No one can have watched the events in the Arab world unfolding this month and not been moved by the sight of spontaneous uprisings, people power, and the fall of corrupt and authoritarian regimes.
I had not paid such keen attention to the news in as long as I can remember as over those 18 days in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as 30 years of Egyptian anger and resentment boiled over and forced out the deeply unpopular president Gamal Mubarak. To see the running battles in the streets, the bravery and sheer bloody-blindedness of the protesters in the face of police violence, thugs, beatings and live ammunition used on unarmed civilians was extraordinary. To see that it worked, in some fashion, is more extraordinary still.
That a committee of military generals should be welcomed over an elected government, albeit one elected in a discredited poll, demonstrates the depth of disgust at Mubarak’s ‘revolutionary’ regime. It also shows Egypt’s unusual relationship with its army, no doubt made up itself of young conscripts not far in attitude from the protesters themselves. I was moved by the army’s statement early on that they would not fire on protesters. But the reports of army arrests of journalists and activists, of secret beatings and intimidation, and the troops’ failure to intervene between pro-Mubarak thugs and protesters revealed that everything is not as it seems. The army has an agenda of its own, and clearly decided that remaining popular — practically sanctified — in the eyes of the people was more important that backing Mubarak, whose position looked less credible by the day.