Letters: The Egyptian word for democracy is Tahrir

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 6 July, 2013

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Thomas Jefferson once noted that “a little rebellion is a good thing”, and the Arab Spring shows that revolutions can be both contagious and addictive.

Once a population loses its fear and realises that political change can be effected through mass mobilisation, it is much more likely to take to the streets to “defend the revolution”.

In Egypt, 18 days of protest forced Hosni Mubarak from office in early 2011, and further protests in November forced military leader Mohammed Hussein Tantawi to commit to speeding up the transition to civilian government.

At that time, one Egyptian activist told me: “We now have a weapon and that weapon is called Tahrir Square.” It is a weapon the Egyptian people are clearly not afraid to use.

Stefan Simanowitz, London NW3


So when is England going to have a million people on the street, against a Government going beyond any elected mandate?

When is the army here going to arrest these carpetbaggers at the helm?

I hear ours is a mature democracy (as opposed to Egypt’s), so tell me why did we need poll tax riots to change that one?

Notwithstanding their previous record, the army in Egypt has just done its people credit, and I pray for such  action to go viral, with our  stale kleptocracy as the first  in line.

Howard Pilott, Lewes, East Sussex


It may be the worst thing for a fledgling democracy to oust a leader in between elections,  but your cover photo (4 July) shows why this was a case of exceptional circumstances and why democracy might still recover.

When was the last time you saw protests in a predominantly or totally Muslim country where so may people out on the street were women?

These women saw the writing on the wall, and within a year their freedoms and lifestyles had already been dangerously curtailed.

Due to the government’s betrayal of trust, they didn’t have the luxury of waiting until the next election.

Joyce Glasser, London NW3


A democracy has to have at least two things to function.

The first is that it needs to be elected, according to the rules, by a majority of those voting.

The second is that it has to have the tacit consent of those who did not vote for it.

Morsi’s government clearly did not have the latter, and I suggest that it is therefore legitimate for the military to remove him.

Mrs Thatcher’s Government made the same mistake with the poll tax, with violent results; and in relation to education and the NHS in particular, the present Government could be repeating the error. May we again expect violence?

Dudley Dean, Maresfield, East Sussex


Holiday risks for the gay traveller

I searched in vain for some warning in Ben Ross’s article “Virgin Territory in East Africa” (Independent Traveller, 29 June) that were I and my husband to take his advice and holiday in Kenya  we would be at risk of imprisonment during our stay were we to make love.

The Kenyan Penal Code states that sex acts between men are illegal and carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, while a kiss would be regarded as an act of gross indecency and make us liable to imprisonment for five years.

Do you not consider that you have a responsibility in your holiday articles to make it quite clear to any gay people thinking of visiting a country what they are letting themselves in for? It is certainly something that we have to think seriously about.

In every other respect The Independent is very aware and positive about the rights of gay people, but when I read the travel section, it is like stepping back 30 years to a time when there was no political awareness whatsoever.

Alan Wright, Worthing, West Sussex


Tickets plea

First Great Western could do well to investigate the technology used to produce the 1,300-year-old Lindisfarne Gospels (“Gospels go up north”, 29 June) as the company is incapable of producing an annual season ticket that is still legible after three months.

And the automatic ticket barriers that blight railway stations struggle to read tickets older than a few months – but this was technology developed after the Norman invasion.

Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire


Mobile phoners

Ivor Yeloff (letter, 4 July) highlights the risks posed by pedestrians with smartphones. I have observed cyclists talking on a mobile while riding along a pavement. If it is illegal to drive while on the phone, surely this should be applied to cyclists too?

Robin White, Oakley, Hampshire


Crazy place

Alan Pearson’s letter (3 July) concerning the down-and-outs and mentally disturbed people he encountered on his road trip to California failed to mention the psychological state of the remaining 2 per cent of the population.

Charles Peacock, Charlbury, Oxfordshire


Snowden makes Watergate look like child’s play

Woodward and Bernstein exposed Nixon for what is still considered an outrageous misuse of power. Compare that with the exposure by Manning and Snowden of not only the United States government but also our own in an eavesdropping exercise so large that every judge in the western world would be signing warrants for the next millennium for it to be legal.

This makes Nixon’s misdeeds look like a child putting a glass against the wall to overhear the conversation in the next room.

It is time to stand up and be counted with the men who have so bravely exposed this outrageous behaviour. If we are not careful, the jihadists will win their war, as we are slowly turned into nations in fear of our own governments.

John Kersley, Harlow, Essex


In “One more step towards a police state” (letter, 4 July) Julius Marstrand opines that “the damage to Britain’s reputation around the world will far outweigh the damage any terrorist has succeeded in doing”.

I assure Mr Marstrand that I would prefer the world’s various global communications agencies to be able to monitor (remotest of chances) my innocuous and legal personal messages to the more realistic possibility that I and my loved ones be slaughtered by a terrorist act, the planning of which had gone undetected should the world’s security agencies relax their electronic surveillance.

Stevie Gowan, Liverpool


No problem with scantily clad men

If Sara Neill did publish a magazine (letter, 5 July) with photographs of naked men on the front cover, I doubt the average male would care one jot.

Already magazines such as Men’s Health often have photographs of scantily clad males on the front, and I have not heard nor read of any protests from men that they are demeaning.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon


The erect penis is a primary sexual characteristic, and the female equivalent of it is emphatically not a Page 3 girl or lads’ mag pin-up, and is still a censored item (top shelf, sealed packaging).

The proper equivalent of the  pin-up is actually a buff male torso or well-toned gluteus maximus – both there to be admired in many different and readily available magazines for women, men or sports fans, or at any park, pool or beach this weekend.

Perhaps if British women where as relaxed as their northern European counterparts about going topless, the whole business would assume a more sensible perspective.

RS Foster, Sheffield


Checkout staff need a talking to

A supermarket checkout operator refused to serve a customer who was talking on her phone (“Is it rude to pay up while talking on your phone?”, 2 July). Perhaps the same checkout operators could refrain from talking to other customers when they are supposedly serving me.

Sam Boote, Keyworth, Nottingham


Over the decades, when being treated purely as a cash cow by chatting checkout staff, my technique is first to withhold payment until they take notice (it always works), pay, then inform them courteously that their behaviour is not appropriate as their attention should be fully on the customer.

Finally, I ask another member of staff for the manager (this saves holding up the queue of shoppers) and inform them that this is not the level of service you expect from their company. Managers have invariably appreciated the information and apologised.

Unless you draw their attention to sloppy staff behaviour, management can’t improve matters.

Jackie Hawkins, Bedford


Not only are mobile calls discourteous, but so is texting. In a concert recently a young man distracted the audience beside and behind him with his flashes, but he did respond politely to requests, from all sides, to switch the damn thing off. Sitting in the Festival Hall annexe one has a view of the whole audience flickering away high and low. 

Hopefully the artists on stage are too busy to be insulted by this widespread indifference to their performance.

Peter Forster, London N4


The hangover from alcopops

Your feature on the role of the alcohol industry in increasing the allure of candy-flavoured high-strength alcoholic drinks brings business opportunism sharply into focus (Magazine, 29 June).

I came into my job 15 years ago to look after older people with mental health problems. I now find myself picking up the pieces from lives shattered by chronic drinking.

The balance between health and business is still weighted towards the latter. There is already a silent epidemic with alcohol-related harm at the latter end of the lifespan. Let us hope we can save the current generation from chronic ill health from alcohol misuse.

Dr Tony Rao, Chair, Substance Misuse in Older People Working Group, Royal College of Psychiatrists, London SE16