By Kristen Chapman
Four University of Colorado Boulder faculty members recently gathered for an on-campus panel discussion on the recent protests in Egypt and their ramifications for the United States.
During the Feb. 16 event, organized by retired sociology professor Tom Mayor, the panel – Haytham Bahoora, Nabil Echchaibi, Najeeb Jan and John Willis – covered a wide range of topics, focusing on the role of the media, history and sociological impacts. About 200 students and community members attended.
"If we're going to call it a revolution, it's something that's in process," said the history department's Willis. "We need to see an undoing of the long-standing policy" based on decades of authoritarian rule.
According to Bahoora, department of Asian languages and civilization, while ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was commonly referred to as President Mubarak in the media, the more accurate title would have been Dictator Mubarak.
As for the role played by users of the social media network Facebook in first instigating the protests, Echchaibi from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication said that aspect has been overstated. "The (social) media was an instrument, not how it's been birthed. The road has already been paved for years."
During the uprisings, Bahoora said, Al Jazeera was hard at work unveiling government corruption and human rights violations. While the news network is by no means an objective source of information, it aired a live feed from Tahrir Square in Cairo where the military threw teargas into a peacefully assembled crowd. The irony, he said, is that the tear gas bombs were labeled, "Made in the United States."
Jan, from the geography department, said he believes the U.S. seemingly supported Mubarak because of his instrumental role in implementing American policy. The U.S. military has continued to increase its presence in Egypt since 1967.
With the support of the United States backing Mubarak, "The distinction between democracy and dictatorship has been erased," Jan said, later adding, "Democracy has happened in the Middle East in spite of the U.S., not because of it."