by Ismail Serageldin
The Third Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution holds lessons for many interested in democratic change. Ismail Serageldin is Director of the Alexandra Library and former VP for Sustainable Development of the World Bank. This perspective on the revolution from a member of Egypt's small liberal elite has some interesting insights for us in South Africa.
Historic Hours and Tumultuous Times
Reflections on the Third Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution
Alexandria, 25 January 2014:
Today we celebrate the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. A milestone that calls for reflection on those three years of chaotic action, great moments, dashed dreams, big achievements, sacrifice and betrayal, and all the components of a human drama of the highest order. Tumultuous times, historic hours… greatness achieved, then lost, retrieved and lost again in the fog of uncertainty as the elusive dream of building our new republic on an inclusive society and a system of laws seems to be overtaken by an active war on terror.
Yesterday, four bombs killed and maimed many innocent victims in Cairo, and destroyed part of the Museum of Islamic Art. An unbelievable jewel, one of the finest museums in the world, irreplaceable pieces shattered and lost to future generations. Umayyad artifacts, Mamluk lanterns, Fatimid woodwork, medieval manuscripts… some of the finest legacies of our history are destroyed. It is amazing how artifacts of bygone times should touch us so deeply in the midst of the real blood of real people, but they do. People are not defined just by current bonds; they are defined by their culture and historical legacy. Our heritage counts.
The promoters of political Islam having lost the support of large parts of the public, and having failed to undo the removal of their regime, have opted for terrorism. We are no longer talking of violence during massive public demonstrations, we are no longer talking of individuals killed in massive confrontations in the street, we are now witnessing bombs, sometimes targeted at the symbols of state power, sometimes against ordinary people, always intended to terrorize and intimidate. But the people are not intimidated. They demand the repression of the fanatics by the army and the police. The calls for law and order and for an iron hand are widespread, and they are demonstrating a strong streak of determination among the public, but they are also raising the ever-present specter of the autocratic state and its apparatus of repression.