job, worked as a fruit vendor, and had his wares unjustly confiscated by police. The fire that he lit took his life but inspired millions of Tunisians, who in their turn sparked millions of Egyptians, who felt deep similarities with Abouazizi’s despair, to rebel.

Who knows how far these fires will rage?

Egypt may be on a long road to awaken from its long, unpleasant slumber. But this is the road’s beginning; not it’s end., February 12, 2011