Fomenting Democracy: From Poland’s Solidarity to Egypt’s Tahrir Square
It’s been twenty-five years since the ultimate victory of the Solidarity movement in Poland, a revolution that ultimately led to the fall of communism. