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Egypt is Free!

That is what the people in the streets are chanting as the seismic news of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation spreads.

I have goosebumps. Regardless of what the future holds, this is a historic moment. This is a moment to celebrate the remarkable achievement of ordinary multitudes of Egyptians who wanted their inalienable rights, that all individuals are born free and equal.

To close with the words of the Arab poet Abul-Qasim al-Shabi (1909-1934) (previously quoted on this blog).

If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.

And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.

ADDED PARA 12:40PM: “No democracy please, you’re Muslim”: could all those self-appointed pundits on the American media worrying about whether Muslims can handle democracy kindly be quiet for a while, and just celebrate this day?

For great slideshows of pictures from today, see NYT and WSJ

This entry was posted in Democracy and freedom, Human rights, In the news and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. I want to see how fast they change history books! I want to read the chapter called “Revolutions of 2010 – 2012”

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  2. Ben wrote:

    “Egypt is Free!”

    Are you sure?

    It’s nice to see Mubarak go out but let’s wait and see who comes in before we cheer.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Omar wrote:

    I share Ben’s caution. It is interesting, but I don’t share the enthusiasm. Mubarak is only one head of the hydra unfortunately. His departure will help calm things down, not necessarily change things. Western media has tended to focus on the surface level spectacle of this event, and not the contextual and relational mechanisms that make a true change likely (at least yet anyway).
    An interesting piece here in Foreign Affairs:

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  4. ewaffle wrote:

    Thank goodness! Now we can hope for a peaceful transition to the constitutionally mandated successor to Mubarak, torturer in chief Omar Suleiman.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  5. Brendan Rigby wrote:

    I share both Bill’s goosebumps, enthusiasm, but also the reservations of Omar and Ben. Not to generalise too much (too late), but the difference between the events in Egypt and those of similar revolutionary tenor of the 20th century and beyond (backwards, that is?) is media coverage, access and liveness. In other words, our ability to follow and observe. This revolution was televised.

    It is crucial to understand the role, concerns and interests of Egypt’s military, which will be at the centre (and has historically been at the centre) of the country’s and region’s power dynamics and geopolitics.

    For now, let us celebrate this moment with Egypt, acknowledging the fundamental rights of all people to live free and equal.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  6. Vivek Nemana wrote:

    These are good points, but it’s also important to remember this has been a revolution organized and pushed for by the people, and not just a coup orchestrated by a few power-hungry elite. I just think, at least for a time, there will be a very high sensitivity to any autocratic attempts in Egypt. It’s hard to imagine a clearly educated, aware population allow another dictator to swoop in after they had fought so hard to get rid of the first one. And let’s not forget that since Egypt requires military service, many soldiers (albeit not top commanders, who did have a lot of power under Mubarak) closely identify with ordinary citizens. I don’t know. Just hoping for the best.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  7. Sina Motamedi wrote:

    go freedom!

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  8. hoser wrote:

    Egypt is not free. Egypt has fallen. Fallen to hundreds of thousands of muslims who want control of their government and reverse the Egyptian stance of supporting Israel and the U.S.
    This is not a day to celebrate, it is a day to mourn.
    Three weeks ago, Egypt was the most modern, affluent middle east country with a safe secure government. No middle east country has the stability and security of Egypt. The Muslim mobs wanted control of the government, that is what this whole thing was about, not democracy. You will see. In time Muslims will run the government and Sharia law will become the law of the land and there will be one more middle east country who wants Israel pushed into the sea.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  9. Vivek Nemana wrote:

    Oh hoser you seem so wise. Maybe we’ve all been wrong about this whole ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ thing after all.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  10. flora wrote:

    Listen. If you care about where this moment takes egypt and her people, as well as the beleaguered and much in need of peace israelis, then pray for what you wish to see as the outcome. you don’t have to be religious to pray. you can wish, hope, dream now of what you wish to see. be cautious, yes, but don’t linger there. let your caution be the rear view mirror and your dream of what you wish to see, where you wish it all to go be the front windshield and your wishes/dreams/prayers be the steering wheel and the pedals…
    use the rearview, but if that’s the only place you look…look to what can be. if enough of us do, it will bring it to our world.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Jaidi wrote:

    Hoser sounds like the thug on Cairo streets a few days back.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  12. Kiran wrote:

    I very much admire this particular blog post. Truly, any sane person who admires freedoms and the spectacularly irresistible bottom-up development [specific to the Egypt upraising context] has to stand in solidarity with the Egyptians, I guess. However, it is perhaps just a beginning, a historical one too, till we know what happens after September 2011 [“expected” “power” transfer to the “democratically” elected].

