Framingham State University geography professor Dr. Yaser Najjar has been instrumental in helping the university community understand the geopolitical consequences of recent events in the Middle East. Dr. Najjar, an authority on the region, recently spoke on how the relatively peaceful and successful overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime in Egypt has inspired similar revolutions in other Middle Eastern countries.
“Egypt has the largest population of any Arab country, so what happens there carries great weight in the region,” Najjar told a large audience that packed into the McCarthy Center’s Alumni Room recently to hear his lecture. “Democracy is a rare commodity in the region and several other governments are sitting on a similar political volcano.”
Dr. Najjar was educated in Egypt and spent three years living there. He continues to travel back once each year, frequently hosting students wanting to participate in travel and study groups.
Dr. Najjar notes that the unrest in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East puts the United States in the position of having to balance its interests in oil, protecting Israel, and fighting terrorism, against its principles of freedom, universal rights, and democracy. Najjar said that too often in the past the U.S. government has closed its eyes to its principles by supporting authoritative regimes such as Mubarak’s in exchange for furthering the county’s national interests.
“My hope is the U.S. will stand behind the people and not the governments,” he said. “This is a golden opportunity for the U.S. to fully balance our national interests and our principles. The people of the Arab world are hungry for democracy.”
During a recently lecture titled, “Egypt Unrest vs. Egypt Revolution: Spatial Reflections and Implications,” Najjar talked about what led up to the revolution and what the result could mean for the rest of the world.
He said the revolution is the result of many years of authoritarian rule that included constitutional manipulation, rigged elections, and a mis-managed economy that resulted in high poverty rates and a lack of jobs for young people.
Najjar said the real catalyst that sparked the revolution in Egypt was the people of Tunisia, who in January successfully ousted their longtime president.
The only violence that occurred in Egypt came from the pro-Mubarak marchers who feared losing their positions of power under the regime.
Najjar credits the country’s younger people with leading peaceful and respectful protests. “The young people organized the revolution,” he said. “They didn’t follow the traditional opposition party. They brought back dignity and hope. I really believe Egypt is going to prosper and setup a successful democracy.”