Mubarak's Regime Cannot Satisfy the Demands of Egyptians
We hope our popular, young, peaceable, democratic movement is allowed to develop a vision of how Egypt can be run
Yesterday the call went out for a million people to gather today in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the main focal point of the pro-democracy demonstrations. I will be one of them.
The regime of President Hosni Mubarak is fighting for its life in Egypt. But shape-shift as it may, it cannot satisfy the demands of the Egyptian people. As today's gathering will show, they will not be fooled by the swearing-in of a new government that resembles 99% of the old one.
Nor will they be put off by the regime's strategy of cutting off the country's communications – our internet access, emails, mobile phones and, at the weekend, al-Jazeera.
Today we have rejected the passivity our rulers have been imposing on us. Our country's security is being provided by its citizenry. People have automatically taken over the running of their neighbourhoods. On the streets there is unfailing courtesy. The atmosphere in the square sit-ins is celebratory and inclusive.
The events of this past week prove what many of us have believed for a long time: the Egyptian people do not deserve the regime that has been visited on them for the last 30 years. We want Mubarak and his clique to go, and what happens after that will be a question for the people as a whole. There is no one group leading the protests. Everyone is insistent on that. Instead, the young people providing most of the energy and organisation behind the protests come from across the political and social spectrum and they are in touch with respected public figures who are giving their expertise.
The cry from the protesters is for free and fair elections, and for a representative government to be formed. We will also need the space to debate the reforms to our constitution that need to happen: for example, does Egypt need a presidential or a parliamentary system? We will be looking to the expertise of our senior judiciary and those politicians who are still respected.
We want our politics to be inclusive, not exclusive. So it is right, for example, that the Muslim Brotherhood is represented alongside everyone else. It is not for those voices representing the traditional outside powers in this region to be dictating who we can and cannot give our backing to.
In a makeshift field hospital in a tiny mosque next to Tahrir Square at the weekend, men were being carried in with horrific facial wounds. The Egyptian government was shooting its peaceful citizens with rubber bullets, with scatter pellet guns and with live ammunition. "See," the young men showed me, "Made in the USA. This is what reaches us of American aid." The west, which honours the Tiananmen protests in Beijing, should similarly honour Tahrir, where funeral prayers have been held over the bodies of our martyrs.
Where will all this lead? No one can give a specific answer. But what we hope is that our popular, young, peaceable, democratic, grassroots movement is allowed to develop a vision of how our country can be run for its people and their friends. In order to frighten America and Europe, the regime is saying this is the work of Islamists. But it is not; it is beyond party. This is the young people of Egypt seizing their future.
© 2011 Ahdaf Soueif