Saturday, February 20, 2010

ElBaradei: Egypt’s dream or illusion

ElBaradei: Egypt’s dream or illusion
By: Dalia Ziada

For the last few couple of weeks, everybody in Egypt, either interested in politics or not, is talking about and expecting ElBaradei’s arrival to Cairo on Friday, February 19th. Mohamed Elbaradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has recently announced his intention to run in the 2011 presidential elections, but only if the people succeeded in pressuring the government to change laws and constitutional stipulations preventing an independent candidate like himself from a nomination.

To applaud ElBaradei’s “provided intention,” the Independent Campaign to Support ElBaradei for 2011 Elections, decided to collect attorneys from people to authorize ElBaradei to change the constitution; although he did not show any will or intention to change any thing. His provision to nominate himself was that the people make the change of laws first, and then if they succeed, he will nominate himself.

Egyptian opposition parties, like the el-Wafd and al-Ghad parties offered him an opportunity to be nominated through them, but he did not respond with either refusal or approval. People interpreted his “neutral response of silence” as an insistence to preserve his independence. Although, logically, this is a clear sign that he is not even interested.

Egyptian state-owned media were also affected by the illusion. They launched a very short campaign to attack ElBaradei and highlight the negative points of his career and education. ElBaradei ignored the attacks. He did not even exert the slightest effort to defend himself for the sake of preserving his image in the eyes of the Egyptian public. Some writers interpreted his “neutral response of silence” again as patience and wisdom! Although, logically, this is a clear sign of apathy and inability to argue against the regime.

When they knew about his return to Cairo, after ending his time at the IAEA, the 6th of April Movement started to mobilize youth on Facebook to receive ElBaradei at the airport. Some respectable intellectuals wrote about the prospected visit in their daily and weekly columns and mobilized the public for the same purpose, too. One of them wrote that he is expecting thousands of Egyptians to go to the airport tomorrow to receive ElBaradei. Actually, I doubt that tens of Egyptians will go, that is if ElBaradei shows up at all. I have a strong feeling that he will change his flight or delay his arrival to a secret date in application of his favorite theory of “neutral response of silence.”

Before arguing this, let’s first answer the urgent question of why we should receive him at the airport. He is only an Egyptian citizen like any one of us. He has been serving abroad for most of his life and now he is returning to spend sometime at home. I did not see similar receptions for more worthy Egyptian icons like Ahmed Zweil or Naguib Mahfouz for example. So, what is special in ElBaradei to go and receive him at the airport? What has he realistically offered to Egypt that makes him deserve us to give him this very special welcome at airport?

I wonder if ElBaradei the almost “neutral silent” old man can really be the president of our dreams. I think he is only a false shadow of Egyptians’ lost hope.

Unlike historical leaders, ElBaradei is putting conditions on the Egyptian people before he rewards them by becoming their president. True leaders “lead” their people towards change not stay behind and ask people to do it before they step in the battlefield. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for instance, were in front of their people not behind them in the “neutral silent zone.” If the Egyptians succeeded to change the laws and constitution, why should they need ElBaradei then?

If we avoided our passionate temper for a moment and think of ElBaradei in comparison to the other names on the political scene now, we will be surprised by what we will find out. If we criticize Mubarak senior for being the old president of a population of youth, ElBaradie is 68-years-old. If we criticize Mubarak junior for living abroad and lacking political sensitivity, ElBaradie had been living abroad since the 1960s and his career shows that he rarely practiced politics; except from his air-conditioned offices in academic institutions worldwide. All his life, ElBaradei has been an employee not a politician.

Until the moment of writing this article, ElBaradei did not take any tangible action towards achieving the change he asked the people to do on his behalf. It is us who mistakenly interpreted his “neutral silence” to every thing going around in Egypt according to what we want and dream of. In Egypt, we have wise-saying “the hungry man dreams of bread.” This is what we are doing. We are dreaming of democracy in the shape of ElBaradei; and mistakenly looking at him as the savior.

Wake up, my people. Wake up!

Update: according to eyewitnesses, around 300 people from Kefaya Movement, April 6 Youth, some intellectuals and artists received ElBaradei upon his arrival to Cairo Airport. Security forces tried to let him go out via the VIP gate but he refused. ElBaradei then passed quitely through the crowds to his car. He did not salute the people or talk with any one except his family.