Young and Emboldened in Egypt

Young and Emboldened in Egypt

For the past 30 years, Hosni Mubarak’s regime has been stifling any prospects for meaningful change. Imposing emergency laws since 1981, Mr. Mubarak has fragmented the country’s opposition, abused its constitution, rigged elections and institutionalized corruption all while grooming his son to succeed him.

These popular uprisings will eventually reduce the options available to the Mubarak regime: change or leave.

Despite more than $60 billion in U.S. aid over the past three decades and attempts at economic reform, Mr. Mubarak’s regime has kept 35 percent of Egyptians under the poverty lines; produced an army of educated, unemployed youth; and created deep social and political malaise.

What Egypt is witnessing today is a pro-change revolt that drew diverse elements of society into the streets. Regardless of their ideological orientations, they all seek to achieve clear demands: freedom of expression and association, and an end to corruption, poverty, unemployment and Mubarak’s three decade’s long reign.

The country’s young people have been instrumental in the uprising. They have created their own opposition movement: the April 6th Youth Movement, which is independent of the formal political structures or existing political parties. With more than 80,000 members on the Internet brought together through the extensive use of social media Web sites, the movement has organized a series of successful general strikes and rallies over the past three years. Action-oriented, the youth movement is the country’s hope in keeping the momentum for change going.

Will the Tunisian model repeat itself in Egypt? The answer is uncertain. Revolutions are not exportable, particularly considering the huge military and security force behind Mr. Mubarak’s regime, the weak and fragmented opposition parties, the fear of an Islamist takeover, the willingness of the regime to mount brutal force against the demonstrators and Egypt’s strategic weight with its Western allies.

What is certain is that the popular uprisings will embolden the diverse social forces that have organized and participated in them and enhance their belief that they can keep the pressure on the government. They will eventually reduce the options available to the regime: change or leave.

This piece was originally published in The New York Times 

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