Hope that Jan. 25 Demonstrations May Mark a New Direction for Egypt

There have been many demonstrations for political rights in Egypt, but many activists are saying they have never seen the level of excitement that they are seeing around the Jan. 25 demonstrations set for sites throughout Egypt (with some solidarity marches planned in the U.S. and elsewhere).

Now the question is how the Egyptian security authorities will respond.

The difference, of course, is the lightning bolt provided by the Tunisian revolution this month, which has energized human rights and democracy activists in Egypt and throughout the region.  Egyptian activists have not been quiet over the past few year but the combination of stale economic growth, a tiring number of instances of government corruption and yet another unfair national election marred by government limits on political activity, the possibility of change does seem to be plausible.

But there have been reports of police threats to take action against demonstrators. Opposition activists, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization and the National Association for Change, have reportedly been summoned and threatened with arrest and detention if they go ahead with plans to protest.

Jan. 25 is a national holiday to celebrate the achievements of the Egyptian police force.

“Egypt needs to allow peaceful protests, and stop arresting and intimidating peaceful opposition activists” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa program.   “The country’s security forces have a worrying record when dealing with demonstrators, and we urge them to refrain from excessive and disproportionate force tomorrow.”

Hopes have been raised before in Egypt, only to be stopped by a combination of oppressive government response and opposition in-fighting.  Some blame the international community for continuing to support the Mubarak regime without pushing for change. But for a long time, activists have sensed that “long arc of justice” working in their favor.  If this is their time, they need to know the international community is behind them now and unequivocally.

For those who would like to follow reports of the demonstrations, activists have set a Twitter hastag of #Jan25.

Jan. 25 Update: The best English-language review of the day’s event, which included large number of arrests, can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “Hope that Jan. 25 Demonstrations May Mark a New Direction for Egypt

  1. Hopefully all the middle eastern dictatorships will be overthrown by the people and be replaced with democracies.

    Especially of course the by far the worst, by far the most racist dictatorship of them all, Iran.

    London, Jan. 24 –
    Britain and prominent human rights group Amnesty International on Monday condemned the execution of two prominent Iranian political prisoners.

    Jafar Kazemi, 47, and Mohammad Ali Haj-Aghaie, 62, were hanged at dawn for taking part in anti-government protests in 2009 and supporting the main Iranian opposition group People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), according to a statement by the Tehran prosecutor's office. The statement did not state where they were hanged.

    "I condemn today's execution in Iran of Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj-Aghaie. They were arrested during the unrest that followed the 2009 election and I am particularly concerned by reports that they were executed for political offences", Alistair Burt, UK Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, said in a statement.

    "There has been an alarming rise in the number of Iranian executions since the start of the year. More than 60 people have been put to death – more than two every day – and annually Iran executes more people than almost all other countries combined. The use of cruel and inhumane methods such as suspension hanging and public executions is reprehensible. I again call on Iran to cease using the death penalty", he said.

    Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "We are appalled by the executions of Ja'far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, as we are appalled by the continuing use in Iran of this most cruel and extreme penalty".

    "Like so many other victims, neither of these men received a fair trial", he said. According to some reports, Jafar Kazemi was tortured for months by his interrogators at Evin Prison to force him to make a televised "confession" but he refused to do so, Amnesty said.

    A statement by the Tehran prosecutor said that the pair had resorted to "distributing pictures and banners related to the Monafeghin (PMOI), taking photos and films of the clashes as well as chanting slogans in favour of the group".

  2. Hopefully all the middle eastern dictatorships will be overthrown by the people and be replaced with democracies.

    Especially of course the by far the worst, by far the most racist dictatorship of them all, Iran.

    London, Jan. 24 -
    Britain and prominent human rights group Amnesty International on Monday condemned the execution of two prominent Iranian political prisoners.

    Jafar Kazemi, 47, and Mohammad Ali Haj-Aghaie, 62, were hanged at dawn for taking part in anti-government protests in 2009 and supporting the main Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), according to a statement by the Tehran prosecutor’s office. The statement did not state where they were hanged.

    “I condemn today’s execution in Iran of Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj-Aghaie. They were arrested during the unrest that followed the 2009 election and I am particularly concerned by reports that they were executed for political offences”, Alistair Burt, UK Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, said in a statement.

    “There has been an alarming rise in the number of Iranian executions since the start of the year. More than 60 people have been put to death – more than two every day – and annually Iran executes more people than almost all other countries combined. The use of cruel and inhumane methods such as suspension hanging and public executions is reprehensible. I again call on Iran to cease using the death penalty”, he said.

    Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We are appalled by the executions of Ja’far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, as we are appalled by the continuing use in Iran of this most cruel and extreme penalty”.

