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Ambiguities Everywhere: A Snapshot of Egypt’s Experimental Moment in The Guardian

May 23, 2011

An Egyptian colleague yesterday posted to Facebook a story from Al-Jazeera about the continuing arrest of protesters by the military in Egypt.

What’s happening? one of her friends outside Egypt commented.

Ambiguities everywhere… my colleague responded.

“Ambiguities Everywhere” could be an alternative title for the recent set of articles “The new Egypt: 100 days on” in the Guardian which offers a snapshot of post-Mubarak Egypt. The theme is best stated by activist Noor Ayman Nour, who says

People call us the chained dog – a dog tied up for many, many years whose only desire is to break free of the chain, but when he does he just runs round and round and doesn’t know what to do.

May 19th marked 100 days since Mubarak was ousted as Egypt’s authoritarian leader through popular revolt. Since then, a military junta has sought to maintain order with limited resources and less experience and no oversight; the economy has struggled with the virtual collapse of the stock market and the tourist trade; the constitution was amended to strip future presidents of many of the autocratic powers that made Mubarak a dictator but fell short of reinventing the Egyptian governmental system; labor and minority groups continue to demand rights and reforms, trying to maintain a public presence while the country lurches haltingly toward planned free and fair elections in September.

The series in the Guardian offers fourteen stories that capture the ambiguities everywhere as Egypt seeks to cope with the aftermath of its uprising, and as revolution and counterrevolution struggle within a political and economic structure that lacks predictability.

The first story,  and the only one published 18 May, is Egypt in flux: sober realities and optimism 100 days after Mubarak’s fall, by Middle East correspondent Ian Black, which uses brief quotations from interviews with four Egyptians–an engineer, an entrepreneur, a columnist and an office worker–to explore some of the struggles to find a new political direction for the country in the wake of the Tahrir Square uprisings. Longer visions of these interviews are offered in a video.

Ian Black also penned The two swift changes in foreign policy that signal a new Egypt, which explores the steps the new government has taken to improve relations with Iran and change its approach to Palestine.

Efforts to remove Mubarak’s name from public institutions and civic works is the topic of Egyptians expunge Mubarak’s legacy, one metro map at a time by Jack Shenker. He argues that much of the power of Egypt’s former president was symbolic and psychological, and changing this may take more time and effort than did forcing his resignation.

Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef describes the exent to which Torture and imprisonment of Egypt protesters still rife.

Best-selling author Alaa al-Aswany echoes the voices of many intellectuals when Egyptian novelist hails revolution as a ‘great human achievement’ but discusses his fears of a counterrevolution that uses peoples fears of disorder and ambiguity to try to shift the country back toward authoritarianism and anarchy.

For many, the protests in Tahrir Square were about a technologically savvy middle class youth movement supporting the struggles of Egypt’s working class. Journalist, activist and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy presents this view in Now overthrow the workplace Mubaraks, urges labour activist.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood poised to prosper in post-Mubarak new era describes some of the changes freedom has brought to this Islamist movement, which was banned under Mubarak’s regime but will compete in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. But more radical groups are also gaining political ground in Egypt’s newfound freedom.

In the face of Egypt’s current ambiguity and disorder, we hear again and again people insisting on the need for “strong leaders.”  The essay ‘In Egypt we need strong leadership. At the moment that’s the generals’ by Dr. Dina Omar, who returned to Egypt from Lebanon to treat the wounded in Tahrir Square during the anti-Mubarak uprising assert the essential paradox that progress toward democracy requires order, but order requires strong leaders. It is, of course, only a step from this position to a wholly predictable nostalgia for the good old days of Hosni Mubarak. This position is presented in Facebook protester: ‘A lot of people love Mubarak and want to defend him’ by 19-year old Alaa Abdul Nabi [he is said to be one of the administrators of Ana Asif ya Rais (“I’m sorry, Mr President’), a Facebook page that co-ordinates pro-Mubarak protests.

I’ve already blogged elsewhere about  Jack Shenker’s Egypt’s man from the past who insists he has a future portraying Zahi Hawass, appointed by Hosni Mubarak to oversee Egypt’s cultural riches, as the great survivor of the revolution

Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, named by Time magazine one of the most influential people of 2011 writes Egyptian uprising’s reporter: ‘Two Egypts have emerged’ in which he argues that there are two Egypts now:

One is revolutionary Egypt, driven by ideals and demanding reform and institutional change. And then there is the other Egypt, in which the military tries to maintain law and order. In certain areas, those two Egypts conflict; in other areas, they converge. Right now, they are torn apart and heading in very different directions.

Egyptian political activist Noor Ayman Nour recognizes that one of the primary motivations for the uprisings was people fed up with corruption

Not corruption in the sense of embezzling money, but rather the corruption of our political, social and cultural values that has sadly been instilled in all of us over the past half century.

In ‘Corruption will be difficult to end’ she articulates her doubts and worries, but remains optimistic.

Finally, in Egypt’s uprising brings DIY spirit out on to the streets, Jack Shenker explores some of the continuing explosion of creative energy in the alternative arts in the hundred days since Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012 11:27 am

    Maybe it’s cause you only watch the daily news liek CNN or Fox or whatever. THere’s lots of TV shows and aercilts about all the other stuff. Why do they talk about Muslim’s the most? Guess it depends where you live and how actively you search for your info. If you lived down south, you’d hear a lot about drug cartels. If you lived in California, you’d be on alert for a possible damage headed your way from Japan. It’s all there.

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