Small-screen video clips of Middle Eastern protests just can't capture the magnitude of the political seismic shift taking place there, says one Middle East expert with ties to Weber State University.
"Earth-shaking changes are occurring in the Middle East," said Omar Kader, an expert in Middle Eastern culture who is a Provo native and Virginia resident.
"They are ushering in an era of democracy that will affect them -- and the world -- in very dramatic ways."
The protesters' goal is to gain human rights, Kader said. Young people born under the oppressive authoritarian rule are risking death by challenging the system in hopes of improving conditions. "There's no freedom of speech or privacy, no freedom of movement, and all the elections are fixed in advance."
"There's no democratic process. The Parliaments are rubber stamps to the dictators. Behind the scenes, the military has all the power. It was illegal to own a gun, sometimes illegal to travel, and there's no freedom of assembly.
"It's the opposite of American in every way."
Kader travels often to the Middle East, once with President Bill Clinton, who was there for peace talks. For about 17 years, Kader has visited Ogden twice a year to conduct foreign policy workshops for WSU students.
On Friday, an estimated 1 million Egyptians packed Cairo's Tahrir Square, the site of weeks of bloody protests against the country's authoritarian government.
Kader knew it was coming.
"I heard last Monday that if things were not moving forward, the protesters would come out again as a warning: 'Don't trifle with us. We have had enough of your promises. We want results.' "
Kader believes the protesters in Egypt are not going to get what they want, at least not when they want it.
"They've got to dismantle a police state," said the founder and owner of Planning and Learning Technologies who is also an advocate for international education.
"You have to literally tear down before you build. What do you do with a powerful military that you still need, and the 75-year-old guy in charge of it (Muhammad Tantawi, head of the military council now running Egypt)?
"There are 50 years separating him and the young protesters. He's been there too long. He is fossilized."
Kader doesn't expect resolution or peace anytime soon. Anti-government protests continue in other countries in the region, including Bahrain, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Jordan, Algeria and Iraq.
Expectations changed with the Internet generation, Kader said. Young people got a glimpse of the good life of their peers in capitalist counties. Some traveled for education and witnessed the availability of food, jobs, housing, health care and the opportunity to better one's life, all without the need to bribe corrupt government officials.
"Egyptians were tired of watching people all over the world living better lives than them," Kader said. "They saw it on TV and in movies and online."
William Furlong, a political science professor at Utah State University in Logan, agrees that the web increased discontent.
"They see they are in a country where the authoritarian governments benefit some, and others don't get anything," he said.
"There's a very big gap between the rich and the rest. Egypt has been a powder keg for a while. Under the conditions, people will take to the streets if some triggering event happens."
For Egypt, Kader said, that triggering event came in June, when two undercover police officers believed Khaled Said, 28, observed them accepting a bribe, videotaped it and posted it on the Internet.
Said was dragged out of an Internet cafe and beaten to death. Someone else recorded the attack, took a picture of the dead man and posted it online.
"The fact that kid could be beaten to death and nobody would raise a finger enraged people," Kader said. "It was an attack on freedom and the dignity of a human reaching a low point."
It was the last straw in a culture where corruption was the norm, food and education were unavailable, sanitation was poor, and 10,000 youths in college would never find a job, he said.
Kader believes many Middle Eastern countries are headed toward some form of democracy, but the transition will be long and hard. In countries where rebellion has been suppressed for so long, there are no new leaders waiting in the wings.
And if governments are required to provide more public services, taxation will be unavoidable and will be unpopular in nations already crippled by poverty.
"I don't see changes happening fast enough for the protesters, so I don't think the protests will stop anytime soon."