    “Like so many other victims, neither of these men received a fair trial”, he said. According to some reports, Jafar Kazemi was tortured for months by his interrogators at Evin Prison to force him to make a televised “confession” but he refused to do so, Amnesty said.

    A statement by the Tehran prosecutor said that the pair had resorted to “distributing pictures and banners related to the Monafeghin (PMOI), taking photos and films of the clashes as well as chanting slogans in favour of the group”.

  3. There is talk of a cascade of rebellion in the Middle East. It would appear that this has got to come, but what it will bring, no one knows. "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…"

    The idea that any Arab state will achieve anything remotely resembling democracy will depend upon which factions take control. If a coalition of secular Muslims and non-Muslims do, then there is a chance. However, if the rebellion leads to a religious dictatorship (ala Iran), we may ultimately regret the downfall of Mubarak.

    Why would I say such a thing? Because latent within the belief system of fundamentalist Islam is the conviction that Islam is a truth that is superior to all other truths and that every Muslim, fanatical or not, has an obligation to propagate this truth on earth in order to obtain the benefits of a glorious afterlife. This means proselytizing, which, of course, Christians have been doing for centuries; however fundamentalist Muslim proselytizing contains within it the caveat that if you don’t “convert” to my Muslim beliefs, I will be totally justified in my God’s eyes in killing you.

    Most people do not understand the nature of a theocracy. I have lived in one, so I believe I am somewhat qualified to speak of its nature. There is a bit of theocratic rhetoric in American politics. It shows up when people like George Bush (Jr.) say that they are God’s instruments in the fight against evil. Evil is, according to fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Islamists alike, anything or anyone who acts contrary to the will of God, as they understand it. Christians have in the course of their history burned a great many heretics for not believing as they should.

    Nowadays however for the most part Christians have adopted a more “live and let live” attitude. They do not advocate waging war against infidels or sanction their assignations (at least not in public). A Muslim fundamentalist theocracy, however, in the hands of political or religious zealots, gives full reign to the murderous impulses of whoever happens to be in charge of the faith. They can declare jihad against any nation or state; they can pronounce fatwa against any individual. And they believe that in so doing they are doing the will of God.

    This is a state even further removed from democracy than dictatorship. A dictator does not (usually) try to dictate what his subjects believe. He may have his preferences, which it would be well not to offend; but by and large the dictator’s motivation is personal gain and glory, or gain and glory of the nation or tribe over which he rules. Theocrats believe that they have dominion over heart, body, and soul. And if there is any departure from prescribed belief and behavior, then “Off with their heads!”

    What are we to do? Or to be more specific, what is Israel to do? Israel exists as a pinpoint of Judaism in a sea of Islam. Ahmadi-Nejad’s frequent and un-renounced declarations of his intention to wipe the state of Israel off the map should not be taken lightly. If certain restraints (Egypt) and certain support (American aid) be taken away, what would ensue? Nobody knows, of course, but if population distribution and history be any indicators, it will not be long before Israel is forced to fight for her right to exist. And I do mean fight. Israel believes she has a right to exist, and to exist right where she is, just as firmly as Ahmadi-Nejad believes that she doesn’t. And when Mubarak is forced to flee, as monstrous as he appears to be (though perhaps a bit less monstrous than Saddam Hussein was), it will be difficult to imagine whoever replaces him being as accommodating to Israel or to the US. Why should they be? They have the oil; they have the population; and, in many cases, they have a good deal of money.

    Any action against Israel by any Arab nation will, provoked or unprovoked, be perceived as aggression, and Israel would consider herself completely within her rights to defend herself. And, because of that “special relationship” the US has had with Israel for some time, the US would be compelled to join her in her defense. There are nuclear powers involved here. On one side Pakistan, and possibly Iran, have the material to deploy a nuclear device. Israel, if not incapacitated, would certainly retaliate in kind. Would we? Beyond the devastation this would cause throughout the Middle East, the environmental and economic havoc it would create would most likely sink the Western world into a deep depression.

    And so as exciting as these times are and as hopeful as we want to be that real freedom and true democracy (including respect and protection of minorities, freedom of dissent and speech, and a rule of law rather than theocratic dictatorship even if that law is Muslim (sharia) law) will emerge, there is good reason to be cautious. I hope that the Egyptian rebellion is as broad based and non-fanatically motivated as some observers claim. Should the rebels prevail in their unseating of Mubarak, the question of questions is “What will they put in his place?” The protesters know that they “hate Mubarak” and want him to go. And he should go. But who are they to replace him with? No visible leadership has emerged and no spokesperson to articulate a platform or the principles by which the country would be governed. What Egypt needs now is for her own George Washington, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin to step forward and declare the principles upon which a "new" Egypt will be built. And I think they could do a lot worse than stealing from the American Declaration of Independence a principal of the right to have a government whose powers come from the governed, not from the mind of a dictator or the imagined agenda of "God."

