As a union of Teaching Assistants and Graduate Students, we should lend our endorsement to this statement in solidarity with the progressive movement in Egypt. Egyptian students played a leading role in the fight to overturn Mubarak’s dictatorship and now comprise an important part of the coalition organizing for women’s rights and labor union rights as well as the defense of higher education. Over the last year, many students, staff and faculty at the University of California have been inspired by the movement for democracy and popular power in Egypt. Progressive forces in Egypt are coming under increasingly frequent and brutal attacks by the state. Although the scale of repression we have faced as activists defending public education here in California are of a different order, students from UC Davis to UCLA to UC Berkeley and beyond can relate to the use of police force against peaceful protesters. This statement will be released in the Egyptian press on January 25, on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the uprising against Mubarak and will be signed by a long list of international labor, academic, artistic and literary figures and organizations.
One year ago brave activists in Egypt electrified the world. Sweeping into Tahrir Square in Cairo, and similar sites in other cities and towns, protesting outside government offices, and striking for living wages, workers’ rights and against corrupt managers, they overturned a dictator and drove forward a process of mass democratic upheaval that has been dubbed “the Arab Spring.” In the process, Egypt’s revolution became an inspiration to millions around the world.
Every step of the way, millions of ordinary people struck blows for women’s rights, independent unions, democracy and social justice. But every step they were also brutalized by a military apparatus intent on blocking real change. Even after the dictator, President Mubarak, was toppled, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has continued to rule via “state of emergency” law, while responding to the revolutionary process with arrests, torture, beatings, and killings. Since Mubarak’s fall, as many as 14,000 people have been subjected to military tribunals and the beatings and torture associated with them. As a result, one year later, the revolution hangs in the balance.
In recent months, attacks by SCAF on youth, women, and workers have become more ominous. Ongoing violence against women protesters has intensified. The army has been clearly linked to assaults on Coptic Christians, twenty-four of whom were murdered in October of last year. Then, in December, an alarming escalation in army attacks on peaceful protesters created more martyrs of the revolution. Meanwhile, youth activists associated with the April 6th Movement have been arrested and charged with insulting the army and trying to overthrow the state – merely for distributing anti-SCAF posters. Simultaneously, SCAF and the Ministry of the Interior launched a threatening smear campaign against activists of the socialist left, and sent soldiers to raid the offices of seventeen NGOs. In these and many other ways, SCAF has made clear that it does not intend to give up power.
But courageous Egyptians are refusing to stand down in the face of these attacks. November and December saw huge popular mobilizations, teachers’ strikes, an inspiring 10,000 strong women’s march in Cairo, and a gathering of 50,000 in Tahrir Square to inaugurate the new year. These actions are a source of great hope for the future of Egypt’s popular revolution.
As writers, trade unionists, organizers, scholars, and activists who have supported Egypt’s democratic revolution we refuse to be silent in the face of these assaults, especially in light of the silence of our governments. We publicly condemn all attacks on freedom of speech, assembly, religion and association in Egypt. We call for the release of all political prisoners. We condemn the actions of foreign governments such as those of the US and Britain that hypocritically mouth support for the Egyptian revolution while supplying SCAF with arms and tear gas to crush protests. And we proclaim our solidarity with the democratic, trade union, women’s, youth and socialist groups who insist that the Egyptian Revolution must continue on the road to genuine democracy and social justice.
Adopted at the January 21st 2012 Joint Council Meeting