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A confluence of factors got me thinking about Egypt, including the recent reprise on KQED of “Egypt’s Golden Empire.” Marking the anniversary of the Tahrir Square protests which led to the ouster of its dictator Hosni Mubarak included reading several books by Egyptian author Alaa Al Aswany. Known for his novels which include “Chicago” and “The Yacoubian Building,” together with his short stories collected in “Friendly Fire,” it was his book of essays about political repression in everyday life, “On the State of Egypt,” which was most compelling.

What we too often take for granted here in the United States, including freedom of political expression and contested elections, was missing from Egypt and most of the Middle East for far too long. The arrival of democracy in Egypt and elsewhere is still shaky as evidenced by deadly riots and continued military rule. It must also be tempered with knowing that things are worsening in places such as Syria.

Yet as Alaa Al Aswany concluded his thoughtful essays which called-out corruption and witnessed brutality of the Mubarak regime – “Democracy is the solution.”

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