Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Letters from Egypt: AUC Professor’s Thoughts on Tahrir

Source: Happier Abroad
“I believe the army should rule for five years with a plan to integrate civil structure. During this period, there should be an educational mechanism to define the term democracy.”

Words spoken by a friend of mine, a professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC).  I met Samir* at a café last night and naturally the main topic of discussion was the escalation of events in Tahrir Square. Many of his students have taken to the Square to protest, jumping on the bandwagon according to him. However, there is another side too.

“Many believe in the revolution, but not the execution,” he said adding that some students that are committed to the protest have either been victimized or are taking up for fellow students. Samir is forced to continue going to the Katamaya campus as classes are still in session despite little to no attendance. Unfortunately, without students, he is left sitting in his office biding his time.

On November 20, a rumor circulated around AUC that a curfew was going to be implemented at 4 pm local time. This caused many to avoid the campus altogether; although Samir admits that any excuse to get out of class is common. I was a college student once, I remember that vividly. Thursday is a holiday (Thanksgiving) with Saturday meant to hold compensation classes; however, now that is cancelled. Monday was proclaimed another holiday in light of the elections, but everyone is now anticipating Sunday classes to be cancelled. Even if classes are not officially cancelled, the likelihood that students will attend is slim.

Samir’s idea about military rule with the integrated plan of civil rule is a good point. It would give the political parties time to properly organize their campaigns while a temporary constitution, mandated by the military, could be established. I am not suggesting that the military take full control with a working constitution set for a 30-year limit before review. I’m saying that the military could take control over the immediate constitutional reforms like term limits, political party stipulations and candidacy guidelines, establish a proper voting technique (the UN spent an estimated $400 million on state-of-the-art biometric IDs in Cote d’Ivoire) – all of which will help prepare for a proper voting system. While nothing will ever be 100% transparent, this would give time for methods to ensure accuracy and as much transparency possible to take place.  After the elections, then the new government would be in charge of creating a new constitution to reflect upon the ideals and goals among the Egyptian people.

The Egyptian military is a business venture already, so why not let them handle the economy for five years until civilian rule is implemented? The military’s exact assets are confidential, but estimates run at about 5-45% of Egypt’s total economy. Am I suggesting the military is honest? Not by any means, but the way I view it as of now and others may agree, there is not a viable leadership option for Egypt at this time. The country needs to regroup, figure out its ultimate goal, and one of the most important issues: establishing a step-by-step policy toward educational reform.

Many say that the military council has “prolonged the transition to democracy.”  And this goes back to the education – even for the university students. Others watch MTV Arabia which televises shows like “My Super Sweet 16” and instantly think that the US, which in their minds represents democracy, is full of 15 and 16-year olds all receiving a nice new Porsche and flying to Paris to get a dress for the million-dollar party. Little work and all money is the image that comes across, but that isn’t democracy. Some will tell you that democracy means to them freedom, mainly freedom to express themselves via media and the like. However, that’s not entirely true either. It’s one part, but there are many things that the US had to work for and continuously needs to work on. No country is without flaws and that includes the US.

One Egyptian friend of mine told me that one reason she liked the US was because we were allowed to be whatever we wanted. She said that in school here, people just tell you what you’re going to be; however, in the US if you decide you want to fly helicopters, you can make that dream a reality.

The important thing to note is that Egyptians are saying that the military has halted the country’s transition into democracy, but democracy can’t happen in six to 10 months. It has to evolve and the only way it can begin to evolve is to teach others the meaning. But Egypt needs to find its own meaning. You can’t take a system from another country and expect it to work for you, it needs to be modified to fit the needs and demands of those inside the country.

Samir added, “Running around like headless chickens throwing bricks isn’t the right way to establish democracy. If I went to a zoo, monkeys would behave better.”

*denotes name change to protect anonymity

No comments:

Post a Comment