from The Water's Edge

Impressions from Cairo

February 1, 2011

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

Protesters take part in an anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir square in Cairo.
Protesters take part in an anti-Mubarak protest at Tahrir square in Cairo. (Suhaib Salem/courtesy Reuters)

Isobel Coleman, director of CFR’s Program on Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy and senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, just returned from Cairo. We sat down for a brief video chat on what she saw on the ground and where she thinks Egypt is headed.

I highly recommend Isobel’s recent book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East . It’s a beautifully written account of how activists in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are working within an Islamic framework to create educational, economic, and political opportunities for women. The stories that Isobel tells will move and inspire you. The challenge for U.S. foreign policy, and for western NGOs, is how to encourage the efforts of the people that Isobel chronicles.

While I am on the topic of Egypt, check out my colleague Rob Danin’s piece explaining why the fall of Jordan’s government today is not a sign that another Arab regime is ready to fall. He does a nice job of explaining why Jordan’s monarchy—and by implication, monarchies elsewhere in the Arab world—rests on firmer ground than autocracies like those in Egypt and Tunisia.