Over the past week, the global community has been paying close attention to the ongoing unrest and revolution in Egypt. After decades of being ruled by President Hosni Mubarak and his seemingly corrupt government, the people of the historically rich nation took to the streets in hopes of forcing out the dictatorship.
After a week of demonstrations, moderate violence and a government shake-up, the protesters—comprised of Egyptian citizens of all ages and backgrounds—are fighting to get their message heard. The government shut down the Internet, text messages and cell phone services in an effort to silence the protesters and regain control. This came as a direct result of protesters using popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach supporters and plan demonstrations.
However, while the Internet was crucial in the success of the organizers, it was not their only weapon. Without it, they will still be able to carry on with their fight, for as long as they see fit and have the ability to.
For many, including myself, the underlying issue in the shutdown is that it essentially violates human rights as society understands them today. Everyone should be able to have access to the Internet and means of communication with others, no matter what their status or location. While this is not always possible because of financial, geographic or any other number of reasons, it is still something that should not be subject to government interference.
In his address to the country regarding the situation in Egypt, President Obama encouraged President Mubarak and his government to return Internet and cell phone access to the people. He maintained that no government should disturb human rights, such as the freedom of speech and to assemble.
Individuals, no matter who or where they are, should ever worry about their ability to freely and honestly express themselves. By cutting off the Internet, which is arguably the biggest platform for free speech in the modern world, the Egyptian government did nothing to prove that they wanted to listen to the people or that they are actively working towards a better society. Instead, they have now isolated themselves and given the demonstrators more reasons to protest.
Mubarak and his government thought that by cutting off the Internet, they would be able to control what the people were saying about them and successfully end the protests. But revolutions and uprisings occurred before the World Wide Web, although modern technology has made fighting for a cause much easier.
In an article for Wired.com, David Kravets noted that Egyptian journalists estimated that only a quarter of the population even had the Internet prior to the uprising. Although the protests may have started on social networks, they spread by citizens coming together and spreading the word whatever way they could.
The strength of the Egyptian people is something that should be a standard for the rest of the world. Here in the United States, most of us probably could not imagine what it would be like to go even an hour with no Internet or cell phone access. We cannot dream of a government who would be so willing to cut off it’s own people from global communication.
Despite being put in that very situation, the citizens of Egypt are still fighting for what they believe in, for the changes they want to see enacted. As global citizens, we must all stand with them in their time of need and hope that they too will some day live in a country where freedom for all is respected and protected.