On February 11th, 2011, the people of Egypt spoke not only for themselves, but for all of humanity. Following on eighteen days in which millions across their country could no longer be silenced, their collective cry for freedom led to the end of a three decades-old dictatorship. In doing so, they sent a message that will resound around the world: Every dictator take note, the time for democratic empowerment has come. The implications for Afghanistan are also significant. As people everywhere are waking up to their universal human rights and demanding them, both corrupt government officials as well as Taliban and other violent extremist should pay heed.
The Egyptian Revolution was Peaceful. People everywhere should be proud of the Egyptians for their restrain and unwavering resolve. If the protesters had permitted their revolution to become violent, there would be nothing to celebrate. The death and destruction would have only strengthened the forces of oppression, irrespective of whether President Mubarak stayed or left. And yet, through the Egyptian people’s commitment to peace, they embodied a dignity that was admired by all. It was this, despite many provocations, that gave them a strength that could not be matched by the force of arms.
The Egyptian Revolution was True. Their demands were spoken without any clear leader, without a political platform, propaganda, or pandering to special interests. The message was clear: “We will no longer be ruled by a dictator,” they stated. “Martial law must be ended, and we must be accorded the respect that permits us to govern ourselves freely and fairly. The time has come, and we will not turn away from this truth.”
The Egyptian Revolution was Just. The Egyptian people awoke to their inalienable human rights for freedom of speech and democratic governance. Their demands were not unreasonable or extreme. Justice demands that all people have the right to select their political representatives. The decades of hollow excuses that claimed that Egyptians were not ready for democracy would no longer be tolerated. The time for justice had arrived.
By demonstrating their commitments to peace, truth, and justice, the Egyptian Revolution had universal meaning. There is something extremely valuable for people everywhere to learn from this peaceful revolution.
And yet, let us make no mistakes… the Egyptian Revolution is unfinished; all that has been achieved could still be wiped away and lost. The Egyptian uprising that led to the end of a decaying autocracy was the first and most difficult step in creating a new future for Egypt. However, it is not good enough simply for one strongman to cede the reins of power. The long, difficult challenge the people of Egypt now face is how to forge a new governmental structure and civil society that affords its citizens the opportunities that come with full and equal human rights for all.
Taking down a dictator is easier than building a new and well functioning democracy. The challenges are enormous. Egypt is encumbered with widespread poverty and unemployment; and it lacks experience in democratic governance. So Egypt now faces the great risk that it may replace one form of dictatorship with another that is even more pernicious. A revolution such as that which began on January 25th will not come again soon. This moment must not be lost. It is Egypt’s time to make a clear commitment to democracy and human rights. In doing so, it will be honoring those who suffered injuries and gave their lives in the noble struggle for freedom.
If Egypt succeeds in creating a democratic government that respects human rights, the recent uprising will have an impact that is far greater than what we have seen thus far. Egypt will become a leader in the Arab world as a country that was true to its ancestry while embracing a future in which universal human rights are integrated into the structure of its national polity. Moreover, Egypt will join ranks with Indonesia as an example that democracy and human rights can flourish in Islamic societies.
Let us salute the Egyptian people for the strength, restraint and dignity they showed in orchestrating this historic change. May this be the beginning of a new chapter in its history to build a strong, just, and modern nation.
Salam! Pax! Peace!