On May 7, the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) hosted Egyptian activist Ahmed Salah who spoke about the series of events that led up to the Egyptian revolution and the current struggles the country faces in realizing its revolutionary goals. Salah, an alumni of the 2011 Draper Hills Summer Fellowship at CDDRL, has been at the forefront of the revolutionary movement in Egypt. He has been involved in the launch of opposition groups and movements since 2005, including the April 6 Youth Movement and Kifaya (Enough!), both of which played roles in organizing and mobilizing the forces behind the revolution.
Salah returned to Stanford as part of a larger speaking tour across the U.S., to raise awareness and support for the democratic development of Egypt. With the military undermining the goals of the revolution, the constitution-writing process stalled, and a rush towards presidential elections, Salah emphasized the critical moment Egypt faces in its transition towards democracy.
Forced into exiled for his activism, Salah has sought temporary refuge in the U.S. and is dedicating his time to building awareness and advocacy for his cause through the Coalition of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Washington D.C. and beyond.
Addressing the CDDRL seminar, Salah recalled the defining moments of the January revolution, “Getting into Tahrir in the morning, the stench of tear gas was so strong, all these burning vehicles and buildings all around - blood - pools of blood in different locations, and protestors were coming in, again.”
Salah was instrumental in co-devising and implementing the plan leading up to the revolution and has been subject to arrest, incarceration, and abuse as a result of his actions. He described being beaten and his nose broken when a gang of thugs surrounded him in Tahrir Square, and another incident when he was targeted by a sniper firing into a crowd of protestors. He escaped with his life but was not as lucky as thousands of other activists.
As the country faces a crucial period of political transition with presidential elections approaching, Salah emphasized the fact that candidates have not had enough time to campaign, leaving voters with an incomplete picture of the competing platforms. He cited examples of direct vote rigging and manipulation in the parliamentary elections and stressed the importance of ensuring a transparent process when electing Egypt's first post-revolutionary president. While Salah recognizes the shortcomings of the transition period, he endeavors to ensure that the goals of the revolution and the activists who made great sacrifices are fully realized in the long-run.