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The Feminist Revolution in Egypt & Beyond

The always interesting Naomi Klein penned a recent op-ed in Al-Jazeera. Her argument: women played a huge, yet under-appreciated, role in sparking the uprisings that have gripped the Middle East in 2011. Klein mostly focuses on Egypt, describing how female bloggers like Leil Zahra Mortada kept the world abreast of developments from Tahrir Square. She points out that more than 50% of college students in Egypt are women and thus credits their rising educational achievement as a key reason for their participation in anti-regime protests. Klein also theorizes that social media outlets have provided a means for women to have a greater voice given their reluctance to take leadership roles in person. Personally, I’m a bit of a skeptic on the role of social media in aiding and abetting the protests in the Middle East. But I have no doubt that women continue to play a big role and that their story has gone largely unreported by major media outlets in the West.


Khamenei enchanted by protests in Egypt

Al Jazeera is reporting on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s first Friday Prayers address in many months, which addressed the uprising in Egypt.  He views the uprising as an Islamic one, a long-awaited spread of the Iranian Revolution.  He emphasizes that Mubarak is/was an an agent of the United States and Israel.  And Khamenei emphasizes that the Egyptian uprising is a major defeat for the United States and Israel by Iran and Islam.

The spiritual leader’s remarks were received by cheering crowds of worshippers who, raising their hands, chanted “Death to America! Death to Israel!”

Discuss: Unrest in Egypt

UPDATE- On Wednesday, February 2 at 12:15 in SIE 150 we will be holding a discussion panel featuring Korbel professors who specialize on the Middle East to further discuss the political unrest in Egypt and its significance.

As unrest spreads across Egypt resulting in the deployment of Egyptian military forces to create some sort of security, President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people hoping to cease the unrest and violence.  In his speech, President Mubarak announced his decision to sack his entire government and form a new one that will take steps towards democracy, freedom, and reducing poverty.  If anyone finds a transcript of his speech, please post it in the comments.  I am searching for one as well.

In the immediate aftermath of Mubarak’s speech, protesters continued to shout out “down with Mubarak.”  A new government with Mubarak as its leader will most likely not satisfy the unrest that has enveloped Egypt.  Many protesters have lost their lives today, and many more are wounded as fires and gunshots rage across Egypt.

What do you guys think will be the outcome?  I think Mubarak will continue to attempt to appease the protesters, however this speech may just fuel the fire of the protesters.  He will not flee from Egypt and step down until he loses the support of his military and police forces.   Mubarak may be able to wait the protesters out until their movement runs out of steam.  The ability to oust Mubarak from power will come from the committed resolve of protesters.  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Some links:  BBC News article and  Foreign Policy article

America’s Response to Egypt

“Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” – Hillary Clinton

Just weeks after demanding reform from the leaders of the Arab World, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s guarded comment illustrates that a grassroots movement for regime change in Egypt may further complicate US foreign policy in the Middle East.

It goes without question that Egypt’s stability is vital to current US interests in the region–particularly as a key player in the United State’s unshakable commitment to the security of Israel, and as an ally in the ongoing global war on terror.  Since the George W. Bush administration, there has been a shift in US foreign policy focus toward the promotion of democracy throughout the Middle East.  That administration’s interventionist efforts in Iraq, coupled with simultaneous support for authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the region, have undoubtedly tainted any future US mission to directly influence such a transformation.  President Barack Obama has continued the previous administration’s stance on supporting democracy in the Middle East, but his administration been careful in its diplomatic reaction to current events.

Now, we are witnessing a revolution in Tunisia that has reverberated throughout the Middle East in both conversation and action.  The peoples of Egypt and–as of today–Yemen are protesting against their governments.  How the United States responds is indicative of a precarious US balance of interests.  Should the ideal dramatic change take place in Egypt and Mubarak’s regime crumble, what then becomes of Egypt as a long-standing ally in the aforementioned US interests?  Will the balance of power shift in the region?  Will the new leadership remain a partner to the United States?  There are many tough questions US foreign policymakers will face in the wake of these events.

In Cairo, President Obama stated his belief in the willingness of peoples of the Arab and Muslim world to embrace democracy and human rights.  In his 2010 National Security Strategy, Mr. Obama reiterated the US commitment to spread the values of democracy and freedom abroad: “That is why we must always seek to improve these values not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

It is obvious that such values are being upheld by the legitimate movements of the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen.  Perhaps the United States will choose promotion of democracy at the expense of regime stability in the region–no doubt a hard choice–but one being made across the Arab world.