Egypt’s new agents of change

Has an entire generation decided to rise up to carry out its historic mission of bringing about change that everybody seems to anticipate? This question seems to haunt me after a series of incidents and coincidences that have recently happened to me.

A few days ago, several young activists called to ask me what I thought about organizing a popular reception for El Baradei upon his arrival at Cairo Airport. I suggested that they choose three of them to meet with me so we could exchange viewpoints on the issue.

Then a few days later, I received phone calls from representatives of the Ayez Ha’ei (I Claim My Right) Movement who asked me to join a preparatory committee that would supervise the launching of a campaign to issue proxies delegating a number of public and independent figures to take the necessary steps to amend the constitution. Since I didn’t know much about the activities of the movement, we agreed to meet to discuss the matter further.

Then, while I was in Alexandria for the annual meeting for intellectuals organized by the Alexandria Library, a young man, who I found out was an Egyptian engineer working in Abu Dhabi, stopped me and asked me to defend the rights of expatriate Egyptians to participate in presidential and legislative elections.

Finally, while I was preparing to welcome the New Year with my wife at home, I received yet another phone call from an Egyptian expatriate in Kuwait. His call was a carbon copy of the brief meeting I had with the man in Alexandria a few days earlier. He said Egyptians were frustrated that they couldn’t participate in the process of political mobility Egypt is currently witnessing.

Most remarkable about what that young man said was his concern for the future of his children and his conviction that the future would be bleak if the situation in Egypt remained unchanged.

After all those incidents I found myself wondering whether we are living an authentic state of escalating political and social mobility, or I was simply experiencing a string of disconnected, individual incidents made to coincide only by chance. After contemplating the matter for a while I decided the first possibility was more likely the case, for two main reasons.

First: The youths I met and conversed with weren’t university students fantasizing about some revolutionary change, but rather belonged to an age bracket more inclined to leading a peaceful, quiet life.

Most of them were in their late twenties or thirties, already in charge of a household and had a job at some public or private organization. These youths are entirely different from the youth who formed various movements back in the 1970s or those who recently formed the 6 April Movement. 

Second: This age segment tends to worry about public concerns related to the future of the country as opposed to individual concerns pertaining to family and work. Most of them, in fact, already have a good job, but they still feel concerned about the policies of the regime and perceive them as threatening to their country’s future. 

But why is that segment of youth, typically peaceful and keen to start a family and achieve personal ambitions on the individual and professional levels, suddenly interested in public affairs at such a timing? I believe this interest can be explained by the following reasons:

1-The increasing belief that the current policies of Egypt will propel the country into a disaster that will affect everyone and harm Egypt’s reputation regionally and internationally.

2- Egyptians have given up on the possibility that the regime could in and of itself introduce reform, especially after the so-called reform process led by Gamal Mubarak turned out to be a project to transfer power, violating the most basic ethical and constitutional rules.

The recent statements by Gamal Mubarak, in which he rejected introducing constitutional amendments before the upcoming presidential election, have proven beyond a doubt that the project to transfer power is ongoing and won’t stop at any cost.

3-There’s a new state of political and social mobility in which powers from outside the traditional opposition forces are participating. Figures such as El Baradei and Amr Moussa have undoubtedly added to the value of the current state of mobility.

4-The emergence of a figure such as El Baradei, who seems capable of leading the current state of mobility. Egyptians seem more inclined to support El Baradei as the figure more likely to win the consensus of Egyptians and lead the upcoming transitional phase and establish a new political regime.

The recent procedures taken to gather proxies to amend the constitution or to organize a popular reception for El Baradei might appear to be excessively optimistic. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that they represent a strong form of pressure on the regime.

Therefore, the significance of such activities shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, the involvement of such an age segment is a watershed in the current political process.

I’m certain that the regime will thwart all plans to organize a popular reception for El Baradei, and will give orders to the civil registry offices across the country to stop issuing the proxies, but I’m equally certain, too, that it won’t be able to stand in the way of Egyptians who are determined more than ever to bring about change using peaceful means.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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