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  13. Not so fast. Does the corporate media really think we’re naïve enough to believe that Egypt, and the Middle East in general, will become democratic? The U.S. government is already plotting its next move, since losing control over Egypt means upsetting AIPAC and agitating Israel. There will never be Middle East democracy unless America removes its Gorgon-esque frame from the ashes of imperial degradation.

    Egypt is capable of being a vibrant, well-functioning democracy. The concern is whether the U.S. will let it be one.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  14. For the moment, this is a time to celebrate. Today, 80 million people in Egypt have earned their freedom through nonviolent resistance. While the future is certainly uncertain, today is a great a day as the Egyptian people have a chance to establish a democracy.

    The challenge now for the Egyptian people is to hang-on to their newly won freedom. Democracy, even in the U.S., requires constant vigilance.

    Democracy, of course, is about much more than simply the right to vote. Democracy requires the rule of law, respect for minority and women’s rights, and much more. Egypt may become a democracy, but it is not quite there yet. In the quest for democracy, the nonprofit sector can help. On my blog site (, I ask the question: Will Egypt be another Iran or Brazil? You can link directly to the post at

    Both Iran and Brazil successfully got rid of a dictator. In Iran, they quickly acquired a new, even more brutal totalitarian regime. In Brazil, a flourishing democracy was created. Today, let us celebrate the chance at freedom that the Egyptian people have earned. Tomorrow, we can consider what happens next.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  15. Kiran wrote:

    Absolutely, elections are a crude measure of alleged “empowerment” (particularly: what follows next is supremely humongous). However, still, I would look forward to Sept 2011 “democratic” “transfer.” If it happens… then, that’s a concrete great beginning (though it could be easily dubious!!!).

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  16. Moussa P. Blimpo wrote:

    The ability of the people of Egypt to hold their government accountable has been asserted. No constitution and no election is worth that. I am not worried about the future of Egypt.

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  17. Zz wrote:

    Congratulations to the Egyptian people! You have shown the world a great lesson,a peacefull lesson. Fight for your rights! And keep working for them…this is only the begining of a travel to your democracy!

    Posted February 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  18. SWTOR wrote:

    Congratulations to all of them. They took a great risk, and it looks like things may have paid off. Good job!

    Posted February 12, 2011 at 2:09 am | Permalink
  19. Zahir shamsery wrote:

    Betrayal always follows a successful revolution. And time may yet come to pass. The dark cynicism of the regime remains. I have witnessed how the dreams nip in the bud.Zahir shamsery,Dhaka,Bangladesh. 12/02/2011

    Posted February 12, 2011 at 2:56 am | Permalink
  20. Mona HARES wrote:

    An egyptian speaking:
    To all our ennemies: Don’t be too happy. Nothing has changed. Moubarak resignation was only a strategic move to preserve the nation. Thank you Mr President. You are a real Hero. Hero in war time, Hero for Peace, Hero for Infrastruture and economy building…Thank you once more. You have entered HISTORY

    Posted February 12, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink
  21. Bill: congratulations; and keep up the good work. Not coincidentally, Egypt achieved in three weeks what we couldn’t do in 10 years in Afghanistan and Pakistan–much to the chagrin of media talking heads; surely, for them, “made-up” appearances take precedence over solititude. As for the development celebrities, beltway bandits, defense sub-contractors: it’s greed (pure and simple)–be it in Africa or elsewhere. Sulaiman

    Posted February 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  22. Joal Ford wrote:

    The problem for the military is, if it makes a regime change it is then responsibile for what happens – if it becomes the revolutionary agent this is just another coup.

    If it allows the people to storm parliament and the centres of governing power – what authority is left to determine the future (and who has command of the military during this period).

    What is required is for the President, or someone he appoints to act in his place, to begin the journey back to civil society government. That means ending the emergency rule powers that of course threaten the protestors should they leave the streets.

    Nothing less than the end of these powers restores the breach between people and government that occured 50 years ago. From then it’s about external and transparent oversight and internal reform/review of domestic policing arrangments so the (sovereign security focused) army can become a part of the landscape again by the time of the elections.

    Posted February 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

8 Trackbacks

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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