Egyptian Revolutionaries Pledge Solidarity With 'October 2011' Movement
While our nations face many different challenges and remain thousands of miles and cultures apart, we find that we share many of the same concerns within our respective countries. As we recognize that our destinies are intertwined, we wish to highlight the similarities and goals we share in common. We suspect that others from around the world would also join us in supporting this statement.
1. Both the people of the United States and Egypt require real democracy so that the views of the people are represented.
Currently, desires for free and fair elections have not been achieved according to the level of popular demand in both nations.
Under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, this falsehood was evident to the world and to Egyptians, even though Mubarak and the US government labeled Egypt a democracy. Ballots were consistently rigged, opposition candidates were routinely jailed, and parliamentary candidates were happily bribed. Many regarded Hosni Mubarak as a manifestation of the arrogant Pharaoh himself. While his demise brought great relief and celebration to all Egyptians, many are worried about Egypt’s current transitional process towards parliamentary elections. Reformist political parties have not had adequate time to prepare or fundraise for elections. Requests from nonpartisan international monitors to oversee upcoming elections have been summarily denied. In addition, many are skeptical about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ agenda, as the transition to a civil, non-military government is occurring much more slowly than many Egyptians would desire.
The United States also faces similar challenges to democracy from special interests. While some say that the United States is the greatest democracy on Earth, American elections are actually dominated by the wealth of economic elites and concentrated corporate power, as money manipulates votes through concentrated corporate media. The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation controlled by the two major parties and corporate interests, prevents third-party and independent candidates from debating issues before the American public. Presented with the choice of only two corporate approved candidates, only half of the American public bothers to register to vote, and only approximately half of registered voters bother to vote. In essence, US democracy has become a manipulative system in which voters choose from two corporate-approved candidates within a rigged election system.
The people of both movements call for real democracy in which all eligible voters are automatically registered, in which barriers are removed for candidates to run for office, in which debates are open to all ballot-approved candidates, in which elections maintain public funding in order to check the tide of private handouts, in which voting systems are transparent with public observation and participation in all aspects of the counting of the vote, and in which media organizations provide sufficient free airtime for candidates to present their views to the public. Elections should be held on holidays to make voting easier without conflicting with the demands of work.
2. End US foreign policy positions which undermine the Egyptian democracy movement as well as the character and reputation of the United States.
The people of both movements call for an end to hegemonic foreign policy positions among US policymakers. It is time for the United States to join the global community of nations as a partner rather than a predator, as a collaborative multi-lateralist rather than as an American exceptionalist.
The United States has the largest empire in global history, with more than 1,100 military bases and outposts around the world. America has supported military rule in Egypt, and attempted to put in power Mubarak’s carefully groomed heir Omar Suleiman despite his record of participation in torture and other crimes. It now supports the military government much more extensively than other infrastructural components of the nation, spending approximately $1.2 billion per year. Even USAID funds to Egypt have strings attached, as 85% of USAID Egyptian funds since January 25 went to US organizations, with only a small fraction going to civil society organizations in Egypt.
US diplomatic and developmental policies in nations such as Egypt, as well as military actions in nations such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are ventures of destruction, death and chaos for the people of those countries; and undermine the rule of law and democracy around the world. These actions have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, the creation of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the internment of thousands of prisoners who are often tortured and held without charges. Rather than collaboratively assisting in the development of authentic democracy around the world, the United States has too often hindered democratic efforts in many regions of the world for many decades.
The United States needs to work more collaboratively with nations such as Egypt and to stop leveraging its economic power to bribe other countries, to force them to follow US wishes, or to threaten them with unwarranted military action. In order to permit accountability for its actions, the United States should also join the International Criminal Court.
3. Both countries need to end the wealth divide in order to provide for the necessities of the people and to create new sustainable economies for the 21st Century.
Both Egypt and the United States suffer from a broad wealth divides that has lead to widespread poverty and economic stagnation. In each country, it is not a lack of wealth but the distribution of wealth that creates widespread suffering. The economic power of the wealthiest sectors of both countries engender corruption through bribery, campaign donations, and a wide range of forms of payment for special privileges. When policies begin to eliminate the wealth divide, we will take the first steps towards ending crony-dominated economies held in place by corrupt oligarchic governments in both nations.
One of the most important steps towards reducing economic injustices involves provision of adequate human services. Quality health care should be available to all people in both countries, as is mandated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. High-quality education from pre-school through graduate school should remain free, equitable, and available to all. Basic needs for income should be met by ensuring robust employment opportunities in both countries, as well as the right to affordable housing, food, health care, transportation, and retirement security. Horrible statistics such as the existence of three million street children in Egypt and over 44 million poverty stricken people in the United States should remain unacceptable across the board. In addition, wealth needs to promote ecologically sustainable economies that utilize clean energy at a viable level. Both Cairo and Los Angeles residents understand the horrors of pollution! If we want 21st century economies, we need to work from a 21stcentury perspective regarding the barriers to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness around the world.
4. Both countries need to respect human rights, this involves an end to torture, a method for systematic documentation of human rights abuses, and mechanisms to ensure accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses.
Both Egypt and the United States suffer from decades of human rights abuses, which include suppression of free speech, illegal detention, secret rendition, and torture on the part of both nations. Even in the post-Mubarak era, free speech protests in Tahrir Square have been repeatedly shut down, freedom of the press has been repeatedly muzzled, and bloggers and activists have been repeatedly detained, tried, and sentenced to prison for mere infractions such as criticism of the military on blogs. (And that’s just the post-Mubarak era.)
Compare this with the United States, where rates of imprisonment are higher than those in any other nation, especially for minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status. Prison conditions are often inhumane in both nations and increasingly privatized in the United States, with few resources dedicated to rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Human rights should be respected according to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A full documentation of human rights violations should occur in both countries so that these practices are ended, and so that those responsible are held accountable regardless of the demands or interests of the current individuals in power. As examples of mechanisms to work towards achievement of these goals, the United States should join the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Egyptian military should end trials of civilians before military courts.
Medea Benjamin - Cofounder, CODEPINK and Global Exchange
Justice Arthur Brennan - retired Superior Court, NH and former deputy director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office and director of the Office of Accountability and Transparency.
Matthew Cappiello - student and political activist, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Noam Chomsky - Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT
Mike Ferner - Interim Director, Veterans for Peace
Margaret Flowers, M.D. - Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program
Carol E. Gay - President NJ Industrial Union Council
Chris Hedges - former Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times
Tarak Kauff - Veterans for Peace Action Network
Dennis Trainor, Jr - writer, performer and filmmaker with NoCureForThat.org
Samantha Williams - Feminism without Borders, student University of Maryland.
Rev. Dr. Bruce Wright - board member of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
Kevin Zeese - co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us
Ruby Amatulla - Executive Director, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Assaf Kfoury - political activist, Professor of Computer Science, Boston University
Asmaa Mahfouz - Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, April 6 Youth Movement
Amin Mahmoud - Egyptian Association for Change-USA
Dr. Yahia Mahran - Egyptian Lawyers Union
Ehsan Yahia - Egyptian Nurses Union
Iman Mosharafa - Egyptian American activist, City University of New York instructor
*All descriptors for identification purposes only.