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Opinion: Egyptian protesters deserve our unreserved support

After the revolution in Tunisia, the Egyptian people are challenging their authoritarian ruler. Rainer Sollich of DW's Arab Service says that the democratic forces in the region deserve Europe and America's solidarity.

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It took the Egyptian people three decades to rise up against authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak. Those three decades were defined by restricted freedom and brutal repression, by corruption, human rights abuses, and a growing rage over social injustice.

But now Egyptians are on the streets - they have been for days. And the images from Cairo and Alexandria are just like those from Tunisia: the people are demanding the resignation of their unloved ruler. They will neither be consoled with empty promises nor intimidated by the government. They are risking their lives by defying state power. They are brave.

Und what are we risking? Considerably less. For three decades we have mostly looked away. At best, we protested quietly when our values were trampled by the West's partners. In Europe, the debate now revolves around a possible domino effect and its consequences. Tunisia's ruler has already fallen. If the heavyweight Mubarak falls, will the entire region descend into chaos? Does Europe now face an unstable Middle East wavering on the verge of an Islamist coup? Will Israel face a heightened threat scenario?

Rainer Sollich

Rainer Sollich is the head of Deutsche Welle's Arab Service

Nobody can rule that out. The dynamic of the protest wave, which has engulfed a growing number of Arab states, is difficult to predict and its end remains undecided. It could unfold differently from country to country.

But the development toward more freedom, justice and democracy is possible everywhere. Democracy has just as many supporters in Egypt as it does in Tunisia and other countries. The call for freedom strikes a chord with people from all walks of life: the urban middle class, the young Facebook generation as well as conservative Muslims and Christians. These are the groups that the US and the EU need to clearly support. For far too long, we have given the impression that oppression and injustice in the Arab world only interests us when it concerns anti-Western regimes, prominent democracy activists, or minorities like Christians.

It is a positive sign that western politicians, under the duress of current events, are starting to rethink their positions. Unfortunately very late, but hopefully not too late. Every sign of palling around with authoritarian rulers damages our reputation in the region - and in the consciousness of an entire generation. Maybe politicians have to play by the diplomatic rules of the game. But a politically conscious citizen does not: I declare my solidarity with the democratic forces in Egypt and the entire region. Lest we betray our values, the protesters deserve our unreserved support.

Author: Rainer Sollich/ sk
Editor: Rob Mudge

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