‘Arab Awakening’ or ‘Arab Spring’, which occurred on 18 December 2010, may be regarded as the most recent and burning issue of the contemporary political events since the predominance of news, reports and research over this topic in the year 2011. This huge revolutionary wave in Arab World had given a specific attention when all its happenings were published fully and regularly by the mass media along with the undivided attention from millions of people all round the world. Therefore, ‘Arab Spring’ was not merely a collection of rebellions, uprisings and armed conflicts.
It was the regional struggle for democracy and freedom to Middle East which significantly link up with values of Liberalism – one of the most decisive theories in International Relations. This essay will approach and explain ‘The Egyptian Revolution of 2011’ – the emblematic case of ‘Arab Awakening’ in the view of liberals. This study not only helps to analyze the above-mentioned topic but also demonstrate the important role of Liberalism in clarifying the international relations. Arab Awakening’ can be defined as the massive wave of revolutions, rebellions, as well as demonstrations which sweeps across Arabian countries and some parts of North Africa. It first broke out in Tunisia then spread through the neighboring countries independently. Most of its insurgency arose in the year of 2011 and this makes the political situations of the Near East in the same year became extremely troublous. The foremost riot rose in the Republic of Tunisia because of the sensational act of a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi.
This twenty-six-year-old man was an irritated street vendor who doused his body with gasoline and burned himself near a local government building on 17 December 2010 due to the confiscation of his unlicensed vegetable cart made by the police. The spontaneous act and the death of this humiliated man in the following day had turn into a powerful outburst of protests broke out with great indignation among Tunisian citizens. This resistance became the stimulus for the uprisings in Arab World.
The mass media and the social telecommunications had made their work with an excess of expectations and the rebel wave expanded quickly throughout the region, including Algeria, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, etc. Arab Spring had attracted almost all the countries in Near East, which showed the real situations, or more precisely the general problems of the region. It is the “mixture of economic despair, social frustration, and political yearning throughout the region” had fueled the fire among people and nations to struggle against authoritarian regimes of dictatorial leaders.
Those leaders, instead of bringing changes to gain popularity of the people, they responded to the movement with violent armed actions, for example: in Tunisia, polices impeded hundreds of dissidents by using tear gas on them; in Yemen, the security forces not only used tear gas but also ammunition to retort protestors; in Libya, rebelling people were applied water cannon and rubber bullets; etc. In spite of being dealt with force, the Arab revolt still continued with initial achievements, such as the successfully government overthrow in three countries: Tunisia (president Ben Ali was ousted in January 2011), Egypt (Mr. Mubarak resigned in February 2011) and Yemen (Mr. Saleh step down in February 2012), especially the death of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya on 20 October 2011.
Inspiring by ‘The Tunisian Revolution’, ‘The Egyptian Revolution of 2011’ (other naming: ‘Freedom Revolution’ and ‘Rage Revolution’) is one of the main events of Arab Awakening which broke out in January 2011 by various socio-economic and religious backgrounds. The slogan of the demonstration was “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! , which echoed throughout Egypt, reflected an inconvenient truth of the country under the Mubarak’s iron fist. Although the dissidents carried out a non-violent campaign of civil resistance that consisted of marches, demonstrations, and labor strikes, there were at least 846 deaths and 6000 injuries during the occurring time of the rebellion. This proves that the violence still occurred between demonstrators and the government. ‘The Lotus Revolution’ (another name for Egyptian Revolution) was the result of the long and disreputable tenure of Mr. Mubarak from 1981 to 2011.
Those problems created in thirty years or the main causes of this event made the choice of ‘Freedom Revolution’ as the subject of analysis in this essay became reasonable: (1) The corruption of power and political freedom: according to a referendum in 2007, the turnout of voters in an election was only 27. 1% and a survey of the UN revealed an ugly truth that most Egyptians have lost their trust in political elections since the foregone results; and (2) Police brutality and civil liberties: many cables of US embassy wrote: “police brutality in Egypt against common criminals is routine and pervasive”.
All these reasons show that ‘Rage Revolution’ is appropriate case which applies contraries of two categories belong to ‘human rights’ – a “product of liberal political philosophy”. Previous to going deeper in analyzing the matters in Egypt, it is necessary to understand the basic assumptions of Liberalism, its core themes and the conception of ‘human rights’. Abreast with Realism, Liberalism is a dominant and influential ideology in International Relations which helps “shaping western political thought”.
Its ideas and theories formed after the World War II and developed by the end of Cold War with the influences of globalization and democratization. For this reason, Liberalism can be regarded as the ideology of the industrialized West which indentified with Western civilization itself. This political theory has two core themes. The first one is the harmony and balance among competing interests and the second notion is freedom of individuals. Freedom is the most important and the supreme value of people, according to liberals.
