Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cairo Revolution


Newspaper seller, Cairo, 2008  
"They r coming. The people r coming. This is growing," wrote Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey 4 days ago, on  what was apparently one of the last posts to come out of the country before the regime shut down the internet. But the word got around nevertheless and Mubarak's days (maybe hours?)  seem numbered.

Cairo bridge 2008

Groaning under the weight  of 30 years under Hosni Mubarak's oppressive regime and frusrated by empty promises of reform, inspired by Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution' and mobilized via Facebook, Egyptians are now bravely demanding that Mubarak step down.

A recent article on Egypt and its future by Terry Newman, a business consultant who works throughout the Middle East, failed to predict the revolution but offered some interesting data on why it  may have erupted. Approximately one quarter of Egypt's population of over 80 million are aged between 18 and 29.  $200 per month is considered a good salary. While economic growth has been fair, the gap between rich and poor has grown. Still, 16.5 million users have access to the internet, a threefold increase in the past 3 years."The ability of different opposition groups to organise has increased in tandem. Egypt's population is now better educated, more connected, and more exposed to the external influences of the outside world than at any time in its history."


Egyptian boys near Cairo, 2004

Anybody who has visited Egypt and has been affected by the spirit by the Egyptian people can only wish them luck tonight. Perhaps some of these kids are among the demonstrators?

Nile view 2008

All this is bound to affect relations with Israel as well. Under Mubarak these have been cool but correct with both sides maintaining a common front against common enemies like Iran and Hamas.
Artistic recreation of the 1973 'October War', (Yom Kippur War) Cairo 2008

Under a different leadership relations could suffer. Terry Newman's reasonable prediction is that, "the overall strategic alliance between Egypt and Israel is likely to endure, not least due to US pressure and the billions of dollars in aid that both countrries receive as part of a the peace treaty."



Cairo street taken from a taxi on an overpass 2008

Egypt, our big neighbour, still the leader of the Arab world, needs to be fed, housed, educated and employed at a decent level. No less important it seems, a young wired generation wants its voice to be heard.

 

 How the internet generation will link up with the other disparate elements in Egypt (the Moslem Brotherhood in particular) to create a new political landscape, remains to be seen. A lot may depend on the army. Will it defend the establishment, or set out to change it?  
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