Today’s blog is excerpted from “Historic Hours and Tumultous Times: Reflections on the Third Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution,” by Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Complete essay here.
Tumultuous times, historic hours… greatness achieved, then lost, retrieved and lost again in the fog of uncertainty as the elusive dream of building our new republic on an inclusive society and a system of laws seems to be overtaken by an active war on terror…
Today, Egypt is at a difficult cross-roads. It is affirming its right to build a democratic system where human rights shall be respected and protected. But forces are pulling in different directions. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Jihadists seem determined to use violence and terror. The machinery of the state is determined to stop them. And the people, with a profound anger against the Brotherhood and their Jihadist allies, are calling for that machinery of state to crush them, to destroy them. But that same machinery will also unleash the forces of the autocratic state. And there, our dreams of democracy and pluralism are themselves at risk. That is the price we pay for waging a “war on terror,” for wanting security at any cost, order by any means… we risk embarking on a slippery slope towards the autocratic state.
The regime and its opponents enter into that treacherous terrain at the risk of destroying that which they claim to protect and defend. Soon blood flows on both sides…The deadly machinery of repression starts taking hold.
Soon all opposition is suspect…Opposing views are censored. Discussion is derided as indecision and debate as obstruction. Dissent is derided then forbidden.
Listen to the Better Angels of our Nature
Remember the early days of the revolution. Remember the grandeur and nobility of the peaceful demonstrations that stunned the world and brought to life dreams of better tomorrows. It is now three years since we have launched our revolution. Many young people have paid with their lives for the pursuit of their dreams, whatever these dreams were. But the dead are still among us, not just in the grieving of those who loved them, but in the burden they pose to our memory.
In its hour of anger and loss, Egypt is turning to General Abdel Fattah El Sissi, who has just been given the title of Field Marshal, and who is leaving his post as head of the Armed Forces to become a candidate for the presidency under the newly approved constitution. Barring some totally unforeseeable event, it is a foregone conclusion that he will sweep the polls in a landslide. He will become Egypt’s next elected president.
Will he indeed be the strong and visionary leader who will surround himself with ability and talent and meet these challenges and guide Egypt beyond the current crisis in our land? I sincerely hope so.
Will he be the rare providential man, who will show the restraint of a George Washington, and allow a nation of laws to emerge, rather than succumb to the seduction of ambition and the corruption of power that the autocratic state and its repressive machinery can so skillfully nurture? I sincerely hope so.
Will he be the leader who can end terror and then lead our national reconciliation? I sincerely hope so.
Our youth, are the real guardians of the values of humanity. They reinvigorate revolutionary fervor every generation and they dream new dreams suited to their times. They have shown their mettle in these three years of the Egyptian revolution.
Whatever the future holds, I know that it is only by holding on to the values of human dignity for all, equality for all, liberty for all and creating the institutions of a republic of laws based on freedom and participation that the promise of the revolution will be redeemed, its dreams – at least partially – fulfilled. And I know that it is the Egyptian youth of today and tomorrow who will make it happen.