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Why Are the People of Egypt Protesting?

February 3, 2011

Along with so many others, I’ve been riveted by the coverage of the mass protests in Egypt and horrified by the crackdown on human rights exhibited there even over the past week. But to be honest, I haven’t been quite sure why it is all happening. I’ve had a vague idea that the people of Egypt have been oppressed and denied their full measure of rights, but if you asked me for specific examples, I might only be able to name what I’ve seen of the lack of free speech and open communication channels.

This morning on my way to work, though, I got the Egypt 101 course courtesy of the Breakdown, a weekly podcast with Chris Hayes from the Nation. In the most recent special edition of the Breakdown, “Why Is Egypt in Revolt?” Hayes speaks with professor of twentieth-century Egyptian history Noor Khan from Colgate University about the context of the protests in Egypt.

Khan has also written a short — and incredibly informative — primer on Egypt now. It lays out clearly the modern historical background and the many manifestations of oppression that the people of Egypt have endured.

So, why are the people protesting? As Khan lays it out:

  • “Democracy” has been just a word
  • Police torture (see “We are all Khaled Said” on Facebook for more)
  • Corruption
  • Bureaucratic inefficiency
  • Poverty

There is so much background, detail, and nuance to each of these — but it’s good to have a first step toward understanding on a new level why the people of Egypt are out on the streets, raising their voices and asserting their rights. 

Further background:

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