Egyptian Fulbright Scholar answers difficult question ‘Worth it to have Mubarak step down?’

By REEM ABOU ELENAIN

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I was asked this question by a colleague of mine a few days ago. I moved to Egypt in 2001 when I was fifteen years old. I lived twelve years there, ten of which were under the rule of the late president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak. I was there when people rose up against their corrupt government twice. Was it worth it? Are we better off now? Would it have been better if we had kept the system? Let me tell you a story.

I remember back to 2008 or 2009, I was sitting with my father and talking about job hunting abroad. He, who had spent twenty two years working in the United Arab Emirates, didn’t like the idea. He told me that Egypt is my country and home, and my life is going to be in it. I remember saying that Egypt is not my country; it’s other people’s country, not mine. It can’t give me anything, not even a hope of a decent life or future.

By the end of 2010, a few months before the revolution, the capital growth in Egypt was 5.46 percent. That, however, was just a number that did not reflect on real life. Egyptians have never felt worse about their lives. As Egypt’s capital grew, more people were falling into poverty. Job opportunities were little and those who had jobs had low income. Price inflation was rocketing on all essential goods and the middle class in Egypt was getting poorer every year. Power was in the hands of a few people who made decisions based on their own self interest. Those people were the ones who owned Egypt.

But the points listed above were not the reasons for the Egyptian uprising. If it had been so, we would have seen the poor and downtrodden starting and leading this revolution. Instead, it was sparked by educated and relatively well-off young people. What they were striving for was freedom of expression and to have a role in society and politics. People were also sick by the constant humiliation and unjustified brutality that was practiced by the police force. It was not present in the streets to protect Egyptian citizens, but had one sole role which was protecting the people in power and their regime. In short, those young people had a dream of winning back their country.

So, are Egyptians now better off after the revolution?

No.

Life has gotten harder on us, Egyptians, and the economy is not doing well. Egypt is finding it hard to form a new system, and the people who take charge of the country are not the ones who started the revolution and they may not even have its best interest in mind. Despite this fact, Egyptians have never been more optimistic about the future. It seems now that they have a say over the decisions that this country makes, and no matter what happens they would never allow an autocratic system to rule them ever again. Standing side by side protesting against corrupt regimes, has formed a sense of kinship and brotherhood between Egyptians, and they are more united than they had ever been. Despite the apparent divisions, all Egyptians seek for the same things: eliminating poverty, improving education, providing more job opportunities and most important of all, establishing a democratic country where everyone has a voice in it.

When Mubarak was the president of Egypt, Egyptians felt that they were being watched by the government. The only thing that they critiqued were soccer matches. Anything else, and they may have been arrested under the Emergency Law that was enforced during Mubarak’s thirty years of rule. What is Emergency Law? It basically means that the police can imprison anyone for as long as they want without apparent reasons, which means that, at that time, writing a piece like this article would mean a high probability of going to jail without trial.

Now, Egyptians are the ones who are watching the government, and the government is worried. Everybody now talks about politics, from politicians and members of Parliament, to simple street vendors. New rulers of Egypt know that if they follow their own interests and ignore the people, they would face the angry mobs that have the power to put them in jail and have them trialled for their crimes. There are two former Egyptian presidents behind bars to make this point clear.

“Do you still think that it was worth it to have Mubarak step down?”

Absolutely.