I sincerely hope that the crisis in Egypt ends quickly and peacefully. This is, fundamentally, a human rights issue.
With the latest news that President Mubarek is refusing to step down, it is apparent that it is "too little, too late" for the crowds of protesters. This is disconcerting, but I am hopeful that this crisis can still resolve peacefully -- how I do not know. Like the rest of the world, I am watching this story very closely, hoping for the best outcome possible.
My longtime colleague and friend Dr. Mohamed El-Sherbeini, currently an adjunct professor at Kean University and president of Biotherapeutics Technologies, wrote a personal perspective about the protests that I would like to share with you.
Ancient Egypt is Giving Birth to a Modern Democratic EgyptFollowing unprecedented popular uprisings against his totalitarian rule, President Mubarak's remaining time in control may well be limited by the increasing pressure from not only Egyptians, but the U.S. as well. Anti-government protesters rejected the government's call to leave their place of protest in Tahrir Square, the focal point of their demonstration. President Mubarak's cynical plan to outlast the demonstrators who demanded his immediate departure will fail. The government had attempted to put down demonstration by all means without success. The heavy use of tear gas, water cannons, rubber and live bullets worked against the government and emboldened the demonstrators who continued to protest in increasing numbers. The government's plan was to engineer pro-government demonstrations to counter the anti-government protesters in an attempt to deceive the international public opinion.
While the anti-government protests are peaceful, the pro-government protesters appeared militant, armed and extremely hostile to all types of media. Several members of international media including well-known American journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post were beaten while others were abused and detained. Several lines of evidence indicate the government's involvement in the deadly theatrical pro-government protest. Sameh Fahmi, the minister of the petroleum in Egypt ordered the employees of the petrochemicals industry to demonstrate as some of these employees declared to CNN. Other detained pro-government protesters were identified as government security officers. All this is in the backdrop of a state TV which keeps on broadcasting blatant lies according the NBC anchor Brian Williams.
As an Egyptian-American, the most captivating moment for me was the pro-Mubarak forces on camels and horseback rushing into the anti-Government crowds and beating the anti-government protesters. Several detained riders said that they had been paid by government officials -- 50 Egyptian pounds each -- to beat back demonstrators. This seemingly strange practice of hiring thugs and criminals has been a common tactic in the Mubarak politics that the government frequently used to intimidate the opposition.
The chaos that erupted in Tahrir Square, the fistfights, Molotov throwing, stone hurling and gun shooting by the Pro-Mubarak demonstrators all took place while the Egyptian army was standing by, only feet away from the scene. It is particularly disheartening that the young soldiers in Tahrir Square did nothing to protect the demonstrators because they were not ordered to intervene.
Despite an apology from the Egyptian Prime Minister for the government's failure to protect its citizens in Tahrir Square from the pro-Mubarak thugs, the attacks continued unopposed resulting in more bloodshed. The newly appointed Egyptian Vice President blamed the international media for what is happening in Egypt. Such a pathetic claim broadcasted on Thursday, paved the ground for a concerted campaign of intimidation against international media.
The international media in Cairo were taken aback by the profound disregard of the Mubarak Government to basic human rights. The world leaders seem to be equally frustrated with defiant Mubarak who is clearly detached from reality. Finally the world community came to understand what is it like to live under such a dictatorship.
Having grown up in Egypt, I can see how much good can emerge from overthrowing Mubarak and establishing a new democratic system. Egypt lived within its current borders and maintained the same capital for over 5000 years. The contribution of the Egyptians to the world civilization is abundantly clear. Unfortunately, the 30 years of Mubarak rule had witnessed a dramatic deterioration in the Egyptian society, not only in infrastructure but also socially and culturally. Egypt is now lagging behind the rest of its neighboring countries in quality of life and education after decades of being the heart and the soul of the Arabic world. This is one of the main reasons of the popular uprising today. People want to reclaim their dignity, their pride and their country's deserved leadership position. I know of thousands of highly educated Egyptian who now contribute in many ways to progress in the west. We all share the view that we left Egypt in search of societies where we can make significant contributions. Should the current uprising allow for Egypt's rebirth with economic and social reforms, thousands of professional Egyptians such as myself would take their expertise to Egypt to contribute to modernization of their homeland.
A version of this article was published at ScienceBlogs.
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