Supporters of Liberalism thought that freedom or liberty was a natural right and the basic condition of truly existence for a human being. That means people can live and pursue their self-interests relied on their own determined choices. As a result, human rights are formed to ensure individuals to fully achieve their liberty that developed into three types: (1) Civil and political rights; (2) Economic, social and cultural rights; and last but not least, (3) Solidarity rights.
Nevertheless, in this essay, the main focus is on the first category which is Civil and political rights or the ‘first generation’ of human rights. By applying this to the Freedom Revolution, the fundamental causes of dissatisfactions of Egyptian people will be analyzed and clarified. Politically, freedom reflects in the people right to vote for their government which is the most critical way that people can influent governmental decision-making. Human rights allow citizens to “take part in he conduct of public affair” and guarantee them with the rights to free of opinion and expression. Yet, there was no real democratic election in political environment under President Mubarak’s official term. Mr. President and his party – the National Democratic Party (NDP) – governed the country since 1981 and they generally won with high vote in any electoral competition. In four elections held every six years from 1982 to 1999, Mr. Mubarak commonly polled approximately 95% supported votes. The NDP, which was the only party in Egypt, held two-third of seats in the Parliament.
This unusually high number of votes showed the dominance of president in the authority. Hosni Mubarak seemed to make his son – Gamal Mubarak – inherited the prudential power by the mix of roles within the National Democratic Party: in September 2002, Gamal’s influence had been strengthened in the party conference since he became head of the NDP’s new Policies Secretariat. Even though this information about the so-called ‘inherited power’ had been rejected by both younger and older Mubarak, the fact of an authoritarian regime that existed in the past 30 years is undeniable.
All these realities led to the lost of trust in state leaders and political events of Egyptian citizens which resulted in the light poll as mentioned above. Besides, they were the evidences of Civil and political rights violation. The ‘first generation’ of human rights also provides the so-called ‘civil liberties’ which is rights to life, liberty and property. It claims that people have the right to live in proper conditions and it defends people from being discriminated, enslaved, tortured, abused, and so on. Even when people are criminals or prisoners, they are still protected by these imprescripble rights.
However, the reality in Egypt was on the opposite side. Many prisons and detention centers in Egypt had very awful conditions: “prisoner cells were overcrowded with a lack of medical care, proper hygiene, food, clean water, and proper ventilation”. According to cables from US embassy, detainees and prisoners were usually tortured and abused during interrogations for information or forced to confess by the police. In 2008, there were lots of alleged reports about detainee beatings, prisoner tortures, and prisoner killings but there was no sign of governmental investigations.
Moreover, the influences of the ‘Emergency Law’, which enacted in 1958, made the problems become more serious as if it added fuel to the fire. This law extended the power of polices and forbad all non-governmental political activities. Due to that, hundreds of citizens had become victims of large-scale detentions without charge that carried out by police and security forces. Additionally, Egyptian government prohibited observers from any NGO as well as human rights monitors (including the Red Cross) to come to prisons or other places of detention and sometimes it inhibited visitors to access to detainees.
Another preposterous fact happened that the Mubarak authority rejected the existence of police brutality although there were many evidence such as cell phone videos and photos provided by both domestic as well as international sources. Until 2007, Mubarak’s government conceded the truth and stopped denying about this act. Such typical examples show a serious contravention of human rights, display ignorance along with the lack of responsibilities of Egyptian authority, and demonstrate atrociousness of the constabulary resulting from poor training.
By applying the human rights – as mentioned above, a significant product of Liberalism – to the explanation and analysis of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, we come to a discussion about the efficiency of Liberalism in expounding this issue and the relevance of this riot in a broader scale of International Relations. As already stated above, Liberalism is one of the most decisive ideology of international relations next to Realism and other Critical theory.
Through analyzing two of the many reasons leading to the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution, Liberalism highlights the aims and goals that people expected in the protest which are democracy, freedom, free election, the guarantee of human right, and the change of political regime. However, this ideology has its limitation when it cannot clarify the movements and policies of Mubarak’s authority since they caused numerous problems for the citizens but still be carried out.
The Revolution of Egypt was brought to an end with the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011. According to the President of Germany – Mrs. Angela Merkel, The Revolution of Egypt is a “historic change”. The Revolution of Egypt or in a broader scale the Arab Awakening is still one of the hottest topics of the International Relations. The Arab Spring is still an unsolvable matter and it is a long way for Middle East to approach peace and humanitarian issues. Nevertheless, the study of the Arab Awakening and Egyptian revolution will create a more optimistic chance to find out the final answer for the political matter in Arab World, and on a larger scale, it will help the international community to gain peace, stability and international security.