Fiona ChurchProfessor Fiona Church, Executive Dean of Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences

Having directly experienced the protests in Cairo last weekend, I have been paying close attention to the developments this week in Egypt.  I have become increasingly concerned to see the escalation of violence in many areas.

In Cairo I witnessed peaceful demonstrations attacked by the police.  Mums, dads, children, young and old were tear-gassed for no apparent reason and this was swiftly followed by rubber bullets and missiles.

Whilst not condoning violence in any way, it is hardly surprising that this was the reaction to the police action.  The basic right to protest lawfully is something we take for granted in this country – I am thankful that I have the ability to express my views and question government action without fear of reprisal.

I spoke with many Egyptians during my trip and without exception they were all concerned to see their country develop and to see democracy in operation.  People were extremely frustrated by the economic situation and by the disparity between rich and poor in their country.

Whilst being extremely respectful of their government, they also felt it was time for change and the ability to make free choice was of key importance. Today (Friday, February 4) may prove to be a very important day for Egypt.  Pressure is increasing on President Mubarak to step down and it is reported that protests will escalate if he does not do so.

I would urge President Mubarak and his government to think carefully about their actions today, to respect the right of the Egyptian people to choose their future and to do everything they can to avoid further escalation of the violence the World has witnessed.

Update on 11/02/11

‘It means a lot that the world is watching us’

The world continues to watch the events in Egypt.

Last night (Thursday, February 10) the people of Egypt felt that they had reached a breakthrough and that the President was about to resign. The atmosphere in Tahrir Square became celebratory as they waited to hear the speech.  I was amazed to see the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered together, but the celebratory atmosphere soon turned to disappointment and fury when it was realised that the President had not, and would not resign.  The possibility of even greater numbers of demonstrators will keep the attention firmly on Egypt – I hope that the issues can be resolved peacefully without further injury or loss of life.

I received a message from someone in Egypt earlier this week, it said “the best wish I have had this week is the wish for our country to live in a free democratic atmosphere – it means a lot to us that the world is supporting us”. The role of the Army now seems pivotal in this dramatic course of events – how they react in the coming days will be crucial.  Whatever happens, we must continue to bear witness to the events occurring in Egypt.

Update on 14/02/11

Egyptians face a new era   

What a difference a day makes!  Last Thursday the despondent and furious attitude of the crowds in Tahrir Square was very apparent following the President’s speech.  President Mubarak had not resigned as expected but had reiterated his wish to remain in post until September.

My contact in Cairo informed me that everyone had been bitterly disappointed but that the protesters were resolute in their policy of not moving until he left.  The role of the military was crucial and those in Cairo were very aware of this.

Then, within a short space of time, on Friday we saw an apparent volte face by the President – relinquishing his role and stepping back from the government of the country.  This was received with much celebration and my contact sent me a jubilant e-mail saying how proud the Egyptian people were that they had stood up for themselves in the face of opposition, something that had been very difficult in the past and had required great courage.

I was extremely touched to see the local populace clearing up after their celebrations and restoring the square and surrounding streets to a clean and orderly state – they clearly care about their city and were showing that they wanted to get ‘back to business’ in a new democratic environment as soon as possible.

The actions of the Military Board of Governance will now be key in ensuring that free elections take place and that the new government of the country stabilises and delivers a new era for Egypt.

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Fiona Church

Fiona Church

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences