Published: February 3, 2011

A Time to Stand with Egyptians

Adel Eldin | Guest columnist

Since Jan. 25 (ironically, the date of our annual State of the Union Address), concerned Egyptian youth of the Internet generation have been waging a peaceful protest throughout the cities, towns and streets of Egypt. Most of these young people are between 16 and 36 years of age. They are using technology, such as social media, to carry out this history-defining movement.

This protest is overdue and has been in the preparation stages for years as the great people of Egypt have been fed up with not being able to drink the water or eat a loaf of bread. There is no chance to have a job, especially for young people, who constitute 70 percent of the 83 million people in Egypt. Unemployment has soared to as much as 27 percent, according to some reports.

Young people cannot find a job or even a small apartment. They have no chance to have a more dignified life and have a family. They are living with no hope for the future and no hope that living conditions will improve. If they open their mouths, they would be the target of humiliation and threats of brutality by the infamous Egyptian police. People in a person's family might be tortured or imprisoned for no reason. The police can obtain any fabricated confession under the worst types of psychological, physical or mental torture.

President Hosni Mubarak promised freedom for all Egyptians after they had been imprisoned by former President Anwar Sadat. Since 1981, under the ruling of Mubarak, the Egyptian people have seen only escalating food prices, low or no wages, and a worsening economy. In 1981, Egypt was head-to-head with South Korea and had a vibrant national industry and profitable public sector. Egypt had only $18 billion in national debt back then; today it is $880 billion, according to Egyptian press accounts.

In spite of speeches and promises for development, no real reform or development has taken place. Egypt, which is the gift of the Nile and has been for centuries a great agricultural nation, has started to fall apart. It has implemented poor agriculture policies, many of which have failed. Instead of harnessing the ability to produce most of its agricultural products, the wheat that poor people depend on to make bread, for example, is being mostly imported, along with more than 75 percent of Egypt's food supply.

The collective collapse in services, education and industry began with selling out the public sector companies that should be the backbone for a healthy national economy. The hard-working middle class has been crushed and society has been sharply divided into a few filthy rich, while 50 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

These poor Egyptians eat contaminated food, drink contaminated water and have a huge increase in kidney failure and liver failure. There are reports of a 600 percent increase in cancer cases due to pollution, according to the National Cancer Institute. Money for promised projects goes into the pockets of corrupt officials. If anybody dares speak up, it is guaranteed that he or she will be sent to prison.

Even with 22 million Egyptians living in slums, they see the corruption with the recent forced elections in November, and they see that once again, one corrupted party dominates everything in Egypt: the National Democratic Party. If you ask any Egyptian, he will tell you it is neither national or democratic but instead corrupt candidates who bought their votes.

This endless disappointment and anger have sparked the protests by young Egyptians who love their country and want to rescue it from a dictator. Mubarak has ruled Egypt for 30 years and contributed to the country's downfall in every aspect. Egypt was losing its power and prestige in the area, and fell back from its leadership role in both the Arab and Muslim worlds, which further saddened these young Egyptians.

On June 4, 2009, President Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world in a landmark speech at Cairo University. This was thought to be a new beginning, but Egyptians were disappointed that the U.S. administration did not support the proud people of Egypt and sided with a failing regime. The recent protest is a spectacular victory for the will of the people of Egypt. The victory contradicts hate and anger toward the corrupted officials and brutal police, who fire live U.S.-made ammunition and tear gas indiscriminately against unarmed civilians.

There is no role of the Muslim Brotherhood in these protests, as has been reported in the media; it's just people who are fed up and who have been inspired by a young university graduate from Tunisia who could not find a job to support his family. He began to sell produce and was brutally tortured by the Tunisian police, so he set himself on fire, which started a domino effect throughout the streets of the Arab world.

This is a pure, peaceful revolution of the proud people of Egypt. They have had enough abuse, corruption, humiliation and torture under President Mubarak, who has been given more than $40 billion in U.S. aid.

Egypt has stood, especially in the 1960s, beside all movements for freedom in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and even supported the civil rights movement in the United States. Now it is America's duty to stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt and support them in every way at this critical juncture. We should prove to the world that we believe in democracy and freedom. These values have to be put to action to prove that U.S. policies are not hypocritical and that the United States does not practice a double standard policy (democracy and freedom of convenience). It is in America's best national interest, in addition to being a moral duty, to promote democracy and freedom.

As an Egyptian American and Muslim, I pray that God blesses America, protects Egypt and keeps us all safe in peace. Amen.

Dr. Adel Eldin, an Egyptian native, is an interventional cardiologist with offices in Brooksville and Wesley Chapel.