Letter to Barack Obama on the Nile Revolution


Your appointment with world history

This is it. This is, again, in less than two years, your meeting with history. You missed it in Tehran in the summer of 2009, as the US government did in the winter of 1978, in the summer of 1953, and countless times since that sad meeting aboard the USS Quincy between your predecessor and the Saudi King on Feb. 14, 1945, when democratic America sacrificed the future of the Middle East on the altar of oil and unfree security.

This is your moment, as pithy and grave as are the many Middle East moments so often missed in recent memory. We know you are on our side, we heard the call for change, we heard your audience in Cairo University last year applauding you only when you mentioned democracy. We never expected you to secure our freedom for us, but our tyrants have relied on you and your predecessors, time and again, to derail peaceful change in the name of oil, terrorism, communism, stability. Look where this has taken us.

This is our moment, as was the moment of Barack Obama, heir to Martin Luther King in 2008, the US year of change, for we followed religiously in the King’s footsteps. Nonviolence, absolute, pristine, extreme, unfettered nonviolence. And not for the first time, Mosaddegh had done so in Iran, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, the first Palestinian Intifada, the Green Revolution in Iran, and now the Jasmine Revolution have all been nonviolent. The Nile Revolution is your moment, defining as was Cairo standing up to Napoleon in 1798, powerful as rising against British colonialism in 1919, the protests in Cairo in March 2005; while the world is wrecked by Middle East violence from 9/11 to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and from the bulldozers in Jerusalem to the killing of the noblest Lebanese journalists, by brutes and tyrants unpunished to date. This is the moment for you to meet world history, and to show your mettle in the audacity of world hope. You missed the meeting in Tehran in the summer of 2009, don’t allow your principals to abort your appointment with history in Cairo in 2011.

We, nonviolent democrats across the Middle East, have risen time and again, time and again we have written the manifesto of democracy and nonviolence, in ink and blood, we have walked and spoken time and again in the streets of Beirut, Cairo, Tunisia, and Washington. You never listened. Now you must, because the future of nonviolence in the world is in your hands. Mubarak, his army, his party, his family, want to hijack the Nile Revolution, and they rely on you to save them from the wrath of the people of Egypt. We rely on you to help us actively defeat them.

It is no longer sufficient to say that nonviolence cannot be met, unpunished, with violence. You asked Mubarak for meaningful action, which went nowhere, now we ask for action from you which will mark world history. We want to hear you say Mubarak and his lot must leave, not to his bank accounts in Switzerland or sandy exile in brutal Saudi Arabia, but to prison. Dictatorship, no longer a crime against society only,– recall George Washington and the Bastille stormers–, dictatorship is now a crime against humanity. We all pay for tyranny now, and you need to help the people of Egypt see him safely to prison, and help actively with his arrest and trial if he flees like his brother in crime Zein al-‘Abidin Ben Ali.

President Obama, this is your appointment with world history, the universal equivalent of the Martin Luther King moment your presidency brought to the people of America. We need to hear nonviolent action succeeding in Washington, because we need it in Sudan, in Israel and Gaza, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Syria. This is the meeting of the American democratic tradition, nonviolent, non-imperialist, nondiscriminatory, not driven by oil or obsessed with terrorists; anticolonial, egalitarian,  economically culturally, and politically free . Against the dark side of US foreign policy, the best American tradition is calling on you to help it succeed in Cairo, and in Tunis, so that it also carries the nonviolence message of the 21st century to Khartum, Beijing, and Pyongyang.

We democrats in the Middle East fear that  some of your principals will persuade you to rely on the Egyptian army ‘to avoid chaos’, and to vindicate the hallucinations of Mubarak’s ‘conspiracy’, in the time-honored lie which allowed the Communist dictatorship to rely on its army in Tien-an-Men to quell ‘chaos’, remember Budapest in 1956 and Baghdad in 1991. The Nile Revolution is carrying the message of nonviolence, help it in Cairo, support it in Tunis, Beirut and Tehran, and you will see how the North Korean paper dictator will collapse, and how the Iranian, Chinese and Burman dictators will begin to feel the fear of God from their brutalised people rather than their people fearing them.

President Obama, our friends in Tehran did not hear you two summers ago, and our colleagues in the Cedar Revolution paid the price of silence last week in Beirut. Our colleagues in Cairo need to hear you say with them, ‘Down with the Mubarak dictatorship’, loud and clear. And you can do better, you can help them prepare a serious Egyptian court of Egyptian judges, that includes Mubarak victims standing up time and again to his arbitrariness, along with Saadeddin Ibrahim, Ayman Nur, Muhammad Barade‘i, and the cohorts of Islamists jailed and tortured. Help them and their friends try Mubarak in Egypt under the best international standards, and intercept his plane if he seeks exile to his brother dictators in the Arab world. If Husni and Jamal Mubarak escape Egyptian legal retribution, they belong to international criminal justice.

You are a lawyer. It is time for the duty to protect to take root in the heart of the Middle East. Protect the Egyptians against violence by helping them arrest and try the 30-year dictator. This is your moment, Mr. Obama, in world history. And ours.

Chibli Mallat

Chairman, Right to Nonviolence


Previous post:

Next post: