Tag Archives: Revolution

Satire Proves Egypt’s Revolution didn’t Fail

Whether or not the Egyptian Revolution can be deemed successful is not clear, but the demands of the revolution were clear from the beginning: A’ash, Horeya weh A’adala Egtema’aya, meaning “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice” — a three word mission reminiscent of the French Revolution’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.

Many would say that Egypt’s only achievement since January 25, 2011 was the removal of former-President Hosni Mubarak. Still, Egypt is not the same Egypt that existed before January 2011. I am not simply writing about the intermittent violence in the streets, but about those genuinely participating, still calling for the basic rights they deserve.

Take the example of Bassem Youssef,  a former cardiothoracic surgeon. He found his calling in the most provocative occupation one could take on in the Middle East — a political satire comedian in the style of Jon Stewart, the first ever in the region. Before this, Egyptian state television and newspapers were routinely censored out of fear of the government’s reaction to controversial media statements. There was always a tacit line that could never be crossed, and many newscasters and journalists were imprisoned and made an example of for speaking out against the regime.

Youssef’s show “El Bernameg” (literally translating as “The Show”) is representative of the dam of oppression that broke with the fall of Mubarak’s administration. His humor and satirical responses to the political contradictions of the current government under President Mohammed Morsi educates people on the recent constitutional referendums and other national issues. Always pushing the boundaries, he goes all out in making fun of the president and other major politicians. His empowered viewers believe that the program speaks to the government on their behalf.

Social and political criticism is still not accepted easily in Egypt, even as so many have fought for the right to dish it out. Even prominent interview host, Emad Adeeb, found cause to sue “El Bernameg” for comparing his pre-revolution and post-revolution political stances, calling it “insult and defamation” — and in the process highlighting that no one, no matter one’s title or status, is above being targeted on the show. Youssef drew up a contract with the channel’s owner to make sure that no topic would be off limits for him, and despite all the controversy it sparks.  His YouTube channel continues to be the most subscribed-to channel in Egypt.

Egyptians know that they have not attained the complete democracy they have been fighting for these past two years, but at least now, Egyptians can speak their mind without fear; they know that for every inadmissible move the new President or government makes, they can grab their openly-furious signs and chant in the streets for change. Youssef’s “El Bernameg” represents the charged spirit of the country and its people. But, of course, this newborn freedom of speech, press and general expression is only one step in the direction of fulfilling the three demands of el thawra (the revolution).

Former Indian Amabassador to United Nations Says Arab Spring is “Awakening” at USF Lecture

The uprisings are not definitive in goals, are not determinate in their pace, are not inclusive in terms of participants and beneficiaries, and irreversible in their direction.

In December 2010, Tunisian vegetable seller Mohammed Bouazizi went to the provincial headquarters in his town Sidi Bouzid to file a complaint about the mistreatment he recently endured from a policewoman. The woman had confiscated his vegetable cart, fined him, and insulted him. The refusal of the local municipality officials to see him resulted in a powerful political statement that nobody could have predicted. Bouazizi poured fuel over his body and set himself on fire in front of the headquarters for officials and civilians to see. Bouazizi died less than a month later, commanding attention to a political revolution years in the making.

“Bouazizi was a catalyst,” said Honorary Ambassador Rajendra Abhyankar to an audience of USF students and professors at his discussion, “The Arab Spring: How Did It Get Here and Where Is It Going?” on Nov. 19. Abhyankar is an Indian diplomat who lived in the Middle East for 13 years. From 1998 to 2001, he was the Indian consul general in San Francisco.

By setting fire to himself, Bouazizi ignited global awareness about the current unrest in the Middle East that Abhyankar refers to as the “Arab Awakening,” which is known to many as the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring is a revolution of protests, wars, and demonstrations of Arab nationals dissatisfied with the government and socioeconomic status of their countries. The protests have resulted in the overthrow of rulers in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. Uprisings have broken out in 20 Middle Eastern countries. Abhyankar explained that ‘awakening’ is a more descriptive term of the circumstances, which he says have been a “process” of events rather than one “spring” of uprisings.

While Bouazizi’s fatal and powerful political statement brought the Arab Spring to the forefront of international news in December 2010, Arab citizens of the Middle East countries have long been protesting for governmental change. According to Abhyankar, the protests are unorganized and driven by younger generations aiming to reform the military, the current social contract, the broken education system, and women’s rights.

Abhyankar pointed out that the armies in Middle Eastern countries are “a state within a state,” meaning it is the army that determines foreign and defense policies. The government uses the current social contract as a suppression tool to combat civilian opposition, he said. “Holders of power make available all the things they believe citizens should want and in return expect people to remain silent about politics.” This vicious cycle is only made worse by the broken education system, which Abhyankar said provides “no possibility for enterprise.”

