Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt and Freedom of expression

Iqbal Baraka, President of Egyptian PEN, has written for the Cairo based Al Masry el Yom newspaper. The following is a translation of her piece, which we are sharing with PEN members.
The assassination of freedom of expression
Voor de nederlandse versie, klik op onderstaande link:
By Iqbal Baraka, President, Egyptian PEN
Al Masry El Yom paper  (
Thursday 4/02/2011

Those who stormed Al-Tahrir Square last Wednesday were not citizens in favor of Mubarak, but a handful of beneficiaries of his existence, stepping briefly into the limelight while they enjoy the freedom of looting the nation's resources in the backstage.

They were not individuals standing by the President’s continuation of his office term, but rather bands that the ousted regime purchased and pushed into areas of conflict to take over clashes on their behalf.

Who handed over Molotov grenades to them? Who instigated them to shoot live bullets and use knives to stop citizens whose only fault was to declare their views and ask for reforms in politics ?

The Tahrir Square on bloody Wesnesday was an arena of wrestling between two victims: the “haves,” protesting against political oppression, corruption, and chaos, and the “have nots” protesting against the widening gap between social classes.

Old Romans at the fall of their empire enjoyed watching combats between two slaves who had no grudges towoards one another, but each one had to kill the other or lose his life .

The Egyptian regime used to convince security soldiers—who came from the depths of rural areas, deprived of educational and employment opportunities and a decent life—that the communist and leftist detainees in their care were disbelievers in Allah striving to eliminate Islam; hence the soldiers beat, kicked and cuffed some of the finest intellectuals in the country.

Following British occupation theory  (divide to rule),  those loyal to the ousted regime circulated rumours earlier this week among ordinary people that the protesters are seeking to spread chaos and destruction in Egypt.

They knew very well that the youths were sitting in Al Tahrir square because they are fighting for an Egypt without poverty, ignorance and injustice . ...

Instead of joining hands together against corrupted officials who had regularly looted the wealth of the country over the past three decades, becoming barons and billionaires… instead of listening to the honest voices in the peaceful march, they surrendered  to the incitements of the beneficiaries of the continuation of the status quo.

They accepted money to continue to be themselves humiliated, poor and ignorant forever, and scrambled under the leadership of a clique of tails of the NDParty to repeat the scenario for which they were trained and which they practiced in every election: abuse, chaos and barbarism, under pre-prepared banners and fake slogans that had nothing to do with the situation in the arena of engagement.

A signboard saying “Yes to Mubarak” shown on satellite TV World in fact showed people all over the world the brutal aggression towards Egypt's youth, hence denigrating the image of Mubarak and increasing the number of conscientious objectors to his ongoing leadership after he proved unable to maintain order in his country.

Another sign said “We give our souls and lives for  Mubarak.” This slogan is no longer acceptable, because nobody would sacrifice himself for a president whose term in office has expired. No one should trade a whole bleeding nation and thousands of youths killed or wounded for  the  authority of a totalitarian ruler .

They were like the Bear that killed its owner with a rock in order to protect him from a fly.

Aggression against protesters peacefully expressing their views is an assault on basic democratic principles. Meanwhile, the president himself has declared in two speeches the legality of their demands and promised to implement them—a wise position and to his credit, no doubt.

The new minister of interior, Mahmoud Wagdy, should have protected the protesters; he should have asked wise men among the Opposition to convince them to end their sit-in after making an appointment to meet with Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who welcomed a meeting with them.

Furthermor, the so-called “pro-Mubareks” should have been  prevented  access to the square, and directed to other sites wherein to demonstrate and declare their opinions. This is their right, but they do not have the right to attack opponents.

When will we learn the principles of democracy? When will the statesmen of this country remember that history shows no mercy for  despotism and those who connive with it, and recognize that future geneations will try them for the crimes they committed during the last thirty years in which they monopolized power? They will pay for what they did on the last bloody Wesnesday .

What has happened since January 25 was an attempt to assassinate freedom of expression. But it will never die, God willing.