Egypt specialist, professor gives speech on protests

Joshua Stacher speaks about the issues in Egypt. Photo by Valerie Brown

Joshua Stacher speaks about the issues in Egypt. Photo by Valerie Brown

Kelly Tunney

Joshua Stacher said he supports Egyptian protesters in their pursuit of democracy. But after President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down Thursday, he does not believe democracy will be achieved any time soon.

Stacher, political science assistant professor and specialist on Egypt, spoke to a packed room of students on the third floor of the Kent State Student Center Thursday night about the situation unfolding in Egypt.

Time Magazine, BBC News and National Pubic Radio’s “All Things Considered” have interviewed Stacher for his knowledge of the crisis.

“I am in support for Egyptian democracy 100 percent,” he said. “I think we need to ask those who oppose it why they do. I’m not scared of democracy.”

As for President Mubarak’s latest announcement, Stacher said the Egyptian government has the ability to lead the country into believing what it wants them to believe.

“The government completely controls the messages that are being sent out,” he said.

Stacher said he does not see protesters winning the fight for democracy because of opposition to the military-centered government. He said although the number of protesters is in the thousands, the government is not willing to let the public think protesters have control.

“They are honestly calculating that they are going to survive this,” he said. “We have many cases of regime fragmentation and collapse. The elites have been so cohesive, but I don’t see that happening.

“But the crowds are the wild card; there is no doubt about it. I just don’t think they have the initiative that they used to have,” he said

Stacher said some of the lack of initiative might have been avoided had President Barack Obama showed support for the Egyptian protests earlier in the process.

“Obama is always two steps behind,” Stacher said. “Intervention from the U.S. government could have empowered the protesters, but that time has passed.”

Stacher also said the public needs to understand what is going on without relying simply on what our government or Egyptian protesters are saying.

“There are people from the United States government that are trying to spin a narrative,” he said. “There are protesters that are trying to spin a narrative. There is the Egyptian government that is trying to spin a narrative.

“None of those narratives are inherently complete or correct,” he said.

Derek Spencer, senior political science major, said he understood how Stacher could be critical of the government and its actions, but he also understands the government’s actions.

“I think that that was the only appropriate response that he could have with what is going on,” he said. “I see where he stands, and he is very sympathetic with the Egyptian people. I understand that, but at the same time, I know that the president can’t afford to take sides.”

Alia Awadallah, senior political science major, agrees with Stacher that the U.S. government is too concerned in its own interests to pay attention to what is really happening.

“I think we need people like Dr. Stacher to give an outside voice and break that cycle that is counterproductive,” she said.

Contact Kelly Tunney at [email protected].

Egyptian protesters enraged, bewildered after Mubarak refuses to resign

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By Jeffrey Fleishman

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

CAIRO – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down Thursday, saying in a nationally televised speech that he would hand authority to his vice president in a move that enraged and bewildered hundreds of thousands of protesters packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The country was anticipating an address that would mark the end of Mubarak’s 30 years in power but instead was told that he was going nowhere. Protesters shouted “leave, leave,” and chants of disapproval echoed across the Nile at the prospect that the 17-day standoff with the government was not over.

“For the benefit of this country,” Mubarak said, “I have decided to assign the tasks of the president to the vice president according to the constitution.”

The president spoke like a stern father or a leader aloof from the demands of millions of his citizens and growing pressure from Washington and other Western powers. He said his government would work on constitutional reform, punishing abusive security forces and preparing a “road map” for a transfer of power leading to September elections.

None of those promises satisfied protesters, whose rallying cry is for the 82-year-old former air force commander to leave office. And it appeared that the unrest that has convulsed the nation would intensify on Friday. Protest organizers said crowds would turn out to march on state radio and television offices.

“I don’t know what he wants from us,” said Tarek Bashir, an exasperated student in the square. “What else do we have to say to him and his regime so that they know they are not wanted? What can make that clear? We are here in the square and I will not leave, but if I have to I’ll march to the presidential palace to force him out.”

Nobel laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said in a Twitter message: “The Army must save the country now. I call on the Egyptian Army to immediately interfere to rescue Egypt. The credibility of the army is on the line.”

Delegating authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman was viewed by many demonstrators as preserving the vestiges of Mubarak’s inner circle. Mubarak did not make clear what duties Suleiman _ the country’s former intelligence chief and one of his confidants _ would assume.

The president’s decision was interpreted by some as another attempt to keep his dignity while gradually passing responsibility to Suleiman and the military. But the speech provoked more than it pacified a country that has endured protests and bloodshed as its future grows more uncertain.

Shortly after the address, Suleiman told outraged demonstrators: “Heroes. Go home, go back to work. The nation needs you to build, develop and create.”

Hours before Mubarak’s 17-minute speech, a senior army commander appeared in Tahrir Square and told protesters that all their demands would be met. Conflicting scenarios and rumors quickly spread. The military announced that it was taking the “necessary measures to protect the nation and support the legitimate demands of the people.”

The statements came after two days of warnings by top Egyptian officials, including Suleiman, that the army might stage a coup if protests persisted. A coup has not occurred here since 1952, when military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the monarchy.

A mood of celebration had settled over the square at dusk as protesters anticipated the possibility the army would push Mubarak out. But after the speech, shortly before midnight, none of that had come to pass. Tahrir filled with cries of “Down, down with Mubarak, the people want to bring down the regime.”

Mubarak’s speech rambled and was occasionally at odds with the events of recent days. He called protesters who died at the hands of his security forces “martyrs” and took responsibility for “mistakes.”

He said the nation needed to work with a “team spirit” to fix an economy badly damaged by the protests. He added: “My dear citizens, the priority now is to restore the confidence in Egyptians themselves.”

In veiled comments aimed at Washington, he said Egypt was a proud country that had to resist foreign intervention.

“As president,” he said, “I am not embarrassed to listen to the young people in my country, but the real shame is listening to the dictates coming from abroad.”