The Egyptian revolution of 25th January had 7 key demands. The main demand was overthrowing of Mubarak’s regime which ruled the country for 30 years and caused much of the decay and corruption Egyptian society is suffering from. Secondly the people demanded to dissolve the parliament that was (s)elected amid extensive fraud and consequently, it did not represent the voice of the Egyptians. The third demand was declared due to extensive tailoring of the constitution to fit the selection of Mubarak’s son as the next President: drafting a new constitution. The fourth and the fifth demands were uplifting the 44 years old imposed emergency law and disbanding of the state security respectively. Bringing to justice all corruption dwellers and all those involved in killing of peaceful protesters was the sixth demand and lastly but not the least forming a civilian democratic government with transparent and free elections.
In this blog, I shall discuss how these main demands, if fulfilled, would affect research status in Egypt. First, education and health were the least of the ex-regime’s priorities. This is evidenced by budget allocation where the ‘ Interior Ministry had 3 times more money than that of health and education combined’ according to Dr Said Sadek; Professor of Sociology at American University in Cairo. Most of the money was directed to safeguard the regime by establishing entities such as the ill renowned State Security which was equipped with latest technologies to spy on Egyptians. This is about to change since many of the presidential candidates ( e.g. : Dr El Baradaie and Mr Bastawessy)emphasized the need to improve higher education and healthcare in their programs. They believe Egypt cannot progress without upgrading scientific research and its facilities.
Another factor enhancing research activities stems from support from many voices to to eradicate corruption from Egyptian society. For example, the 25th January Coalition, formed of primarily of the revolting youth, has repeatedly advocated an end of corruption from Egyptian society. Key words such as transparency and accountability are now all the rage among Egyptians. There have also been TV campaigns and ads encouraging ethical behavior among Egyptians such as no to lying, no to bribery, no to exploitation etc…From my point of view, raising the ethical standards and expectations of society, would serve to legitimize the functions of Research Ethics Committees, as well as enhance investigators’ protocol compliance.
Smothering creativity, innovation and freedom of speech have been common ailments of Mubarak’s era, as evidenced by the combined effect of state security tight control of free thinking and expression and systematic negligence of proper education and research. A famous incident occurred, few years ago, when a high school student was failed, because she dared to express her critical views of Mubarak in an essay of a final exam. Though the student lived in a small city of the Mansoura governorate, her essay was reported to the Minister of Education and State Security who gave orders to fail her in the high school diploma. The issue was resolved by Mubarak himself who, through a benevolent act, refuted the decision.
According to Human Rights Watch 2005 Report, academicians, conducting scholarly research on religious and political topics, are required to submit their research protocols to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAMPAS) for a permit. The CAMPAS General Director of Security requires the duration and the title of the study, the sample size, the methodology and its geographical distribution. The office may request the rephrasing of some questions or complete deletion of others. Permits are also required of investigators conducting research on historic archives, which are usually state-controlled. When and if the permit is authorized researchers are required to submit regular follow up reports. Academicians have mixed reactions to CAMPAS; some view it as a form of censorship while others regard it as another form of government bureaucracy. In both cases, research is much hindered and regulated according to CAMPAS selection criteria.
Disbanding the state security and CAMPAS, reforming higher education, and allowing freedom of expression will directly affect research status, particularly when addressing controversial research, e.g., domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. One famous example in health research is hepatitis C infection. Until the present, there had been no confirmed reports on the origin and causes of the spread of the disease in Egypt. Some claim politics had interfered in properly tackling this national problem. There are mixed reports as to the actual rate of infection and the current percentage of population with the disease. Hopefully instituting a democratic state with more space for thinking, creativity and expression and less fear of violent retribution, researchers would challenge current stagnancy and open their minds to innovation.
I am quite hopeful research would advance in new Egypt. There is so much potential and determination among the Egyptian youth to make this country internationally competitive in the post-Mubarak era.