Don’t let them destroy the revolution

An activist in the OWS movement, who has been closely working with Egyptian activists, urges Obama to break the silence.

President Obama Visits Australia - Day 2
Obama has remained silent during a new crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Egypt [GALLO/GETTY]

President Obama, where are you? Are you not watching the same images that the world is watching of the massacres in Tahrir? Are you too busy preparing for Thanksgiving to take a minute to make a strong statement about what’s happening in a country in which your government has invested so much money and support? 

Are you not outraged at the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protesters by the military junta in Egypt? If so, why have you offered no meaningful condemnation of the attempt to crush a revolution that has so inspired millions of Americans? After all, their encouragement to Occupy Wall Street might actually wind up saving your presidency.

During the fateful 18 days in January and February when Egyptians took to the streets by the millions to topple Hosni Mubarak, you remained largely silent, refusing to call directly for democracy until it was clear that young Egyptians would not be denied their wish to be free of his three-decade-long rule.

In the months since then, as thousands of Egyptians have been attacked, imprisoned, sexually assaulted and murdered by their government, the United States has not merely remained silent, but has continued to provide crucial diplomatic, economic and military aid to the regime responsible for these crimes.

Now that the facade of a democratic transition has been ripped away and Egyptians are once again battling the military government in Tahrir Square for the future of the country, your administration remains as quiet as it was in the early days of the revolution. Such silence is both morally indefensible, and politically and strategically disastrous for the US. The march for freedom in Egypt cannot be stopped, and when Egyptians finally rid themselves of the military government and establish a democratic system, the US will have few friends in Egypt, or the Arab world more broadly, if it is seen as having supported the military rather than the people at this pivotal moment.

Mr President, if you have any moral backbone left, you must immediately issue a strong condemnation of the violence unleashed by the Egyptian military on its people, suspend all military and diplomatic aid and relations with the Egyptian government until it stops attacking peaceful protesters, releases the 12,000-plus citizens jailed since Mubarak’s ouster, and commits to handing over power to a transitional civilian government as soon as parliamentary elections are completed. 

Moreover, as Egypt’s main global sponsor, it is up to you to press other Western allies and supporters of the Egyptian government to develop a clear and strong policy in support of a rapid transition to democracy and apply the full weight of international diplomatic, economic and legal pressure on the military junta towards that end.

Anything less will be a stain on the US that will haunt your administration, and the country more broadly, for years to come.

The world is watching, Mr President – not just Tahrir Square, but 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It would be nice if you could show even a glimmer of the courage exhibited by this weekend’s martyrs of Tahrir. Given the stakes involved and the power of the US to help Egyptians achieve the democracy they so deserve, if you can’t, you will have surrendered whatever legitimacy still remains to you as a leader who can bring hope and inspire change to a world that has rarely been as in need of both.

The author of this article is an activist with the Occupy Wall Street movement who has also spent time in Egypt working with pro-democracy activists over the last year.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.