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It started in Tunisia, a former French protectorate. Since then, it spread like wildfire across the region. A populist revolt against autocratic Arab regimes that have been in control for decades. Given the ongoing violence and uprising in Egypt right now, there is ever-increasing pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to renounce power and retire before September’s elections. But, as he told ABC news, he fears that leaving now would lead to “chaos” in the streets and result in the Muslim Brotherhood “taking over”.
During the first few days of the revolt, the American government found it hard to balance their support of democracy with their strategic alliance with Egypt (to whom it supplies almost 2 billion USD in military aid every year), the only Arab country to recognize Israel and the heavyweight economic, political and cultural player in the region.
But President Obama recently stated that while the Egyptian people will have to choose their new leader, it is important to have a “safe and peaceful transition” from power. Indeed, behind the scenes US diplomats are said to be working towards this goal. European leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have also highlighted their call for non-violence and a smooth government transition.
It is a scene that few have witnessed in the region, and some analysts are calling it a “domino effect” as the movement spreads from country to country. This BBC News report shows that demonstrations have also been seen in Jordan, Syria, Algeria and Yemen, with an increasingly worried Israel paying careful attention to events in a very unstable neighborhood. The Economist has a well-written special focusing on the uprising in the region, putting forth a powerful argument for the West not intervening in the domestic affairs of Egypt or other countries:
“If the West cannot back Egypt’s people in their quest to determine their own destiny, then its arguments for democracy and human rights elsewhere in the world stand for nothing.”
The Economist states the Muslim Brotherhood is more moderate than many say they are, but indeed some commentators are still worrying that Islamists could take power in a vacuum of government.
The world will be watching how this evolves over the next few weeks. Updates to follow.
Michael Barrett is a communications consultant, freelance translator and English teacher. He writes a must-read blog for expats called American Expat In France.
See more of Paris: Here are some of Bonjour Paris’s favorite tours:
Medieval Churches of Paris: Discover some of Paris’s most beautiful and lesser-known churches in the company of a medievalist.
Louvre French Masters: Escape the cold and the crowds in the Italian wing of the Louvre by learning about the evolution of French art from the late Gothic period to the monumental 19th century paintings of David and Delacroix, accompanied by an art historian.