NOTRE DAME, Indiana — Neither Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak nor U.S. President Barack Obama seem to understand the nature of the Egyptian revolt. Both leaders are clearly going against the public will of Egyptians and trying to thwart their legitimate struggle for freedom and democracy.
The least that the angry Egyptians expected from Mubarak, after days of silence, was that he would announce that he will not run for a sixth term in the coming September presidential elections and that he would give up the idea of bequeathing power to his son Gamal. Another minimum expectation was that Mubarak would dissolve the state-dominated parliament and form a new government of independent and credible members to prepare the country for a true democratic transition.
Mubarak did none of those. Instead, he appointed a strong army man and one of his closest lieutenants, Omar Suleiman, as vice president and another general and close friend as prime minister. A similar scenario was feared by many Egyptians some years ago as part of Mubarak's arrangements to gradually transfer power from the military establishment to his son Gamal.
Now, and following the popular uprisings of angry Egyptians, the situation is clear. The military has taken over and Mubarak’s departure is soon, leaving Egypt under the control of a military-led government. Despite its popularity, the Egyptian military institution can hardly be a vehicle for democratization and a safeguard for freedoms.
The only way for the Egyptians to move to democracy is to continue with their protests to install a transitional national government to prepare the country, its laws, and institutions for a new democratic chapter.
President Obama has also missed the message of the demonstrations. Instead of addressing the Egyptians and assuring them that he gets their message, the U.S. administration still seems not to accept the fact that Mubarak’s regime has to go. The U.S. wants Mubarak to undertake effective and profound changes from within the regime.
This regime has been in power for three decades and had all the time in the world to reform and change.
Here is what Egyptians think: The U.S. wants to keep Egypt in bondage for the sake of its strategic interests, the security of Israel and out of fear of an Islamic take over.
Egyptians are revolting and shedding their blood not for an Islamic republic or for a certain political movement. They are all united to achieve freedom, rule of law, justice and democracy. These are the exact values that the founding fathers of America struggled for and should not be denied to other people.
As an Egyptian who has been speaking to many friends and colleagues in recent days I know that the people in the streets are saying "Mr Obama, let Egypt go free … Let it build its own democratic future." This is the way for stability and for protecting U.S. interests in the long term.
Emad Shahin is an Egyptian scholar and the Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.