Yesterday was a landmark in Egypt’s history, as thousands took to the streets across the country to march in protests. The day had many lessons and meanings apparent to anyone who takes the time to look at it closely. The demonstrators were given a chance to express their demands and raise their banners for long hours, continuing until dusk when some hooligans became violent and were rightly stopped in their tracks so as to prevent their behavior from spreading. Members of the state apparatus were professional and disciplined as long as protestor expressed themselves peacefully, but were firm when the occasional protest escalated beyond this. The apparatus delivered its message clearly: The state is prepared for extensive acts of freedom and self-expression, but it is also at the ready to maintain security and public order.
Protestors also made their voice heard, sending the following message: Reform is essential and cannot be delayed any longer.
If both messages reached keen ears and wise minds, 25 January, 2011, will be the start of a new phase. Protestors will express their demands in a peaceful disciplined manner, while the state commits to quicker and deeper reform which would have a direct and immediate effect on the Egyptian people.This formula would also respond to the aspirations of intellectuals and youth who are no longer apathetic and are who using modern electronic media to express themselves and their demands, and to mobilise and organise their supporters.
Yesterday’s initiative was controlled by the organisers of the demonstrations, and now it is time for the state to take control over the initiative. The state of Egypt has for quite a while now stopped using repression as a way to deal with protests and political activities, which opened the door for more participation and freedom of expression. Raising the ceiling of freedoms was a vital step in Egypt’s political reform in recent years. What the country needs now is a new set of reforms to open up legitimate channels for the new political activists, so that freedom of expression can be more than 'just venting' and, rather, be a true influence on policies.
Reversing this progress in Egypt is not an option; the only road ahead is one that goes forward. Now, we must come together and agree on a blend of policies to achieve the goals of the broadest spectrum of political and social powers active in the country. I believe Egypt needs a set of reforms which would guarantee democratic appearance and content, and a fair distribution of national wealth.