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Welcoming Change in Egypt

Candle held at a vigil
Photo: AFSC

Update February 11, 2011 - A peaceful people's movement has forced Hosni Mubarak to resign. On the streets of Cairo and across Egypt, people are nonviolently reclaiming their future. The interim Egyptian authorities must continue to listen to the Egyptian people and institute swift, fundamental changes toward democracy and justice. The international community must also listen to the Egyptian people and to support nonviolent moves towards democracy. Read below for AFSC's official statement.

Throughout its history, the American Friends Service Committee has supported people experiencing oppression as they struggle nonviolently to realize their basic rights and to transform unjust social and political systems.  As popular efforts to achieve democratic change advance in Egypt, we are compelled to lift our voice in support of human rights and nonviolence.  We speak from our Quaker values and our experience working in the Middle East and worldwide.

In our work with community groups and youth in the Middle East we have observed an intense desire for political change.  We see this desire reflected in the current demands being made by Egyptian protestors, often led by youth, for the establishment of a genuinely participatory democratic system.  These young protestors are saying “enough” to a ruling elite whose grip on power has been maintained through political repression and severe civil and human rights abuses, including torture.  The Egyptian government should listen to its citizens and institute immediate political reforms.

These young protestors have shown a remarkable commitment to exercising nonviolent discipline, distributing leaflets that call on demonstrators to avoid confrontations with government forces, working to stop looting and community violence, and organizing assistance for those injured.

We are appalled by recent deliberate attacks against demonstrators in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. The government of Egypt is failing in its duty to protect the demonstrators. Worse still, reports from international media, human rights groups, and US government spokespeople indicate that Egyptian government forces are involved in perpetrating attacks against the demonstrators. We reject all forms of violence and call upon all parties to renounce violence and to protect the rights of people to peacefully protest and express their opinions.

As we focus on Egypt, we must also keep in mind the interconnectedness between events in Egypt and events in the rest of the region and the wider world.  For example, the AFSC staff in the region is acutely aware of the political and humanitarian effects on our program partners in Gaza.  Gaza residents have increasingly come to rely on Egypt for access to goods and services as a result of the international community’s continuing political isolation of the Hamas-led authority and the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.  The recent closure of the Egypt-Gaza border is exacerbating the hardships already faced by people in Gaza, cutting off their access to family and health services and driving up prices for many basic commodities.

Given the history of US support for the Egyptian government, the US government bears some responsibility for the current situation.  AFSC therefore calls on the US government to:

  • Make every effort to persuade the Egyptian government to end violence, and to begin without delay a transition to participatory democracy.
  • Respect the will of the Egyptian people as they call for change, and, if a change in government occurs, to remain in dialogue with whomever the people of Egypt choose as their representatives. 
  • Change its foreign policy so that future US actions are aligned with and support aspirations for democracy and justice. The US government can take a step in the right direction by ending the practice of military aid.