Why We Should Go and Welcome ElBaradei
|Thursday, February 18,2010 16:15|
|By By Alaa Al-Aswany|
At 3 p.m. this Friday, February 19, Austrian Airlines flight 863 will arrive from Vienna, opening a new page in the struggle of Egyptians to assert their right to justice and freedom. This plane will bring to Egypt one of its greatest sons, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the professor of international law and former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dr Elbaradei has suddenly appeared on the political scene in Egypt with his demand for democratic reform, winning the admiration and respect of Egyptians. In a truly unique phenomenon, enthusiasm in support of Elbaradei has been intense among young people, who have set up several support groups and have started a campaign in some provinces of Egypt to collect official and unofficial endorsements for ElBaradei and for changing the constitution, something unprecedented in Egypt since the uprising of 1919.These young people have worked hard calling on Egyptians to welcome ElBaradei at the airport on Friday.
I am confident that thousands of Egyptians will go and welcome him, and I am also confident that the security forces will do their utmost to thwart this popular reception. In any case, there is no longer any doubt that Dr Mohamed ElBaradei has become the most significant political phenomenon in Egypt today. Perhaps it would be useful to explore the reasons:
Firstly, millions of Egyptians live in a morass of poverty, disease and unemployment and struggle in inhumane conditions just to survive, at a time when the ruling elite enjoy everything: wealth, influence, privileges and the protection of the law. Given this blatant injustice the Egyptian regime habitually blames Egyptians when its policies fail. Examples of that are innumerable. In the eyes of our rulers, we Egyptians are a lazy and ignorant people that breeds for no good reason, does not work, and misuses everything, from its electoral vote to subsidies, electricity and water. Given this constant contempt, the appearance of successful Egyptian figures with major international achievements, such as Mohamed ElBaradei, Ahmed Zewail and Magdi Yacoub affirms Egyptians’ confidence in themselves and their abilities, and shows clearly that the crisis in Egypt does not stem from flaws in the nature or conduct of Egyptians, but from the failed and corrupt policies of the regime which holds Egypt in its grip by repression and fraud.
Secondly, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei has a number of impressive qualities which have made him popular. He is highly qualified academically, with a doctorate in law from New York University in 1974, and through his efforts and his exceptional talent he has held high-level international positions. He has won numerous international awards and acquired extraordinary legal and political experience. Elbaradei proved how much he loves his country when he donated all his Nobel Prize money to help people who live in shantytowns, and then publicly criticized corruption and oppression in Egypt, opening for himself the gates of hell. With a little dissembling he could have stayed friends with the regime and obtained a senior position in government if he had wanted, but his devotion to the truth outweighed his personal interests.
On top of that Dr ElBaradei owes the Egyptian regime no favours, in fact to the contrary. The regime refused to nominate ElBaradei to be director of the IAEA, but ElBaradei nonetheless won the position unanimously in a fair election. So in the eyes of Egyptians, Elbaradei is a patriot who is competent and honourable, whose hands are not tainted by corruption, and who has never taken part in rigging elections. They say he has not kept quiet about the detention and torture of innocent people, has not taken orders from State Security, has not flattered President Mubarak or sung the praises of his momentous and historic achievements, as sycophantic ministers do. All that earns ElBaradei the esteem of all segments of the Egyptian political spectrum, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the leftists and the liberals, and even the Copts of the diaspora.
Thirdly, the sudden advent of Elbaradei and the fact that his popularity is increasing day by day have given officials in the regime such a shock that they are waging a vicious war against him, starting with a barrage of lies and allegations belittling him and his achievements and accusing him of every possible shortcoming. After that the regime’s sleeper cells in the newspapers and the media moved against him – these are a group of journalists and writers who pretend to be independent in order to win the trust of public opinion but when the moment of truth comes they receive direct orders from the state and carry them out to the letter. Then came the third stage of the war on ElBaradei in the form of a complete blackout. For three weeks the official media did not publish a single word about ElBaradei, as though he did not exist. In fact the officials accidentally discovered that the governor of Damietta, Mohamed Fathi ElBaradei, shares the same name as Dr ElBaradei, and suddenly there was a deluge of newspaper articles about the governor of Damietta, sometimes topical but mostly not, in such an unprecedented manner that no doubt the governor himself was taken by surprise. The purpose of this was to show that Dr ElBaradei had no significant importance, since there was another ElBaradei whose activities were of greater interest to public opinion. This bizarre incident illustrates how much the regime hates Dr Mohamed Elbaradei and the shallow intellectual level of some of those responsible for the media in Egypt.
Fourthly, over years the regime has made a gargantuan effort to set the stage, at home and abroad, for the presidency to pass from President Mubarak to his son Gamal. Abroad the regime has adopted two policies: firstly, to do favours to Israel and gratify it in every way, so that the Zionist lobby puts pressure on the U.S. administration to accept Gamal’s succession, and secondly to use the Muslim Brotherhood as a bogeyman, on the grounds that they would definitely win any real elections in Egypt. The purpose of that is to persuade Western governments to support the authoritarian regime and accept the succession. Domestically a whole organization has been set up for the succession, staffed by jurists, people in the media and prominent public figures, who have betrayed their national and professional trust and have started to recite that Gamal Mubarak is the only option available to his father. They tried to make him attractive to public opinion and then they made the shameful amendments to the constitution to restrict the competition to the President and his son.. In fact the advent of Mohamed ElBaradei has undone all those arrangements, because he does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or to the regime, and his political and professional skills are beyond comparison with Gamal Mubarak’s modest abilities. In the end ElBaradei is a well known face, respected around the world, which makes it extremely difficult to beat him up, detain him or make up accusations and scandals in order to put an end to him. To bring about the succession the regime needs extras to stand against Gamal Mubarak and lose the elections, in the hope this might give some credibility to the farcical drama. The regime usually looks for these bit players among public figures who are cooperative, ambitious for office or members of the window-dressing parties fabricated in full by State Security, but Dr ElBaradei soon wised up to that trap and completely refused to stand for the presidency under the present flawed constitutional and legal system. He asked for specific steps to amend the constitution in a way that allows for real and honest competition for the presidency, and Egyptians’ respect for him grew when he said he would come back to Egypt, not to seek the presidency but to join the national forces that are trying to establish democracy in Egypt
Finally, Egypt is at a turning-point in its history, possibly similar to the stage before the 1952 revolution. There is consensus that the old regime no longer works and that change is inevitable. It may be a significant absurdity that Mohamed ElBaradei is arriving in Cairo in the same week that Egyptians were killed, not on the battlefield to defend their country but in a miserable brawl to obtain cylinders of cooking gas, so they could cook food for their children. That’s how far Egyptians have been abased.
Reader, if you want your children to live in a country which respects their human rights, where people are equal before the law and have equal opportunities in education and employment, if you want change and reform in Egypt, come with us to the airport on Friday to welcome Dr Mohamed ElBaradei.