More Reports of Civil Society Transformations in Egypt

Feb 14

I posted earlier today about strikes involving bankers and policemen as evidence that the Jan. 25th Revolution has caused a substantial transformation of Egyptians’ consciousness.  I have subsequently received more anecdotal reports from family in Egypt that ordinary Egyptians are refusing to cooperate or take instruction from Mubarak-era NDP hacks who were appointed to direct various government or quasi-government agencies.  Universities are a good example of how the Mubarak-regime worked to subvert the independence of Egyptian institutions.  Mubarak would use his power to appoint University presidents to appoint someone who would inevitably be loyal to him.  These crony presidents would then appoint cronies as deans of the various faculties.

One reason Mubarak was keen on controlling university leadership, of course, was to insure that universities could not be mobilized as centers of resistance to his regime.  During the recent Revolution, however, things changed.  The Faculty of Law of Cairo University went into open revolt, openly declaring its allegiance to the Revolution.  Last Thursday, I had heard that deans at many faculties were attempting to coerce the teaching faculty into protesting in support of Mubarak, but it was too late: by then, many had already joined the protests in Tahrir Square.  Today, I heard that the Faculty of Medicine at al-Kasr al-‘Aini is in open revolt against its university officials with ties to the NDP: an official complaint has been filed alleging abuse of office with respect to the conduct of leading Kasr al-‘Aini administrators during the Revolution, including, that the Kasr al-‘Aini Hospital (located not more than fifteen minutes from Tahrir Square) was closed to the wounded from the Revolution, and that buses belonging to the Cairo University Faculty of Medicine were used to transport the Mubarak thugs Tahrir Square.  The refusal of the Kasr al-‘Aini Hospital to treat the wounded helps explain why the demonstrators were forced to establish a field hospital in the Square itself. I have also heard from other sources that faculty throughout Egypt are demanding the right to elect their own deans directly rather than have the dean appointed.  Even the Rector of al-Azhar, which has traditionally been politically quiescent, is demanding greater democratic freedom and accountability, calling for the Shaykh al-Azhar to be elected by the Azhar itself rather than be appointed by the President as has been the case since the time of Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir.

In short, I think there is good anecdotal evidence consistent with the conclusion that a real democratic transformation is taking place throughout Egyptian society, and it has now gone well beyond the vanguard of activists who organized the demonstrations and even the core of the protesters who brought the regime down.

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