Since the momentous uprising that began on January 25th, the world has watched with intrigue and speculation as Egyptians revolt against their repressive and autocratic regime. Throughout, the protesters have maintained a singular focus on their top goal: the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Still, many questions have encircled this Revolution in the West, including whether Egyptians are prepared for what could come next in the post-Mubarak era and what kind of role religious parties might play in building a new government. Much of this speculation has been infused with anxiety that the uncertain future of an Egypt without Mubarak could be worse than the certainty of his rule.
After the violent events that unfolded yesterday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egyptians no longer have to explain to the world why they so desperately want a new government. Indeed, yesterday they received a bolster to their cause from the most unlikely source: Mubarak himself. Widespread reports that Mubarak deployed police officers in plainclothes and bribed the economically vulnerable with as little as L.E.50 ($10) to descend on anti-government protestors with metal rods, knives, and Molotov cocktails are deplorable. With multiple deaths and many hundreds injured, a peaceful protest escalated into a horrific battle for the future of Egypt. In utilizing these brutal tactics, Mubarak further discredited himself from overseeing the type of peaceful transition to democracy he claims to be capable of. Instead, he highlighted the very traits that render him unfit to govern the Egyptian people for another day, let alone for the next eight months.
We are at a crucial point in this Revolution. If Mubarak stays in power, we can almost certainly guarantee that the advances made since January 25th will dissipate, and end up constituting but a mere verse in the volumes of Egypt's long history. This outcome would not befit the courageous protests of ordinary Egyptians over the past nine days, nor the sacrifice of the hundreds who have given their lives in recent years to struggle for democracy. Mostly, we are concerned about the lengths that Mubarak has demonstrated he is willing to go to in his quest to suppress the opposition. We fear if Mubarak is allowed to continue his rule for the coming months, he will retaliate against the organizers and supporters of this uprising with intimidation and violence. With the whole world watching, Mubarak did not hesitate to unleash gangs of armed thugs on Tahrir's peaceful protestors. What, then, will he do when the world's eyes are no longer on Egypt?
For thirty years, Mubarak has legitimated his rule by arguing that there are only two possible political realities for Egypt: iron-fisted autocratic rule, or Islamist chaos. In the final stages of denial, Mubarak is said to be planning to bring in supporters during Friday's massive "Day of Departure" protest to chant pro-Islamic slogans and call for jihad, propagating the idea that the second he looses grip of Egypt, Islamists will take over. We caution against this limited view. Indeed, the events of the past nine days demonstrate that Egyptians also reject this false choice. They are not nervous for their future, but rather fighting to realize it. Mubarak, of course, is holding on to the past, employing the same tactics he has used over his thirty-year rule to reign in his opposition.
This time, however, he will not succeed. The Egyptian people have changed -- they have discovered their voice and refuse to return back to the days when they were not able to use it. We agree with President Obama's sentiments that, "The passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom." It's time the international community support the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people by unequivocally calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down. In so doing, we will be supporting Egyptians in heralding in a new day that we firmly believe will be bright.
Nadine Farag has a Masters degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. Mona Mowafi is a Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. Both authors have lived, worked, and conducted research related to health and development in Egypt.