On November 8th, the School of International and Public Affairs welcomed the Honorable Mohamed Tawfik, Ambassador of Egypt to the United States, for a captivating lecture on Egypt’s political future. As part of the Ruth K. and Shepard Broad Distinguished Lecture Series and co-sponsored by the Middle East Studies Program, Ambassador Tawfik’s presentation focused on Egyptian stability, security and the long road ahead toward democracy. Having served as Egypt’s ambassador to several countries such as Lebanon, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Tawfik is a career diplomat who brings a unique perspective to the transitions that have recently occurred in Egypt.
Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik began his lecture by explaining how Egypt is a country rich in history, and that in order to understand the country, one must be familiar with all the different perspectives of that history. He metaphorically describes Egypt as one book containing thousands of other books, referring to the many perspectives of the country regarding its people, its political trajectories and its religious background. Keeping his lecture concise to allow for questions, Ambassador Tawfik touched upon the recent revolution in Egypt that has seen protests, violence and two political figures removed from power, Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi; all in less than three years. He attributes these events to pressing issues within the region, “One of the reasons for such unrest in Egypt is that people are tired of being misrepresented. The Egyptian people need a government that will represent them, that does not work for one particular group but rather, works for Egypt as one.” Additionally, Ambassador Tawfik stressed the fact that young Egyptians are suffering because there is no opportunity for them in their country, where years of economic stagnation coupled with political disenfranchisement have produced unprecedented civil unrest. Egyptians, according to Tawfik, want a new a constitution that will move Egypt away from extremism and toward democracy and the rule of law; and which will give them a political voice.
Tawfik gives his concluding statements by saying that as of now the plan for his country is to draft a new constitution, which will be reviewed by parliament and then put to referendum. Another presidential election will then follow. To go through this process smoothly, Tawfik believes that Egypt needs to work through the issue of politics and religion. This constant struggle has caused violence and unrest amongst Egyptians. To solve this issue, the Egyptian ambassador suggests that, “We need to deal with the past. We need to deal with the suffering that Egyptians have gone through, and we need to finally reconcile with each other in order to retrieve our nation.” Tawfik concludes his lecture by saying that the main challenge in Egypt now is to end the violence. He believes that Egyptians are realizing that appealing to violence is not only destabilizing but counterproductive to building an Egypt worthy of its citizens. Restoring the rule of law is the first step in the direction towards a fair and democratic nation. Ending his lecture on a positive note, Ambassador Tawfik then fielded questions from the audience. One of the more compelling questions asked by a student was, “What do you believe should be America’s role in aiding Egypt right now?” Ambassador Tawfik answered by saying that the U.S. does in fact have a role as a moral authority. He believes that people need to understand that the U.S. cannot impose its will on other countries. Instead, he encourages the U.S. to remain engaged, but in a way that respects the integrity of both Egyptians and Americans. Through his lecture and answers to students, Ambassador Tawfik was able to give a positive outlook for Egypt’s future, made possible through the promise of peace and cooperation.