Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March-April 2012, Pages 64-65

Arab-American Activism

Journalist, Pollster Discusses Egyptian Revolution

altDr. James Zogby (l) and Ashraf Khalil discuss the achievements of the Egyptian revolution. (Staff photo D. Sprusansky)

To brief congressional staffers on the Egyptian revolution, the Arab American Institute (AAI) hosted a Jan. 31 discussion titled "Egypt: One Year after the Revolution" at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Cairo-based journalist and author Ashraf Khalil and AAI President James Zogby offered their views on Egypt's ongoing transition.

Saying that former President Hosni Mubarak's greatest crime was "robbing Egyptians of their dignity, of their self respect," Khalil argued that regaining a sense of pride and self-purpose has been the Egyptian revolution's greatest achievement. Egyptians are "losing track of the fact that they are winning [the revolution]," he warned. The journalist urged observers and Egyptians alike to avoid making "snap reactions" to events and to understand that "whatever happens [in Egypt] is going to take 10 years."

Regarding the buildup to the 2011 uprising, Khalil explained that the brutal June 2010 death of Khaled Said at the hands of security forces in Alexandria was a breaking point for many Egyptians. While covering the protests that followed Said's death, Khalil said he noticed many first-time protesters taking to the streets. The presence of these typically "depoliticized" people in the street symbolized that the Mubarak regime was losing its legitimacy and that Egyptians were prepared to enter into "a fight for survival," he said.

Khalil suggested that the revolution could be a positive development for Egyptian-Israeli relations. Describing the former relationship as one of "bad habits and bad dynamics," Khalil said he envisions a "healthier" and "more mature" relationship between the two countries if Israel begins taking Egyptian public opinion into consideration before making decisions.

Zogby reviewed his latest polling data, noting that jobs, healthcare, education, and corruption are Egyptians' top concerns—just as they were before the revolution. With regard to American views of Egypt, he pointed out that 32 percent of Americans currently have a positive view of Egypt, down from 60 percent prior to the January 2011 uprising. For more information visit <www.aaiusa.org>.

—Dale Sprusansky