VILNIUS - Egypt is a popular tourist destination for Lithuanians. On Feb. 8, during the peak of uncertainty about Egypt’s future and after the regime-organized thugs’ attacks on demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the most popular Lithuanian-language Internet site, delfi.lt, asked its readers if they plan to go to Egypt for vacation. Eight percent said that they had already spent their vacation there, while another eight percent said that they planned such a vacation but changed their mind. However, seven percent said that they will go there anyway. Therefore, Egypt is not an unknown land for the average Lithuanian and the events in Cairo provoked some interest as well as some Lithuanian congratulations to the Egyptians on the Internet.
On Feb. 11, at 18:00 Baltic and Cairo time, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said, “President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down” and the Arab world’s cheerful Internet chorus sent their “Mabrouk!” which is the word for congratulations in Arabic, to the Egyptians via Twitter and Facebook. That chorus was joined by the public statements from U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Actually, the pro-democracy speech by Obama, at Cairo University in June, 2009 (which, unlike his speech at Moscow University in July, 2009, was shown on local TV), probably somewhat galvanized the youth in Cairo for such a revolt.
On Feb. 12-17, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis visited the USA to hold meetings with the U.S. administration officials and members of the U.S. Congress. He stated that Lithuania’s incumbent Presidency of the Community of Democracies is ready to initiate the joining of this intergovernmental organization by Egypt, provided that the country will decide to choose the path of democracy. From mid-2009 to mid-2011, Lithuania holds the Presidency of the Community of Democracies, which joins together more than 100 countries. The Community aims to promote and strengthen democracy and democratic institutions around the world. On June 30 - July 1, the next ministerial meeting of the Community of Democracies will be held in Vilnius, where the heads of state, foreign ministers and MPs as well as representatives of non-governmental and youth organizations will arrive. Azubalis stated that sustainable and irreversible transition to democracy, free and fair elections as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are a common goal of the democratic world and the Egyptian people. It is also worth mentioning that the Egyptian military reassured that they will keep the Islamists under control.
The Lithuanian media paid some attention to the Egyptian revolt, which has many similarities with the Lithuanian singing revolution of 1989-1991: on Sept. 27, 1988, the Soviet police tried to disperse with sticks the anti-Soviet demonstrators in Vilnius, while in January 1991, the Moscow-organized thugs attacked the Lithuanian pro-democracy crowds, although there was a significant difference: Mubarak did not send tanks against his people, while the Soviets used tanks against the people in Vilnius in January 1991. During the revolt in Egypt, the daily Lietuvos Rytas published a diary titled “January after 20 years,” which was written by Lithuanian Ausra Lukosiuniene, who now lives in Cairo with her family. On Jan. 31, her six-year old son, who was watching a live broadcast from Tahrir Square on TV, asked her, “Mom, what is government and what is dignity?”
Lukosiuniene wrote in her Cairo diary, “We answered this question to ourselves in January 1991. After 20 years, Egypt searches for an answer.”