Revolutionary Protests: North Africa And The Middle East

Kristi McCracken, March 1, 2011

The recent honoring of Presidents' Day in the U.S. reminds Americans that George Washington refused to run for a third term in office, despite the fact that he would most likely have won. This action quelled colonial fears that the executive branch would become too powerful, much like the British monarchy against which they had rebelled.

President Washington set a powerful precedent for term limits and the peaceful succession of power from one administration to the next. Countries like Egypt do not share these same constitutional agreements between leaders and citizens.

This month, Earth Healing Day will focus on the healing needed in the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, as Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain seek liberation. Further, this movement now seems to be spreading into Oman, Jordan, Syria and even Morocco.

With compassion for the suffering of the protesters and the leaders of their countries, this month we hold forth a field for positive transformation in this region.

Tunisia’s revolt began a wave of protests that have opened the doors to liberation for not only their own country, but Egypt and parts of Libya as well. After weeks of anti-government protests Tunisian President Ben Ali stepped down and fled the country. Protests continued resulting in the resignation of the Prime Minister as well.

The Egyptian revolution began on January 25th, in reaction to the national day honoring police, which protesters' felt to be brutal and corrupt. Demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, labor strikes and even some violent clashes erupted between protesters and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak. Millions of Egyptian citizens demanded the ousting of Mubarak, and an overthrow of the regime.

Similar to the colonial times in the U.S, the Egyptian issues were also economic, including high unemployment, massive inflation in food prices (21% in the last year), and low minimum wages (40% of the population earning an average of $2 a day).

Insisting that martial law be lifted, free elections established, and free speech honored, protesters unrelentingly called for the end of Mubarak’s regime. While George Washington refused to serve a third term, Mubarak, after nearly three decades of rule, fell under heavy populace demand to leave office.

In Egypt, the contagious effect of the organized protests spread from Cairo and Alexandia to other cities. The Guardian (UK, Jan. 25, 2011) described Cairo as "a war zone," the government imposed curfews that the people defied, and that police and military forces did not enforce. Those loyal to Mubarak, Egypt's Central Security Forces, were gradually replaced by military troops who showed restraint in dealing with protesters.

When President Mubarak, elder statesman of the region, resigned on February 11 in response to weeks of protest and pressure, Egyptians celebrated with fireworks. It took only 18 days of protest, rather than years of war, to overturn an oppressive regime. Indeed people power had influenced presidential power.

Unfortunately, at least 365 lost their lives, and the number of injuries was reported to be in the thousands. Even so, the protesters prevailed. Egyptians now have high hopes of electing a responsive, non-military government.

In President Obama's remarks regarding the event, he said that we’ve witnessed history in the making. The Egyptians have inspired people the world over by their willingness to risk all for the sake of liberation. For many, this event is reminiscent of the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “There is something in our soul that cries out for freedom.” To date, the entire world has born witness to the cries from Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The people of Libya are also adamant about their freedom. Gadhafi has reigned for 40 years. Now protesters are demanding that he step down. Having taken power by force himself, Gadhafi now has limited military power. His supporters are keeping a stronghold in the capital of Tripoli, but several other cities have fallen to the protesters. While Gadhafi's has forcefully sought to strengthen his hold, the desire for liberation seems to be contagiously spreading.

Similar to “"the shot heard 'round the world" ”at the start of The American Revolutionary War in 1775, the shouts for freedom from the Mid East are once again ringing around the world. As the protests persist, may the powerful winds of change blow peacefully.

This month we ask participants in Earth Healing Day to bear witness to the struggle and the courage of people risking so very much for their liberation. You’re invited to listen to a mediation of compassion by Clicking here.

May their sacrifices be noticed by planetary citizens everywhere, and may profound goodness arise from their noble efforts. May they all be blessed a thousand-fold, and may life be richer, fuller and kinder to their children and grandchildren.

Kristi McCracken is a journalist in the central valley of California.