Live From The Greene Space: Regime Change and its Aftermath

Advice for Egypt

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hear audio above, watch the full video here, and check out the slideshow below.

On Friday, The Brian Lehrer Show and It’s A Free Country called a meeting. The agenda: understanding revolution.  At a live event in the Greene Space, people with first-hand experience of revolution from all over the world gathered with interested audience members for an in-depth conversation about what happens after an uprising. Journalists, academics and policy experts were there to inform and be informed by those with their ears to the ground — and to offer advice to Egyptians in the midst of revolution.

Guests today include: 

As well as Shinasi A. Rama, deputy director of the NYU Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy and one of the leaders of the Albanian student movement; Suketu Mehta, New York City-based journalist, professor of journalism at NYU, and author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and FoundNeferti Tadiar, professor and chair of women's studies at Barnard College; Anne Nelson, adjunct associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who's covered revolutions as a journalist in Central America; Omar Cheta, PhD candidate in the departments of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History at NYU; Shiva Sarram, who was eight years old during the 1979 revolution in Iran and the founder of the Blossom Hill Foundation, which works with children affected by conflict.; Gladys Carbo-Flower, recording artist and witness to Cuba's revolution; Didi Ogude, a recent NYU graduate who was ten years old during South Africa's regime change in the nineties; Hesham El-Meligy, a Muslim-American community organizer from Staten Island; and Ali Al Sayed, Egyptian New Yorker and owner of Kabab Café in Little Egypt, Astoria, Queens.

Stephen Reader/WNYC

From left to right: Brian Lehrer, Mona Eltahaway, and Gideon Rose

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"History wears a tragic face," said Simon Schama, University Professor of art history and history at Columbia whose work focuses on revolutions. "That's what it's done. Many revolutions do end in some form of military authoritarianism. This is a moment of extreme delicacy. I know the army have been saintly in protecting the protestors, but armies are not elected—it's a conscript army. Their corporate, collective intstincts are usually nationalist and conservative rather than something that really wants to see a free-flowing open moment of constitutional change. They will stay like soliders are, used to taking a receiving orders, unless they're actually connected with civilians who are prepared to write constitutions and do all this dull stuff, which it takes to actually bring a new democracy to bear."

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"You have widespread unemployment, education but no jobs, and if it turns out they need the West, which they probably will, then they need to be careful," said Benjamin Barber, distinguished Senior Fellow at the New York think tank Demos and Walt Whitman Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Rutgers University. "I know it feels like cold water to say it, but now that they ve been successful, they need to be prepared for the second, much harder phase."

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"The saddest day of my life was Wednesday night, when I saw innocent, peaceful demonstrators sitting in Tahrir Square getting shot at," said Dalia George Abusharr (left), an Egyptian New Yorker. "It was horrible. Today, I want to pay condolences for every person who fell for Egypt. I owe them the freedom, and my children owe them to be proud to be Egyptian and to be part of their roots."

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"The Muslim Brotherhood could become the biggest threat to this revolution, the one party that really turns glorious strife into a neofascist thing," said Youssef M. Ibrahim (right), an Egyptian and a former New York Times Middle East and European correspondent who served as the paper's Tehran bureau chief in 1978-1979. "America should not stay on the sideline now. We should make sure that the revolution continues without being stolen."

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"The revolution has just begun, and we're entering a stage in which there will be a scramble for power," Jeff Goodwin, professor of sociology at NYU, told Brian Lehrer. "The unity that's been there is going to fracture. What glued the opposition together was common hatred and anger against Mubarak. Now that he's gone, all the conflicts of interests, all the differences, all the fissures, they're going to come to the fore."

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"What happened right now has opened can of worms," said Shinasi Rama, deputy director of the NYU Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy and one of the leaders of the Albanian student movement. "It's very dangerous for the revolution but also for the national interests of the United States. Revolutions are won by groups with three characteristics: structure, leadership, and external support. The only groups that have these characteristics are not people in Tahrir Square but the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Nationalist Party. By decapitating the regime, making Mubarak a scapegoat, now we have a junta and there's no reason for protests to continue."


Stephen Reader/WNYC

Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian New Yorker and columnist and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, tweeting and getting in touch with family minutes after receiving word that President Hosni Mubarak would step down.

Stephen Reader/WNYC

"With the return of politics we're seeing now, we can see confusion about the army," said Omar Cheta, PhD candidate in the departments of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History at NYU. "Many young people served in it, and the army, yes, represents nationalism, but doesn't in the way we think about it here in America as some mild form of fascism. Egyptians see the military as a symbol of independence and national pride. The army might be only Egyptian institution that is seen as pro-American but also independent. The American administration can actually expect the army to act in a way that would not be seen as just being a ploy of Americans.


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Comments [17]

Bruce F. from NYC

Mona Eltahawy was arrested in Cairo. Contact the relevant authorities and demand her release:
Egyptian Embassy:
US embassy in Cairo:


Nov. 25 2011 05:33 PM
Neille from Los Angeles

What a great show - you've really outdone yourselves! Thanks Brain Lehrer Show.

