Farewell Friday

Sphinx smiles fleeting riddles,

Salām from limestone peaks cry

shifting sands; banners fly.

Image Copywrite Suhaib Salem/Reuters.

Today was to be Farewell Friday, and never before has a name been so true to form – in Egypt, the roar of the crowd echoes through streets up and down the country as President Hosni Mubarak, who as lately as last night declare he would not step down, he would not leave until September, has now, finally, been removed from office.

Much remains to be seen in the days to come. Amidst the celebrations, Egyptians must remember that he is but the face of all that they are rallying against – that it is an institution, of governors and officials that are all his men, who remain where they are. Until they are addressed, their revolution, which has come so far, is not truly won.

But another question remains as well in the wake of all of this: what does this mean for the rest of the Middle East? Many have asked it all along – Tunisia, and now Egypt, have deposed decades-old power structures. Jordan forced their King to restructure his government and give in to their demands. Will the protests spread? Is this the beginning of a great Democratic sweep through the Middle East? And what form will it take in the conclusion?

Today, for many, is a day of celebration, but as always, I temper caution – cheer, but never lose your wits. Keep one eye always on the horizon, that you might never lose your way…

The Day Egypt Bled

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
~John F. Kennedy

“When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.”
~Victor Hugo

I have spoken before of Egypt. Now, the journalist and the human in me bades me speak again. There are other voices. I pray you go to them as read them as well. Many are more informed than I, I will admit. I am simply one American, who sees what is going on far from his own home, and touched and stricken by the force behind it, am compelled to dwell on it for a time.

Pain has come to Egypt. Last night was the breaking point, in many ways. After millions of protesters flooded the streets of Cairo, and many other cities across Egypt, President Mubarak came on state TV to address their concerns. True to form, the man fell short in his appeasement. He said he would not run again in a year – but that is a year from now. One can change their mind easily when the pressure shifts away from them again. He would not step down until then, however. He even went so far as to say he would die on Egyptian soil. That just seems like poor foreshadowing to me.

Image from/by Al Jazeera.

The crowds erupted. There was a cry for a march on Mubarak’s palace for Friday. Through it all, the army stood by, maintaining neutrality, defending the property and the rights and the history their country adored. Then today, violence erupted in the streets.

Pro-Mubarak protesters, be they thugs of his or acting of their own accord, rode into Tahrir Square in Cairo, the heart of the protests. They beat anti-government protesters, to the tune of hundreds injured. From buildings above, they showered them with rocks and molotovs. Gunfire echoed through the streets and on the cameras of Al Jazeera’s live-cast. It was reported these crowds were howling for blood – that they were hunting Al Jazeera reporters, attacking others – Anderson Cooper among them (for my fellow Americans). The army, which had ringed the square, has effectively trapped protesters. Even if they wanted to leave, they could not, and that has left them easy pickings for the pro-Mubarak mobs. The Egyptian Museum was firebombed. The army struggled to put it out. Their own history, and culture, was suddenly at risk.

Revolution, as so often is the case, has led to blood. Even those with peaceful intent seem to be forced to it. Faced with a peaceful resistance to their reign, wicked men oft-turn to violent ends, to undermine their peace, or destroy them utterly. There are reports an army APC has now fired tracers into the air, and that the pro-Mubarak mobs are retreating…but for how long? Will the army finally get involved…and if so, how?

There are many questions left unanswered.

Most importantly: do the Egyptian protests hold a chance? They have already accomplished much – but can they force the dictator from his seat? I fear we may see a case here of what happens when people without guns challenge those that do. And it’s never good. With Tahrir Square, my mind keeps snapping to images of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, when British troops slaughtered Indian protesters during their own push for independence. Terrifying to think of, but is it beyond Mubarak?

So why do protesters not simply go home?

  • Because we have seen that their efforts can work. Recently. Look at Tunisia. The Jasmine Revolution. They rose against a strongman. They won.
  • Because of what it means to the region. The surge of democratic sentiment in Egypt is not solitary. Protests have also rocked the Sudan, Yemen and Jordan. Jordan’s King has capitulated with protesters, firing his cabinet and ordering a new prime minister for the people. Even in Syria, where the powerful President Assad reigns, there is growing talk of anti-government protests. Turkey is supporting protesters. Saudi Arabia has vehemently called for Mubarak to quash protesters.

There is a precedent being set here, and all the Middle East is invested. Change is on the move – but what will come of it?

These are among those rare moments – where things move all too quickly, and the world is set to spinning. One knows not where things will lead. But we can hope this isn’t a fleeting dream. We can hope hope doesn’t end in blood.

Deception

Photo by Chris Galford

The fire dips beneath the azure sea;

All eyes turn to their own hands.

No one spies the serpents slithering

From the long stretched shadows

Of a garden ripe with glistening fruit.

Demons whisper in the peoples’ ears—

The straw cast down,

The crows descend.

Fruit rots and garden fades—

Ravens circle high above

The corpses of the fools.

Old men stir within their ancient tombs—

The dream is dead,

Another Rome, decayed.

For The Thursday Poets Rally, Week 28.