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Standing in solidarity with Egypt

Millions of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest their government after years of corruption and mismanagement. These protests, originally organized by young people on Facebook, aim to overthrow the 30-year regime of president Hosni Mubarak in order to establish in Egypt something the country has never seen: true democracy. The people’s efforts even in the face of sometimes-violent attempts by the government to quell their protests are inspiring. More than anything, the Egyptian revolt reminds me for how much we in the United States have to be grateful. Although we may not always see eye to eye with our government, we never have to fear retaliation for speaking out against congress or the president. We have confidence that if our congresspeople aren’t representing our best interests then we can vote them out of office in free and fair elections. We are certain that our government answers to us and not the other way around. Having been denied such a democratic political reality for decades, the Egyptian people have had enough, and I stand in full support of Egyptians as they fight for their rights.

As protests heated up early last week, the Egyptian government cut off all Internet service to its people. Later in the week, mobile phone service was shut off. Despite not having access to twitter, Facebook and other social media sites – what had up until that point been their primary means of organization – protesters continued to take to the streets in thousands. Christians, Muslims and non-believers, old people and young people, rich and poor, all banded together to deliver a unified message: we want Mubarak out. Last Friday night, Mubarak gave a televised statement purporting that he had always been on the side of the people. He claimed that the protests were only happening because of the freedoms he had given to the people of Egypt. Ironic since he was the one who outlawed protests altogether, he was the one who instated a 3:00pm curfew, he was the one who shut off all communication to the country and he was the one who ordered his policemen to beat and teargas protesters. Even more ridiculous than Mubarak’s blatant falsehoods was his so-called response to the protesters’ demands. He fired his entire government and replaced them with new ministers, many of whom had already filled different positions within the old government. That Mubarak would offer up such a wholly unsatisfactory solution came as no surprise to Egyptian protesters who showed up to the streets in even greater numbers in the days following his statement.

The reaction from the United States’ government to Egyptian protests has been even more frustrating than the Egyptian government’s reply. The US response has been non-committal and back-and-forth, appearing to both support the freedom of speech of the Egyptian people and to stand behind longtime ally Mubarak. Even as I write this on Tuesday, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and numerous heads of state in Europe and around the world have issued statements calling for the step-down of Mubarak, the United States has continued to avoid issuing a blatant statement either against Mubarak or in favor of the Egyptian people. Such an ambiguous response is no longer acceptable. The Egyptian people are sending a loud and clear message: the Mubarak regime does not represent them. They do not want him in power.

How can the United States, who claims to support freedom, democracy and rule of the people, stand behind Mubarak after such a clear and strong outcry from the Egyptian people? Now as regime change in Egypt becomes more and more likely, the United States will have to answer to its unclear stance regarding the Egyptian revolution. If the Egyptian people are successful in taking control of their own government, as I suspect they will be, they will want to know why the United States did not support them in this revolution. We will be hard-pressed to provide them with a coherent explanation.

Our country was established by revolution. We of all countries should understand what it means to fight for a better future. Right now, the Egyptian people are fighting and they’re fighting hard. If you believe in the right of a people to determine its own government, if you believe in the power of democratic rule, if you believe in just governance, then there is no question here. Let’s stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt. Even just posting statements of support on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter sends a message that our government has not been able to provide to the Egyptian people – governmental rule aside, the people of the United States understand what it means to fight for freedom, and we stand behind you.

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