Who is Hosni Mubarak?

The Egyptian people are rising up against their president in a mass non-violent protest. Still, I find that it’s not often discussed who this man is and why he is so despised. I myself knew of him in any detail only in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hosni Mubarak will be celebrating his 30 year anniversary as president of Egypt this October. So here are some tidbits I picked up in reading the news in the last week about why the Egyptian people might be fed up:

  • He never lifted martial law, which allowed the police to detain civilians without warrants and to try them in military courts. The reality of this has been a suppression of free speech, and in particular, political expression.
  • Created a political system in which he would always be re-elected. Aside from obvious corruption of the voting process, he also banned popular opposition parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood (which is seen as extremist by many talking heads in the United States).
  • Corruption, corruption, corruption. By all standard indecies (e.g. Global Coalition Against Corruption) Egypt ranks as one of the worst in the world.
  • There are many high-profile journalists which have been jailed for voicing their opinion. This is part of Mubarak’s crack down on free press.

There are many people in Israel, United States, and Egypt itself that support Mubarak with the attitude that “Yeah, he has problems, but he does his best for the country he loves”. This is the same kind of things you heard about Saddam Hussein at many points in history. Sadly, there is a grain of truth to this view, because while Mubarak is terrible for Egypt, there are a lot worse alternatives knocking at the door. Watching the revolution on the streets gives me hope that the people will not be denied and a truly democratic government will be constructed from the voices of the oppressed. But I can’t help but be nervous about the uncertainty of the future in the context of the power of propaganda, corruption, and money.

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