By Tanveer Jafri ,February 13, 2011 has gone down the pages of history as a day when 82 years old Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as a result of the people’s anger, had to escape his Presidential palace after 30 years of autocratic rule. Like the dictators and despots in other countries, President Hosni Mubarak also had a strong hold on the administration. It did not seem that Mubarak will have to do away with power during his lifetime. But the 18-day vigorous nationwide protest of people against the government ultimately succeeded in dethroning Mubarak. While three decades of Mubarak’s reign witnessed the spread of corruption, unemployment and poverty; Mubarak himself managed to become one of the richest persons in the world. Mubarak’s fortune is estimated to be around $ 70 billion, compared to that of Bill Gates’ less than $ 50 billion. Reports suggest that Mubarak has properties in London, Manhattan and Radio driveway and accounts in Swiss banks and other countries. It is being said that the Swiss government has decided to freeze those accounts which are suspected to be of Mubarak.
Many things make this Egyptian Revolution special. Political transition in this largest Arab country neither faced a military coup nor any bloodshed. People, following the principles of peace and non-violence, continued to protest continuously for 18 days across the nation. They had only one demand that Mubarak should get down and let the democracy prevail. President Mubarak tried hard to remain stuck to the throne. He transferred many of his powers to the Vice-President. Later in his address to the nation, Mubarak also promised to the people that he will not run for the next Presidential elections. But the people were unrelenting. Insecure Mubarak chose to use violence to suppress the movement, but in vain. First he asked the Army to charge the people on streets. When the Army refused to do so, Mubarak made local police, by mounting it on horses and camels, to encounter and chase away the protestors. This created some tension in Cairo but ultimately a handful of Mubarak’s supporters had to bow down to the people’s power.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter played a major part in this historical change in Egypt by facilitating quick and rapid information dissemination. This movement was not led by any political party or leader. Tunisian uprising, which forced the dictator President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country, was surely an inspiration for the people of Egypt. In fact, Egyptians were fed up with the indifference of Hosni Mubarak towards the people’s aspirations. No doubt, when Mubarak became the Vice-President in 1975 and later President in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the people of Egypt used to love him. During his reign, Mubarak eliminated hundreds of his opposition and religious leaders who were his critics. He didn’t allow opposition parties to raise their heads. The Egyptian people continued to watch and tolerate this silently. People even accepted, though unwillingly, the accord reached between Egypt and Israel in 1979. But now when it came to poverty, unemployment and question mark on their children’s future, Egyptians couldn’t tolerate anymore.
Mubarak’s staunch friend and supporter USA is also singing the tunes of Egyptian people. Talking about ‘stability’ till yesterday, it is now supporting the installation of democracy. American President Obama, known for his non-violent approach, expressed satisfaction at this change and said that the protestors had proved wrong the approach that justice could only be achieved by violence. The protestors had the moral power of non-violence. No terrorism, no mindless killings, and this history led to justice. In his statement, Obama clearly indicated the shift in the future American policy vis-à-vis Egypt. Now the US wants to see a functioning democracy with respect for human rights rather than the so-called stability of Mubarak era.
Many concerns are being expressed after the fall of Mubarak. Presently, the Egyptian Army is headed by Field Marshal Mohammad Hussein Tantavi. He has vowed to soon hold free and fair elections and hand over the country’s control to the civilian government. But after Tunisia and Egypt, many middle-eastern despots who were hitherto running their administration based on coercion and violence against people, are worried about the domino effect. Most worried is the richest and oil rich autocracy- Saudi Arabia. This revolution has also cast shadow on the future of Arab-Israel “peace talks”. America and its allies are worried about the possibility of increased influence of Iran in the region as a result of this change in Egypt. Another worry is that this revolution can weaken the West’s war against Islamist extremism and terrorism. Concerns are also expressed regarding the impact of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood on Egypt’s politics. On the other hand, European countries are worried regarding the functioning of Suez Canal, which accounts for over eight per cent of world trade transport. This route is also significant since it reduces the distance between West Asia and Europe by over 7000 kilometers.
However, the true impact of the Egyptian Revolution on the West and the world will be clear only after the constitution of a new democratic government. But going by the joy across the world on Mubarak’s departure, one thing is clear that the people are now well aware and concerned about their future. They are not in a mood to give a free-run to any despot. It will not be a surprise if dictators of other such countries as Egypt and Tunisia, which don’t pay heed to the people’s aspirations, have to face the people’s wrath.