Last Updated: Fri Feb 04, 2011 23:17 pm (KSA) 20:17 pm (GMT)

Egypt: the camels vs. Facebook

Tariq Alhomayed

Whoever took the decision to mobilize the pro-Mubarak protestors on Wednesday morning, having them appear riding camels and horses and use brutal violence – as we saw – against the youth in Tahrir Square committed a fatal mistake that Egypt, and President Mubarak himself, will not soon forgive.

On Tuesday night, President Mubarak issued a second speech to the nation, saying that he did not intend to stand at the next [presidential] elections, that he would implement all the constitutional amendments demanded by the protestors, and that it was his intention to die on Egyptian soil. Following this emotional speech the Egyptians and the opposition divided [with regards to their response to this], and even those in the Arab region who opposed Mubarak did not know what to do. Egypt is for all the Arabs, and it seemed that [following this speech] those giving vent to their feelings felt that there was some light on the horizon, and even the die-hard [protestors] in central Cairo were seriously discussing the necessity of responding to the president's call [to return to their homes], until the violent protest undertaken by the supporters of the president destroyed all hopes of a rational solution that would protect the security and stability of Egypt. The question that must be asked here is: how can the million-strong protest undertaken by the Egyptian opposition occur without a single drop of blood being spilled, whilst the supporters of the president protest in the terrifying manner that they did? Is it reasonable for the anti-Mubarak Facebook generation's protests to be responded to by attacks on horseback and with camels, as if we are watching the classic [Arabic] film "The Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah"?

What further complicated the situation was the statement issued by Egyptian Vice President [Omar Suleiman] in which he said that the government would not negotiate with the opposition until after the protestors left the streets and returned to their homes. How can he say this and then say that the Egyptian leadership is committed to Egyptian democracy, particularly when the president said that Egypt is a far more democratic country now than it was when he first came to power? I am still convinced of the pure history of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, for he is not a Zine El Abidine Ben Ali or a Saddam Hussein, regardless of what his opponents say. However the handling of this crisis, particularly what happened following the president's last speech, is surprising, harmful, and a source of anger! Even some of the foreign [television] channels have not rushed to label what is happening in Egypt as a revolution. The BBC English service has been the most profession in dealing with the Egyptian crisis; far more than its Arabic service which is less professional than even the official Egyptian media. The BBC [English service] has not described what is happening in Egypt as a revolution, and the same goes for CNN. However the mishandling of the situation by those who took part in the Camel and Horse attacks [on the anti-Mubarak protestors] may transform this into a genuine revolution, especially as more of Egypt's elite have begun to take an anti-regime stance.

Today, Egypt the State, is in real danger, for Egypt is more important than any of its individuals, especially as the wolves – of all kinds – have begun to circle Cairo, from states to militias to ideologues. This is something that threatens us all, for Egyptian strength and stability is vital for the whole region. What is happening there today is madness, especially given that the regime is on the verge of seriously clashing with the international community that has begun to distance itself from the regime in a clear manner and call for Mubarak to leave in an unusual and unexpected scene, one that even the greatest pessimist could not have imagined.

The question that must be asked now is: where are Egypt's intellectuals? Is it right for the Mubarak regime to end in this manner? This is truly a shame!

*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Feb. 4, 2011.

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