    This is something worth hoping for.

  4. There is talk of a cascade of rebellion in the Middle East. It would appear that this has got to come, but what it will bring, no one knows. “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…”

    The idea that any Arab state will achieve anything remotely resembling democracy will depend upon which factions take control. If a coalition of secular Muslims and non-Muslims do, then there is a chance. However, if the rebellion leads to a religious dictatorship (ala Iran), we may ultimately regret the downfall of Mubarak.

    Why would I say such a thing? Because latent within the belief system of fundamentalist Islam is the conviction that Islam is a truth that is superior to all other truths and that every Muslim, fanatical or not, has an obligation to propagate this truth on earth in order to obtain the benefits of a glorious afterlife. This means proselytizing, which, of course, Christians have been doing for centuries; however fundamentalist Muslim proselytizing contains within it the caveat that if you don’t “convert” to my Muslim beliefs, I will be totally justified in my God’s eyes in killing you.

    Most people do not understand the nature of a theocracy. I have lived in one, so I believe I am somewhat qualified to speak of its nature. There is a bit of theocratic rhetoric in American politics. It shows up when people like George Bush (Jr.) say that they are God’s instruments in the fight against evil. Evil is, according to fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Islamists alike, anything or anyone who acts contrary to the will of God, as they understand it. Christians have in the course of their history burned a great many heretics for not believing as they should.

    Nowadays however for the most part Christians have adopted a more “live and let live” attitude. They do not advocate waging war against infidels or sanction their assignations (at least not in public). A Muslim fundamentalist theocracy, however, in the hands of political or religious zealots, gives full reign to the murderous impulses of whoever happens to be in charge of the faith. They can declare jihad against any nation or state; they can pronounce fatwa against any individual. And they believe that in so doing they are doing the will of God.

    This is a state even further removed from democracy than dictatorship. A dictator does not (usually) try to dictate what his subjects believe. He may have his preferences, which it would be well not to offend; but by and large the dictator’s motivation is personal gain and glory, or gain and glory of the nation or tribe over which he rules. Theocrats believe that they have dominion over heart, body, and soul. And if there is any departure from prescribed belief and behavior, then “Off with their heads!”

    What are we to do? Or to be more specific, what is Israel to do? Israel exists as a pinpoint of Judaism in a sea of Islam. Ahmadi-Nejad’s frequent and un-renounced declarations of his intention to wipe the state of Israel off the map should not be taken lightly. If certain restraints (Egypt) and certain support (American aid) be taken away, what would ensue? Nobody knows, of course, but if population distribution and history be any indicators, it will not be long before Israel is forced to fight for her right to exist. And I do mean fight. Israel believes she has a right to exist, and to exist right where she is, just as firmly as Ahmadi-Nejad believes that she doesn’t. And when Mubarak is forced to flee, as monstrous as he appears to be (though perhaps a bit less monstrous than Saddam Hussein was), it will be difficult to imagine whoever replaces him being as accommodating to Israel or to the US. Why should they be? They have the oil; they have the population; and, in many cases, they have a good deal of money.

    Any action against Israel by any Arab nation will, provoked or unprovoked, be perceived as aggression, and Israel would consider herself completely within her rights to defend herself. And, because of that “special relationship” the US has had with Israel for some time, the US would be compelled to join her in her defense. There are nuclear powers involved here. On one side Pakistan, and possibly Iran, have the material to deploy a nuclear device. Israel, if not incapacitated, would certainly retaliate in kind. Would we? Beyond the devastation this would cause throughout the Middle East, the environmental and economic havoc it would create would most likely sink the Western world into a deep depression.

    And so as exciting as these times are and as hopeful as we want to be that real freedom and true democracy (including respect and protection of minorities, freedom of dissent and speech, and a rule of law rather than theocratic dictatorship even if that law is Muslim (sharia) law) will emerge, there is good reason to be cautious. I hope that the Egyptian rebellion is as broad based and non-fanatically motivated as some observers claim. Should the rebels prevail in their unseating of Mubarak, the question of questions is “What will they put in his place?” The protesters know that they “hate Mubarak” and want him to go. And he should go. But who are they to replace him with? No visible leadership has emerged and no spokesperson to articulate a platform or the principles by which the country would be governed. What Egypt needs now is for her own George Washington, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin to step forward and declare the principles upon which a “new” Egypt will be built. And I think they could do a lot worse than stealing from the American Declaration of Independence a principal of the right to have a government whose powers come from the governed, not from the mind of a dictator or the imagined agenda of “God.”

    This is something worth hoping for.