Wednesday 3 August 2011

Egypt: One More Victory No One Can Ever Take Away

Protesters Celebrating On February 11th 2011

There's an old saying, whose gist pretty much is: "Don't Jinx It", and I know many would say that after reading this piece, but my entire point is that there is nothing (read: nothing much) to jinx anymore, regardless of what happens in the next few hours.

The fact is that within a few hours, former Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak will participate in his first trial session, mainly for accusations of killing the January 25 Revolution Protesters, in addition to other corruption charges. Now, I'm going to go all out and assume the worst case outcome imaginable for the anti-Mubarak camp: let's say Mubarak eventually gets acquitted of all charges. But even if that does happen, and there are already legal problems regarding the case as it is, there is still one major victory that can't be undone.

While Ben Ali fled Tunisia (he says he planned to go back, but the pilot ignored his orders and left Saudi Arabia without him - sure) and is currently watching the events from an Al-Jazeera-playing widescreen, Egyptians have successfully pushed to have their former President stand trial for the first time in modern, perhaps general, Middle-Eastern history, without having even installed a revolutionary or any new regime yet for that matter, one in whose favour it would be to try the previous leader. For the first time, we will break tradition with our region's dark history, where leaders either rule for life or die of assassination. And unlike the Saddam trial, this is a trial by the people for the people, and not by a foreign force that has overpoweringly imposed itself upon the country. Even more evocatively, the former President and the co-accused will also be literally caged as they are prosecuted (much like other regime figures), in an outdated yet still existent characteristic of Egyptian criminal trials that violates the dignity of the accused and the assumption of his liberty, yet remains in force. This sight would both further serve to break the once quasi-sacred aura of Middle-Eastern powerful leaders, and ironically it should also serve as a powerful reminder that a leader should truly be the one with the initiative to reform the laws of his own country, for he could one day be subjected to the cruelest of them. And yet, for myself, the milestone moment has already happened.

The moment Mubarak received his legal summons yesterday, officially accusing him of said crimes, the most important nail in the coffin of Middle-Eastern cult-of-personality and leader-worship was finally hammered, and would only be hammered further by the live telecast of the trial. Leaders are human beings, just like the rest of us, and the same laws that apply to us apply to them as well. If they do break them, they will suffer like any of us would. And just because of that, almost regardless of how the trials proceed, many of us here feel more even empowered and more dignified as citizens than as we did even on February 11th as well. And it's a watershed moment for an entire region struggling with corrupt, bloodthirsty and oppressive regimes, many of which are starting to believe they managed their way out of the Arab Spring. As the leading figures of those regimes received the news that Mubarak, one of the most powerful, oldest reigning, and once untouchable among them, was officially served his legal summons, all those men knew that the end of life as they were used to it has finally come, forever. Governments are for the people, not the other way around; and the people own their countries, not the regimes.

Yes, many still sympathise with Mubarak, the revolution is not as widely popular as it once was (for many reasons), and we do have immense problems on all imaginable levels. Yet while we continue our excruciating struggle for liberty, existence and prosperity, and as we go through our immense daily share of victories and defeats, this is one more unimaginable victory, much like February 11th, that no one can ever take away from us. Any man or woman who shall seek to lead our countries from this day forth shall know that we are to be no longer ruled by those who see themselves as above the law, and above the people. 

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