When Egypt’s youth launched a campaign they named Tamarod ('rebellion in English') many pundits and world leaders were sleeping at the wheel. Exactly as they were prior to January 25, 2011 when they used to refer to Hosni Mubarak as the President of Egypt and rarely referred to his rule as a dictatorship or his regime as autocratic.
The race to use these labels, loudly and unapologetically calling him a dictator and tyrant was more than surprising and showed ignorance of the situation and its history. Some media’s quick godfathering of the new situation on the ground showed ignorance of the past and signaled their new ignorance and non-appreciation of the future and the challenges it must hold.
Swiftly and unanimously demonizing Mubarak and his rule flew around the public space like an ancient symphony waiting to be performed. The expert analysis poured in as if everyone had intimate knowledge of what was going on for the past three decades. In the midst of good reporting and solid analysis, there was an amazing circus of people pretending to be experts at a subject they really had no clue about.
The question is, if they all knew so well about the tyrant and his tyranny, why didn’t they do anything about it? Why didn’t journalists write extensive columns about the Kefaya movement and the oppression its members suffered under Mubarak? Why didn’t world leaders denounce Mubarak’s arrest of bloggers, journalists, intellectuals and young thinkers who criticized him, denounced his rule and rejected his cronyism and his security apparatus? Why, then, was Hosni Mubarak, the ally, the friend, the host of international conferences, the dignitary at world meetings up until his ouster on February 11, 2011?
Mubarak fell as a result of a popular uprising lead by brave and decent Egyptians who envisioned a different and better Egypt for themselves and for their children long before - decades before - some pundits could find Egypt on a map. Way before any Arab regime or people really cared for their struggle or their freedom.
People denying the rebellion of Egypt’s millions by crying “coup” and demanding “true democracy” need to reconsider their stance immediately.Octavia Nasr
Where were all the democracy lovers when the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Mursi’s own party, was outlawed by Mubarak’s regime? If they truly care, why didn’t they speak up about the constant search crackdown on Brotherhood members? What changed, I wonder, other than that Egypt’s turmoil simply gives some people the chance to flap their lips and pretend to be experts or in the know or give themselves a role in a story that developed without them and should continue without their influence. Let the Egyptian people reach their own democracy and build their own country. So far they taught us many lessons and they seem to have many more in store.
‘My crowd is larger than yours’
Youth revolutionary movements are rare and dangerous for their members. A revolution like the ones we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia and what we’re witnessing in Syria today, was a myth only two years ago. Today, it is a possibility and I, for one, would like to see it succeed. I’ve seen the possibility of change happen many times and I’ve seen it oppressed, muted, stolen and hijacked more times than I’d like to remember.
People denying the rebellion of Egypt’s millions by crying “coup” and demanding “true democracy” need to reconsider their stance immediately. This is not a black and white case, nor should it be. Egyptians, like all Arabs, haven’t lived in a democracy ever except when abroad. The past year was the Muslim Brotherhood’s chance to give them the democracy they hoped for. If Mohammad Mursi were able to deliver at least a hint of a democracy, the people would not have rebelled. But he had one year and did nothing except get things worse for Egypt and the Egyptian people. He had three hours on his presidency’s anniversary and he said absolutely nothing to calm things down or reach his hand to the millions of his own people that wanted him out and were ready to rebel against him. Then he had 48 hours to fix the situation and he did nothing other than incite and prepare for counter demonstrations in a competition, “my crowd is larger than your crowd.”
This is not democracy, at least not the democracy Egyptians had dreamed of. It’s not the democracy they continue to work tirelessly to establish.
To justify any opinion, on whether this is a coup or not or whether what’s happening now in Egypt is justified or not, where people’s narrative starts is very telling of their intentions. Therefore, you can start with a massacre where Egyptian police killed more than fifty pro-Mursi demonstrators and injured hundreds. You can say the dead are innocent civilians and were praying at the time of the unprovoked attack, or that armed Muslim Brotherhood members attacked the police first. Sure, the narrative can also start with the Egyptian military stripping Mohammad Mursi of his powers and placing him under house arrest and shutting down Muslim Brotherhood media outlets and rounding up its key leadership.
I choose to start the narrative where it all began and see things as a chain of events, one leading to the other. Thus I give credit of the revolution to the people first and foremost. As such, they are the guardians of this revolution and whether they win an election or not, they seem to want to guard their revolution and hold everyone accountable. The latest events that lead to Mursi’s fall are the result of a popular rebellion, so the coup was lead by the people way before the military got involved.
The loss of life, the arbitrary shutting down of media, the unwarranted arrests are condemned by all sides without a doubt. But, if things don’t get resolved immediately without further confrontations, escalation and bloodshed between the military, the police and the pro-Mursi camp, many might even wish that a coup had actually taken place. Even worse, some might even wish that Mubarak never fell!
This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on July 9, 2013.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.