Egyptian Sen. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery offered an overview of his country’s recent revolution and current state of flux in his presentation on “Egyptian Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges” at the Los Altos main library Feb. 8.
It was a return trip to Los Altos for the senator from Luxor, a Fulbright scholar who spoke at the library in 2010. Dardery specializes in intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
Dardery, who taught English at an Egyptian university, gave a grim account of his country just before the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
“Under Mubarak, someone like me would not even be able to run for election,” he said of his country’s strict oversight. “Someone like me would not have been able to speak truth to power.”
When Dardery dared to criticize the government, he said, “someone physically restrained me and said, ‘If you do not stop talking, we will have to take you out (of teaching at a university and jail you).”
Realizing that he could no longer speak truth in the classroom, Dardery took an indirect route.
“I led the students to see the contemporary implications to the governing of the Egyptian people,” he said.
According to Dardery, Egyptians of all kinds joined in the revolution.
“No one can claim that this revolution belongs to them: rich or poor, men or women, young or old, Muslims or Christians, one political party or another –it belongs to all Egyptians,” he said. “All participated in different ways.”
Dardery said Egyptians long for social justice and democracy.
“We want change through the democratic process,” he added.
The first 18 days of the revolution were “miraculous,” Dardery recalled, with “Muslims and Christians all together – everything was peaceful.”
Ultimately, though, protestors were “only able to take down the head, not the whole system,” he said of the revolution, adding that the revolution would take years to complete. “We all hoped for faster progress.”
Young people graduate from college but have no future, Dardery said, because Egypt’s education system is corrupt.
“Money equals admission,” he noted.
Despite the challenges, Dardery has hope for the future. Egypt, with its 7,000-year history, is “bigger than any one party or institution,” he said.