They do not have a political agenda or a presidential candidate, nor are they planning to make the parliamentary elections lists. They vowed to live free and bare-chested and to restore glory to their country. They are the men who vowed to combat injustice, oppression and corruption. They are not skilled at negotiating and sitting at the round table so do not try to drag them into the mud; they are too honourable to sit with those who have sunk deep into the mud. They are the decision makers, so do not try to deceive them as they are most honourable and noble people in the country at the moment.
They vowed to build the sail for the nation’s ship with their souls; that should not have been contaminated by politics. Do not try to envision the homes where these people of pride, honour, morality, patriotism and sacrifice are raised. We will not understand how these people, who are barely 20 years old, put themselves bare-chested up against armoured vehicles, machines, black hearts and minds incapable of understanding the facts and those who hide behind their weapons.
These young individuals were able to provide a model of unified direction and unified action against the coup and oppression, despite their different ideologies and affiliations. They have reunified the firm bloc within the society that fights the coup and restores Egypt to its former position.
This youth defended their country in the past and are therefore not the product of the current events being experienced by the country. They are the extension of the generation who emerged after the 1967 Naksa war. It was at that moment that the students realised they were facing an occupation that must be combatted. At that same time there was a lack of political freedoms in the country during Abdel Nasser’s era and the signs of aging in the political system were exposed. This prompted the students to call for democracy and the reform of internal affairs in order to face the enemy and reclaim the land and dignity.
Perhaps the case of the air force officers accused of negligence after the June Naksa war was the spark that ignited the anger buried inside the students, causing the outbreak of protests where urgent demands regarding righting the wrongs and crimes committed by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime were made. The student demonstrations began after the news exposing police oppression against the worker demonstrations spread and one of the demonstrations on that day reached the National Assembly.
However, yesterday’s military is the same today and they do not understand that life is changing and that their minds, which have been stalled for years, must change and understand that the world around them is advancing quickly, at a pace their simple minds cannot comprehend. They must realise that their duty is to remain in their position of protecting the country rather than getting involved in what they do not understand.
Sadat vowed on his honour that the students will not be arrested after listing their names and telephone numbers after he held a meeting during which he gave them his personal telephone number to call in the event they are arrested. However, Sadat’s reassurances were false and the students were arrested from their homes the same night. All that you need to understand is that you are facing people who have no morals and do not keep their promises to their citizens.
I am going back in time in order to prove that the “deep state” mentality that is governing the state today dates back to 40 years ago. The next day, the Faculty of Engineering students in Cairo University decided to organise a sit-in despite the fact that the government decided to suspend classes on February 25. The police surrounded the college while students threw rocks at riot police, driving the police to pressure the students through their teachers and parents in order to break up the sit-in. You may be surprised by the demands made by the college students on that day, as they show that those governing Egypt made no effort to take a step forward. At the top of their list of demands was the immediate release of the students, the freedom of opinion and press, removing the intelligence and detective services from universities, cancelling the laws restricting freedoms, a serious investigation into the accident with the Helwan workers and the investigation into the violation of the sanctity of universities and the police attacks against students.
Abdel Nasser found that his regime was targeted and that it was losing its legitimacy by the day, and the journalists at the time, especially Mr Mohamed Heikal, only criticised the student protests, labelling them unlawful, while they overlooked the actions of Abdel Nasser and his regime. The media did not report on the lack of freedoms and democracy and the legitimacy that was disappearing day by day. Today, Heikal and the remnants of Abdel Nasser’s era are running the battle over 42 years later.
The question now
Have any of the students’ demands been met after over 42 years under the rule of deep-state mentalities and a bunch of old men ruling Egypt? The only difference is that the students at the time were enraged by the army’s defeat and were discontent with the entire style of governance, but today, the students are enraged by the defeat of values and the people’s view of their army in the streets and squares, etc.
Suharto’s authoritarian regime ruled Indonesia for 32 consecutive years. A student protest broke out in one of the universities in the Indonesian capital Jakarta against Suharto on the same day he was visiting Cairo to attend the G-15 economic conference. He did not realise the great energy that was driving the students to regain their freedoms and liberate themselves from their absolute ruler. A large number of citizens joined the students and Suharto returned to Indonesia to find the parliament under siege and the army preparing to attack the students.
This mass force, which turned into a million-man march, did not have a specific agenda, but that did not stop them from having a single goal: overthrowing Suharto. Suharto announced his resignation the next day before the people and tasked B.J. Habibie to run the country. This was achieved due to the steadfastness of the students who did not care about the balances of power, political gains, or about what was going on behind closed doors; they only cared about calling for freedom.
I would also like to point out that the students in France do not have more logic than us or understand freedoms and the demands of free people more than we do. These students played a role in May 1968, affecting the decision made by Charles de Gaulle to hold a referendum on him remaining in power after there were calls for him to resign. Although de Gaulle has a long political history and was a pioneer of the French Revolution and is the first French president in the Fifth Republic, he did not get enough support to remain in power, even though he was the icon and hero of France in its World War II battle.
To those who refuse dictatorship… to the free students, I say, your commitment is steadily creating a new face for Egypt and you are imposing a new reality other than the one known by the arrogant people who support the coup and do not understand the honour in refusing oppression and injustice. Your steadfastness in the face of violence, besiegement and live ammunition is writing history. Without your steadfastness, the people would have become slaves to coup leaders. You are filling the gap in the nation and, without you, the rebels would be outnumbered. You are the difficult element the coup leaders and those accepting humiliation did not take into consideration when calculating the coup. To these people I say wake up from your trance; you will not write our constitution, it will be the men on the battlefield.
The world has a different view of Egypt after your determination and commitment. You have fought an epic battle of courage and honour, remaining peaceful despite the tear gas, live ammunition and cartridges. The people gain their steadfastness and strength from you. It is an honour for us to learn from you how to remain perseverant and live a free life. We promise you that we will follow your path and we will not leave the battlefields until we prosecute those who murdered our people and restore Egypt to its people.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.