With more than half of the Middle East population under 35, the desire to protest for reform is incredibly intense, however, Abhyankar pointed out that the goals of these uprisings are difficult to pinpoint. “The uprisings are not definitive in goals, are not determinate in their pace, are not inclusive in terms of participants and beneficiaries, and irreversible in their direction,” he said, summing up the uncertainty surrounding the direction of the uprisings. Although the nature of these protests is spontaneous and highly unorganized in terms of concise goals, they all call for complete government reformation. What this reformation will look like is the most unclear. Citizens are in favor of democracy with Islamic inspiration,  but the question is whether or not Islam will be compatible with democracy. Supremacy of parliament, an independent judiciary, and a constitution under the widest consensus are the desired elements of democracy that the Arab people are fighting for.

“How do we get there?” was Abhyankar’s main question. He pointed to other government methods, such as those in Turkey, Iran, and Lebanon as models to look toward. Egypt, also, plays a crucial role in determining the fate of Middle Eastern governments. “Egypt represents two extremes: an elected president for the first time and a constitution panel that is 50% Islam” said Abhyankar. “Egypt is the most populous Middle East country and what happens there will influence what happens in other Middle East countries,” he said.

While the ideality behind the Arab awakening is to move these countries forward toward democracy and civilian controlled militaries, these protests have been the cause of much internal political instability, increased religious intolerance, and slow downs of economic growth. Having someone like Ambassador Rajendra Abhyankar come to USF and bring first hand insight into this crisis brought invaluable perspective to USF students. Caroline Earling, a junior international studies major, found the conversation “relevant” and said, “USF needs more speakers like this.” Hans Jacobs, a sophomore also majoring in international studies agreed. “It was interesting to hear what he had to say,” he said, adding that he was satisfied with the quality of information.

After the discussion, Abhyankar said he was content with students’ questions and ended by commenting on how interesting it was to have a discussion about countries in the midst of fighting for democracy in San Francisco, a city “known for democracy.”

“You Say You Want a Revolution”

“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot!” Nov. 5 marked the 404th anniversary of the attempt by a group of Catholic conspirators to blow up London’s Parliament and unseat Protestant officials (and the king) who, at the time, were suppressing Britain’s Catholic population. Government officials thwarted the plot in its final days of planning and one if it’s main conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was taken into custody. Consequently, the fifth of November is celebrated in Great Britain as “Guy Fawkes Day,” marking parliament’s circumvention of terrorism. In the following centuries, Fawkes has become something of a revolutionary ideal. Fawkes does represent the individual’s ability to combat corruption in governments.

In more recent history, this Monday Nov. 9 marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989, the barrier separating democratic West Berlin and Soviet controlled East Berlin was demolished by a large, spontaneous rebellion of East Berlin citizens who refused to continue living with oppression and poverty. The failure of the Soviets to impede the East Berlin rebellion represented the turning point of Soviet control, leading to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and establishment of democracy in much of Eastern Europe. Twenty years later, the blatant suppression of free speech, press, and travel is nearly unheard of in western countries and the establishment of the European Union seeks to eradicate corruption within European governments.

Both of these anniversaries represent milestones in history when individuals banded together in revolutionary pursuit. This begs the question: What will our generation’s revolution be? Or is it already happening? I believe revolutions, in many forms, are already under way. As we reflect on those of the past, it’s time we acknowledge the revolutions occurring today.

Tehran, Iran: The nation’s capital has spent the last five months in violent uproar as opposition forces protest electoral fraud and government corruption. International investigations into Iran’s presidential election in June shows conclusive evidence that president elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rigged the election. The opposition leaders, specifically western-supported Mir Hussein Moussavi immediately revolted after election results were announced. In the following five months, riots in Tehran have drawn record crowds. Government-sponsored police have resorted to violent suppression of all protests. Despite shootings and releasing of tear gas, Iranians have continued to rebel, demanding government reform.

Washington D.C., United States: Revolutionary action for social reform is taking place across the United States, specifically in the nation’s capital. Revolutionary healthcare reform was brought to the front of American politics after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. For the first time since President Clinton’s call for reform in 1993, a serious campaign for universal healthcare is underway. The current healthcare bill seeks to grant affordable coverage to American citizens, especially those who have lost employment and/or insurance in the recession. This revolution has the potential to completely change the state of our country’s health. The reform could insure up to 36 million Americans who, at this point, do not have access to any form of healthcare, from chemotherapy to pediatric check-ups.

China: The revolution of totalitarian-capitalism is growing fast. China has the fastest growing economy in the world and is showing no signs of slowing down. In the worldwide recession, China’s economy barely took the hit, continuing nearly normal production rates.

The cultural climate of China remains rooted in communism, while free-market policies have taken hold of the country’s economy. The fiscal revolution defies the boundaries of both capitalism and communism, with the abundance of human capital and thrifty investment aiding China’s pursuit to dominate world markets. Economists are calling China the superpower of the future, and there is little reason to refute these claims.

Revolutions are abundant in today’s society. Guy Fawkes Day and the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall remind us to appreciate revolutions of both the past and present.

Our generation will alter this world drastically. Whether it is Iranian freedom, healthcare reform, major economic transformations, or something yet to occur, our effect on this planet will be undeniable.