30 January 2011

Some thoughts on the convulsions in Egypt

These are difficult and turbulent times for Egypt, and it is difficult for outsiders like me to get a clear view of what is going on, or what the likely consequences will be. There is no doubt that there are serious dangers, and it is vital that the international community plays its part to support the Egyptian people. I think there are several points that need to be made in relation to Egypt's place in history.

Egypt has a stunning past, stretching back in historical continuity for over 5000 years. During that period, this Gift of the Nile has seen some remarkable developments, as well as times of major turmoil. The people of Egypt have inherited the legacy of the Pharaohs, the Romans, the Christians and the Muslims. They are guardians, to put it one way, of a major slice of Western history and civilisation.

More recently they have suffered as their democratic rights have been suppressed, and their opportunities to shape the destiny of their country have been severely curtailed. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the current regime, and that has led to the situation we have right now. The people need liberation. But there is a catch.

It is too easy to see "liberation" as an event, but liberation is not true liberation unless it is an actual dawn of an age of freedom, rather than simply a regime change. If Mubarak is toppled (as seems inevitable), one of the worst possible outcomes would be the rise to power of a fundamentalist religious regime. If liberation is not followed by real meaningful freedom, then liberation it is not. This is a time where Egypt's allies need to realise that our obligation and allegiance is not to the regime of Mubarak, but to the people of Egypt, and our debt is to its history, which is our history too. If Mubarak is not replaced by a truly representative and inclusive democratic system, with clear separation of religion and state, and a major programme of regeneration and social equality, then "liberation" will simply be a one-off event, a gateway from one dictatorship into another - a brief glimpse of the sky while being moved from one prison block to another.

So we have to stand with the people of Egypt and give our full support during this period. Any solution must be an Egyptian solution, but these remarkable, resourceful, admirable people deserve a country that leads on the world stage.

Join the Facebook group (if you're on Facebook) "Egyptologists for Egypt".


  1. Well said Shane! The dangers are all too clear to see.

  2. Hear hear Shane. Put in a nutshell.