PRAGUE – The famous Czech dissident Jan Urban met a delegation of Egyptian journalists and activists last week to discuss his own experience during the Czech transitional period.
“The world will face a disaster if the Egyptian revolution fails, because its effects have gone beyond the Arab region to affect the whole world,” he said.
The dissident’s name is one to remember from the Velvet revolution. He decided to join Czechoslovakian dissidents during the communist era to demand the rights of the people.
The Velvet Revolution began in November 1989, when peaceful demonstrations spread in Prague, Bratislava, and other Czechoslovakian cities, to protest the communist regime. The first non-communist Czechoslovakian government was appointed on Dec. 10, 1989.
While fighting against the communist regime, he took an oath to himself that he would return to his job as a journalist and quit politics once the regime fell.
Urban did return to journalism a day after Czechoslovakian communism fell.
Now a journalism professor at New York University, Urban said he takes an objective stance towards all governments that came after the revolution, giving him the independence to criticize and analyze the situation in his country.
“Czech journalists committed a crime by not criticizing the post–revolution regime, which resulted in failure of our revolution in the end,” said Urban.
“What happened in Czechoslovakia is different than what’s happening in Egypt,” he said. “The former communist regime lost its popularity and all its allies, but the army was eager to serve a new command, and the police forces as well.”
Despite losing his child during his fight against the communist regime, and facing so many threats on his family from secret services officers, Urban warned Egyptians against focusing on revenge.
“Don’t stop proceeding towards change to look back on Mubarak,” he said. “You are moving radically fast, and if you stop to look behind you, you will tremble.”
Urban added that Mubarak’s trial might take years, and he doubts Mubarak will witness the end of his trial. He said there are things more important than Mubarak’s trial, such as the next parliament and the drafting of the new constitution.
Urban said Czech sometimes feel their revolution failed because they have not gained the fruits of it.
“We feel we have just removed the communists from the regime,” he said.
He explained that it is not important to just remove the dictators, but to develop a vision of leadership.
Urban asserted that the people have to feel a sense of justice to believe that the revolution succeeded.
He said the Velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia opened “the door of freedom,” but only those that seek their own interests passed through it and took power, not the revolutionaries.