Sir-- The recent uprisings in the Arab world, including some regime changes, call for a meaningful reassessment of current policy. One would expect the usual demands for democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and regularly scheduled elections as well as a heightened commitment to the people of the region, that their rights and aspirations will be reflected in this new vision.
The common theme which remains constant among the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and the demonstrations in other Arab countries is neither ideology, religion, foreign policy, nor simple economic deprivation. Instead, that unifying thread is poor governance and its attendant oppression and corruption flagrantly practised by the leaders and their families and cohorts. For decades average citizens have been deprived of dignity and access to the rule of law while the kleptocratic dictators and their inner circle remained above the law. The scope of their corruption ranges from huge commissions on contracts to the more damaging naked form in which the regular citizen is dispossessed, humiliated and abused to such a degree that self-immolation became a viable option as a means of expression.
These leaders, their wives, and their sons established a claim on the present and future ownership of their countries and resources. What we have witnessed is not a Facebook revolution or a Twitter revolt. These have been uprisings against unjust governments which have oppressed their people with impunity. Television and social media have indeed facilitated the organisation and the spread of information, but they did not ignite the human will to revolt. Injustice and indignity did that.
In pursuit of stability, the United States and the West, have tolerated, if not actively supported, tyrants and crooks. Young people of the Middle East have spoken, with dignity and in peace, as they shed their blood to earn freedom for themselves and their countries. They are seeking a future of stability and democracy and are prepared to pay for it. They want accountability and expect transparency; we should listen and must help.
The promise for help and expressions of support from the US administration are insufficient. The time has come for words backed by deeds. Because the people of these incipient democracies have rushed into their streets to demand freedom, now is the time to secure it by providing real accountability and transparency. The system of American, Western and international laws which has been mobilised to fight terrorism globally must be directed against officials who kill, or order the murder of, civilians. These laws must be invoked against corrupt individuals who steal their people's resources, rather than used to create safe havens for the loot in Western financial institutions and investments. The complicity must stop. Western global resources are now threatened by the corruption Western governments have ignored. This corruption has driven societies, and not just individuals, to radicalisation. The mullahs and radical ideologues have a convenient argument at their disposal to incite people whose rights and dignity have been trampled.
US and international legal, economic and financial institutions must mobilise to combat corruption if we are to gain the trust and support of the people who suffer at the hands of their thieving tyrants. The resulting economic benefit and enhanced security for us and also for the whole world will be immeasurable. Yes, it is absolutely our business to demand accountability. Radicalised and disenfranchised people and societies pose a threat to our national security interest. The legal systems, here and abroad, have to support the rights of individuals under the watch of serious, probing and sustained media attention in order to widen the circle of rights for other citizens. The recklessness and impunity which allow tyrants to murder and scare their own people demands accountability and must be faced with the gravity they deserve. Standing by the Arab people in their quest for freedom will help dispel the prevailing narrative that we partner with the regimes of oppression. The departure of Mubarak and Bin Ali are steps in the right direction. A genuine commitment to upholding accountability would open the doors to democracy and stability.
Corruption is a threat to national security and not just a financial crime. We should not be the world's policeman, nor should we be the dictator's patron.
What to do
Sir-- Revolutions always hold great expectations among people. If those expectations and dreams are not met, disappointment will be the result and could end in chaos. There are many challenges facing the fulfilment of people's dreams and aspirations that came out as a result of the 25 January Revolution. This revolution gave Egyptians hope for a brighter and more prosperous future and Egyptians deserve a better future after many years under oppression and poverty.
Egypt is facing many obstacles during the current stage of its history, such as the speed and transparency of putting corrupt figures on trial. It is not enough to put a few former ministers and businessmen behind bars, but to move fast to catch all those suspected of corruption and torture.
The second obstacle is the lack of coordination among the groups that have played a role in this historic revolution. There are different coalitions and entities which contributed to the revolution and put efforts to go through this transitional period, such as the independent academics and the coalition of youth. It is a natural phenomenon after revolutions try to find many groups trying to build and reform. However, uncoordinated efforts could lead to confusion and the status quo more than real change and progress.
In addition, the Higher Council of the Armed Forces is currently holding talks with individuals and not with a national front that represents the aspirations of Egyptians. Talks should be between a national front and the council because it is the revolution of the ordinary people. And those people should have their say in shaping the future of Egypt.
Another problem is the absence of trust between people and the police. The police had tortured and violated the rights of people for a long time. There is a strong need for a healthy relationship between the two parties. Security and a safe Egypt require a professional security apparatus that respects people's dignity and implements laws in a fair and efficient way. Another challenge is the ability of the cabinet to prepare Egypt for the coming elections.
There is another point: establishing the rule of justice inside all governmental departments. Favouritism and corruption characterised the previous period. The feeling of resentment and mistrust regarding appointing people in jobs is overwhelming. Purification and restructuring those departments to achieve justice and efficiency in appointing staff and managing resources are necessary steps to gain the people's trust. The heritage of unfairness and corruption is immense and should be tackled immediately.
Another challenge is to reform the media apparatus in order to enlighten people about their rights and duties as citizens in a democratic country. The heads of the national media institutions that had links with the old regime should be replaced because they played a role in deceiving people for the sake of the ousted regime. The final challenge is the attempt to counter the revolution's gains to keep the status quo and avoid real change. The game is not over. It is the beginning, not the end.
He's the one
Sir-- It has to be known that one man in particular had not only the vision but also the tactical thinking to lead us to our peaceful, united new Egyptian revolution, mostly unobtrusively and at times in public. He is the deus ex maquina behind this revolution and its right arm. He is the one who has interwoven all its strands, when he began the implementation of a careful strategic vision in February 2010, which led Egyptians to this victory of truth, on the evening of 11 February 2011.
He targeted the Egyptian youth, the Muslim Brotherhood, the workers and the Egyptian intellectuals and literati. For each, he used a different form of communication. To open lines of discussion with youth, he spoke to them in their own Facebook language and twittered around their virtual world. Addressing the Muslim Brotherhood, he slowly but surely persuaded them of the fact that their religious curriculum is not at odds with the pragmatic approach of a free democratic discourse.
To these two strands, he added our Egyptian intellectuals and thinkers, who then took it into their own hands to bring on board the youth and the educated public. In constant communication with these groups, he then brought into the fray all the workers through the Brotherhood, ceaselessly canvassing the entire country, often behind the scenes because the censoring arm of the regime did not report on his successes at the grassroots level he always targeted.
Thus he was able to reach out to many (he is the one who planted the seeds of the millioneya idea -- wanting to garner a million signatures on his Internet site -- as well as the selmeya or peaceful expression of peace and the label taghyeer, or change, into the people's subconscious. He met with all the significant elements of each group, and tied all these disparate elements together.
And at no point did he agree to join any party, showing and proving that he is one with the people, and that all these ideas come from, and belong to, the people of Egypt in its entirety. He refused any position offered him in the corrupt Mubarak regime, despite the very attractive lures of office they proposed to him to buy his silence and endorsement.
In 2009, in a programme on the independent TV Channel Dream 2, which was aired as soon as he arrived in Cairo after having finished his second term in office as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the first thing he demanded as an Egyptian national was the change of the constitution that Hosni Mubarak had brokered to allow him to hand down his throne to his son Gamal. In that memorable interview, (as in all the others he has given), he uncovered the truth of the regime and its failings towards the people of Egypt. A truth that the Mubarak-controlled press took pains to hide and distort for so long. Today this demand has been met, and the corrupt Mubarak regime has been toppled by the Egyptians.
Thank you, Mohamed El-Baradei.
Mohamed Salah Shash and Sherin Darwish