Sunday, May 29, 2005

Egyptian pro-democracy activism

A lot of posts on pro-democracy movements in the Middle East while I was at home! Seems you all are speculating on this with a sort of American focus, though.

Well, I can tell you all a bit about the Egyptian pro-democracy movement. It's called "Kefaya" like I said. The problem I see with Kefaya is that they basically are really good at articulating what they're against (Mubarak, the US imperialism, the state of emergency, the lack of electoral reform, government corruption, lots of stuff) but not real clear on what they are for. This is typical of such a movement which has a lot of disparate elements. There are Nasserists, other sorts of leftists, fed-up youth, Muslim Brotherhood types, and lots of other groupings.

Everyone in Egypt who wants to be politically popular right now, given the situation in the Middle East, makes it crystal clear that they are anti-American, so this has nothing to do with Bush's policies or anything else except that it is in part a reaction AGAINST them. In fact whenever an American official says something in solidarity with anyone in Egypt, it is like the kiss of death. (That is in part what happened to Saad Eddine Ibrahim.)

There was a humorous description at Arabist.net a few weeks ago about a confrontation between pro-Mubarak paid demonstrators (or else people from the national party who also make pro-Mubarak demonstrations) and a small Kefaya contingent where they ended up yelling at each other "You are with the Americans! No, you are with the Americans!"

Another thing that EVERYONE is against is "international monitoring" of elections, something for which Bush has repeatedly called, which they see as being insulting. Mubarak's party and the status quo people are against it (for obvious reasons), but also the judges (who want to be the sole monitors and who are protesting as well right now for greater judicial independence) and also the pro-democracy people (who are VERY anti-imperialist).

So I don't think the Egyptian phenomenon is very well understood in the US. I cannot speak about the movements outside of Egypt although I have heard on pretty good authority that the Lebanese pro-democracy movement is fairly elitist in origin and aims. The Egyptian one definitely is not.

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