Feb. 11 2011 07:49 PM
Louis from Bayside

I'm not sure but I thought it was Benjamin Barber who called Mona Eltahawy "naive" and said it was a complement. Definition of naive is "having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information." I think that comment was inappropriate as the nature of reality is uncertainty and although I do agree with Benjamin that history reveals one political disaster after another, it is very presumptuous to assume what people will do. It reveals a lack of vision with respect to our potential to improve our nature.

Feb. 11 2011 07:16 PM
Good vs. Evil

After 9/11 in NYC we saw the American population's true spirit, in a moment of political and social vacuum.

The spirit was shockingly good. There were no looters, just people coming together to help one another during a moment of truth. As an American, I was so relieved and proud.

Let's hope the people of Cairo, including its leaders and Isamic powers, follow this honorable route! Let's hope no dark masters are plotting to violently consume this vacuum. This is an Arab moment for the millennium and we are watching and hoping.

Feb. 11 2011 05:40 PM
Lucky in Dyker Heights

Brian and company:
I would appreciate viewing the moment when the news of Mubarak's resignation broke in the Greene Space this morning. Perhaps a video excerpt posted on the website or on YouTube?

Feb. 11 2011 01:55 PM
Amy from Manhattan

In response to Prof. Nelson's description of Nicaragua's postrevolutionary gov't., they also improved schools, adult literacy programs, & health services--all of which were neglected (to say the least) by the Somoza regime.

Not only that, but the US imposed an embargo & mined their harbor! 2 q's.: Did the anti-US rhetoric start before or after that? How much of the difficulty the country had was due to its gov't's. approach & how much to ours'?

Feb. 11 2011 12:10 PM
Fafa from Harlemworld

2 Thoughts --

Beware: Machiavelli is in full effect.

And, of course, we are all Egyptians. May this historic event open our eyes to the (increasingly blatant) displays of arrogant, delusional power in our own hoods, and activate us.

Feb. 11 2011 12:09 PM
Laura from Manhattan

Such an EXCELLENT show today.

I think a TRANSCRIPT for posterity is in order.

What would it take to get transcripts of great WNYC programs like this?

Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" has transcripts...why not WNYC?

Many thanks. And.. Congratulations to all involved today.

Feb. 11 2011 12:03 PM
August MacKenzie from New York City

With all the talk, right, wrong, indifference....who shall rule, who shall run Eygpt, and will they
exhange one monster for another.
I hope the Eygptians have the courage to do the right thing for themselves and build a state that is for Eygptians, Now I am listening to some saying that the Moslem Brother ought to take control, here comes Iran once again. Sorry

Feb. 11 2011 11:57 AM
Tuelo Minah from NY, NY

Yes let Mubarak leave. I am a South African who witnessed extreme regime change in South Africa from apartheid white government to majority indeginoues blacks. Many thought that there would be retailation from black people for over 100 years of land grab of white South Africans and over 50 years of apartheid as we new it. It is different it from Egypt in that we had a strong racial divide that was the purpose of South Africans. But the revolution can turn out to be the same quiet transition as South Africans did. There will be fear from the Mubarak side like white South Africans during our governments change but with what I have witnessed of the Egyptian people this revolution can be peaceful. We are still going through the revolution in South Africa, there are many minds to be changed especialy from the white leaders who still hold much of the capital power and see no wrong doing on their part. But I believe the world should give egypt time space to find leaders without Mubarak leading the way, and trust that the voice of the very secular young people can lead.

Feb. 11 2011 11:35 AM
Rebecca from DC

Weird: today is also Islamic Revolution's Victory Day. In any case, tonight is party night for sure.

Feb. 11 2011 11:30 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

I'm confused: if something momentous is actually happening right now, shouldn't Brian Lehrer be on vacation?

Feb. 11 2011 11:13 AM

Technical issue: Link to comments page goes to blank page.

I got here by searching for It's A Free Country on WNYC site.

Might be why there are so few comments?

Feb. 11 2011 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

This pun may never have been more appropriate: The leaders of Egypt are in de Nile.

More seriously, a book from the mid-1980s called "Reluctant Rebels: Comparative Studies of Revolution and Underdevelopment," by John Walton, looked at revolutions including the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya, the Huk rebellion in the Philippines, & La Violencia in Colombia & concluded that a critical element was that the gov't. 1st made some concessions or reforms, raising hopes for the opposition's success, & then returned to severe repression, thwarting those hopes. I wonder if that's what just happened in Egypt, or if worse things, like a violent reaction to the protests, will happen & fuel a more widespead revolution.

Feb. 11 2011 10:51 AM
elaine from LI

You know who is to blame for astroturf? The Jews.

Feb. 11 2011 10:35 AM
benjoya from brooklyn

al jazeera reports that mubarak has left cairo and arrived in sharm al-sheikh

Feb. 11 2011 10:33 AM
amorris from nyc

an informed and informative debate. thank you

Feb. 11 2011 10:25 AM

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