CCAS Professors Address Egyptian Protests

On Monday evening, CCAS’s Drs. Tamim al-Barghouti and Adel Iskandar, Assistant Visiting Professor and Adjunct Assistant Professor, respectively, spoke to a substantial audience about “Egypt’s Day of Wrath.”

Dr. al-Barghouti began his talk with the optimistic view that the Egyptian revolt will be successful, ushering in an opportunity for Egyptians to participate in a true democracy. He believes this is partially due to the nature of Egypt’s police force and army. Despite the consistent brutality of the Egyptian police, well-known for its corruption and loyalty to Mubarak (as the sustainability of the regime guarantees its financial gains), it was overwhelmed within 24 hours by the huge number of demonstrators. With the retreat of the police force, the military was brought in, but it refused or resisted firing on civilians; this is due to the fact that the vast majority of the army consists of temporary and underpaid soldiers who have no stake in the regime. With the lack of reliable forces to crush the revolution, Dr. al-Barghouti believes Mubarak will be compelled to remove himself from power.

Dr. Iskandar concentrated on the significance of the media vis-à-vis the protests. He first noted the pluralistic characteristics of this social movement, as the protests consist of those of varying religious traditions, political affiliations, and even nationalities, all of whom are expressing resistance to Mubarak’s power. In response to this overwhelming disapproval, the Egyptian government imposed an unprecedented media blackout in which at least 80 million people lost an internet signal and all mobile technology was shut down. This was an attempt to prevent citizens from communicating with each other through sites such as Facebook, which unintentionally laid the groundwork for the protests, but it also aimed to restrict people’s access to popular media outlets such as Al-Jazeera. Dr. Iskandar suggested that such restrictions have actually increased the level of participation in the protests, allowing the movement to gain physical and ideological force.