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Egypt struggles with its own “EDSA” revolution

By Aaron Cang Sinsuat


Aaron Cang Sinsuat (left) with returning classmates, Abdullah (Australia), Nawaz and Junaid (United Kingdom)

Journalist Aaron Cang Sinsuat is a correspondent of the ABS-CBN TV News and Current Affairs Department and a former colleague of Pilipino Express contributor, Lucille Nolasco. Last March he shared with PE readers his experiences as a witness to the nationwide protests that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on February 11. Now he has returned to Egypt and shares another report.

- Editor

In Egypt, the search for reforms ignited the end of the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak. Egyptians who were once silenced by their political system rallied outside their houses and walked together with their dreams of freedom. I witnessed the birth of the democratic aspirations of the people to be free to rule their own lives. However, I failed to see the Egyptian people rejoice when Mubarak resigned and turned over his hard-held power. I, along with thousands of other Filipinos, with the gallant effort of the Philippine government, was repatriated and brought out of harm’s way.

After the surrender of Mubarak, I thought all was well and it was time for me to go back to Egypt and finish the education that I started. It had almost been two months since I arrived in the Philippines and the international media had reported that Egypt was already relatively stable. With such news, like the rest of my classmates, I immediately contacted my school in Alexandria and booked a return flight.

My first impression upon touchdown was that Egypt remains essentially peaceful and safe. However, it was noticeable by the new iron grills on the doors and windows of the buildings that it wanted to keep uninvited intrusions out. This, I thought, was a direct result of the mayhem of the January 2011 riots. I then came to think; what has the event brought to Egypt other than the obvious overthrow of Mubarak? Have democratic structures instituted? Have righteous leaders been chosen? There were many more questions wanting to be answered. As days passed, it was clear to me that changes are indeed happening.

For the two months in the continuation of my studies in Alexandria, there was not a day that went by without a group of people protesting or walking the streets voicing out their grievances or aspirations for or against the government. It was as if people were making up for the lost time they were not actively participating in the political processes of their country. I saw waves of streamers and sign boars declaring their stand on issues ranging from to the protection of human rights.

In my spare time I traveled around Alexandria and to see for myself other manifestations of the change. I interviewed a businessman and a professor. Not to my surprise, like the sides of a coin, both had opposing views of the effect of the January 2011 revolution.

Mr Mohamed Ahmed, 54 years, a furniture merchant worries about the country’s economic stability. Business is not as usual; stores that used to be elegantlypresented in glass windows, are now barred with metal grills. People seem to focus more on exercising their political rights than doing business. It was like they were too preoccupied with the massive downfall of the current administration.

On the contrary, Mohammed Al-Abbady, 26, a Student at Alexandria University and part time Arabic Professor claims Egypt’s current struggle is a political exercise that countries go through. This exercise is the most awaited freedom in the implementation of democracy in Egypt, Mr. Abbady politely added.

The Egyptian revolution was not an isolated case. Countries all over the world have responded at some point to a call for democratic change and Egypt’s time has come. The events in this country since January 2011 bring back memories of revolution halfway across the globe in the Philippines. It took some decades for Filipinos to finally put to rest the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. In 1986, the Philippines was the news of the world during its bloodless revolution called the EDSA People’s Power Revolution. We Filipinos are proud of this part of our history. Demonstrations proceeded without tolerance for violence and bloodshed, resulting in the restoration of freedom in the country and the end of the harsh Marcos regime.

Egypt’s Marcos was Mubarak. Decades of tolerating the heavy-handed rule of President Hosni Mubarak gave way to Egypt’s 18 days of angry protests. Despite Mubarak’s stepping down, demonstrations continue.

Economically, Egypt is a country still struggling. The system, whose inequities and lack of opportunities brought down the government, still remains and Egyptians from the poorest class have been the hardest hit. Politically, Egypt remains delicate. The question of who will rule in the future is up in the air as everyone wonders what will happen when Mubarak’s trial is over or is postponed? Thousands of protesters everywhere in Egypt have opinions about who should rule, how they should rule.

For now, Egyptians continue their shouts, let them grieve and hope for the long-awaited triumph of democracy in their land. Yet, they should muster and take advantage of the great opportunity presented to them to let their country soar towards political stability and economic development.

Aaron Cang Sinsuat is a student of the Qortoba Institute in Alexandria, Egypt and a candidate for Al-Azhar University in 2011. He is also a nephew of former news broadcaster, Noli de Castro.