By Khalid Amayreh
Seeking desperately to cling to power in the face of mounting street pressure, the Egyptian regime of Husni Mubarak reportedly deployed thousands of paid thugs in an effort to assault thousands of demonstrators fed up with the Mubarak regime's tyranny and demanding his ouster.
The thugs, known in Arabic as Baltajiya, threw rocks at protesters, hoping to get them to flee. Others carried daggers, swords and other sharp objects with which they either stabbed or sought to intimidate resilient demonstrators at the Tahrir square in the heart of Cairo. Some of the thugs appeared mounting horses and even camels and attempting to trample on demonstrators. Fire bombs were heavily used by the Baltajiya stationed at neighboring rooftops against the protesters. Eventually, live bullets were fired into the huge crowd, with several people getting killed and hundreds injured.
The baltajiya (plural of Baltaji) are young, uneducated, unemployed and violence-prone young men recruited by the regime or the ruling National Party for the purpose of intimidating and terrorizing political opponents, falsifying elections and holding "show demonstrations" in support of the regime whenever the need arises.
The baltajiya played a pivotal role in rigging and falsifying recent elections in Egypt which were nearly completely "won" by Mubarak's al-Hizbel Watani.
This is the behavior of the regime which the United States and other western powers have tended, maintained, and cared for over 30 years in return for safeguarding their interests in this volatile region. We are essentially talking about 30 years of dictatorship, repression, corruption and absence of basic human rights and civil liberties.
It is an evil regime that goes beyond falsifying elections and raping the people's will; it is a regime that doesn't even flinch from killing its own people in order to stay in power.
According to confirmed and reliable reports from Cairo, the regime's paid thugs committed every conceivable crime against the citizens of Cairo and the country as a whole, all for the purpose of intimidating protesters and blaming crimes on the opposition to the tyrannical regime.
They broke into private homes, assaulted ordinary people, robbed businesses and shops, and set many buildings on fire. Even the Central Egyptian Museum, which contains records of 6000 years of Egyptian civilization, was not spared the savagery of the thugs who sought to set it on fire in order to give the security forces, especially the army, an alibi to declare a national emergency and crush the anti-Mubarak protests once and for all.
So what words would accurately describe such a regime which in order to stay in power, it has resorted to the unthinkable, namely setting Egypt itself on fire and murdering its sons and daughters? Does a regime change in Egypt have to be at the expense of the destruction and burning of the country?
Muhammed Baradei, a prominent opposition leader, rightly described the manner in which the Mubarak regime sought to thwart the revolution in Egypt as "criminal tactics by a criminal regime."
A western journalist who had covered the Iranian revolution, the Romanian revolution and several other revolutions in Eastern Europe and South America against autocratic regimes said the following words, describing the utter depravity of the Egyptian regime's behavior toward protesters.
"I have covered several revolutions worldwide where pro-regime forces employed many ugly ways and means to intimidate the revolutionaries; but I never witnessed this level of depravity, gangsterism and thuggishness as we are witnessing in Egypt today."
There is no doubt that the Egyptian regime is behaving with total disrespect and disregard for the Egyptian people who want to transform Egypt from a dictatorship into a democracy, and from a country that looks down on its citizens to one that shows respect for them.
In the final analysis, the real indicator of democracy in any country is when the government starts fearing the people. However, when the people fear the government and the government contemptuously overlooks and ignores the people's concerns, it means dictatorship and tyranny is having the day.
We don't know what kind of regime would eventually assume power in Egypt, the strongest and most populous Arab nation. But we are hopeful that the end game will see the disappearance of this thuggish regime which for the sake of pleasing and appeasing Israel and its friends in North America and Europe is willing to savage, persecute and even kill its own people.
The Egyptian people are really thoroughly fed-up with this tyrannical regime and will not take it any more. Thirty years of Mubarak's corruption, repression, and lies have convinced nearly every Egyptian that Mubarak must go and a new honorable Egypt must be enabled to emerge from the ruins of the current rotten dictatorship.
Although widely considered the navel of despotism in the Arab world, the Egyptian regime is by no means the main oasis of authoritarianism in the Arab region. With the rare exception of Lebanon, nearly all other Arab regimes are tyrannical and corrupt; with each having a decadent rotten king or a president-for-life presiding over the country, who may well be grooming his son to succeed him as already happened in Morocco, Syria, Jordan, and the Arabian Gulf Sheikhdoms and Emirates and as was widely expected to happen, at least until recently, in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
But in a certain sense, the Egyptian regime served as the gravity center for all these tyrannical regimes, mainly due to the traditional political and cultural status Egypt has in the Arab region ever since the 1952 revolution when a group of Egyptian officers, the Free Officers, headed by Gamal Abdul Nasser, overthrew the monarchy of King Farouk.
This is why one should be hopeful that a genuine transformation toward a regime that is more answerable to the masses would play a certain domino effect in the Arab region and could lead to true and lasting democratization.
Sadly, there are manifestly racist and fascist centers of power in the West that constantly urge governments there to keep up backing and maintaining dictatorial regimes in the Arab region. Their rationale is that these regimes serve to keep the Islamists at bay. But this is a spurious rationale and faulty argument at the very best, since the continued backing of these tyrannical regimes only contributes to the deepening of hatred of the west among hundreds of millions of Muslims around the globe. Eventually, this short-sighted policy leads to more instability, more extremism and more strategic losses for the west in this vital region.
Besides, there is no evidence supporting the claim that with Sunni Islamists in power in some Arab countries, the Arab world will become irremediably hostile or inimical to legitimate western interests whether in the economic or political spheres.
This is not to say though that an Islamist or quasi-Islamist Middle East wouldn't seek to regain its lost honor, dignity and independence, long usurped by western powers mainly through the installment in power of local agents such as reigning kings, emirs, sheikhs and presidents-for-life in the Arab world.
In any case, the Arabs, even the more feared Iranians, are not really inherently hostile to the West.
At the end of the day, Muslims, including the so-called Islamists only want to be treated with respect.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|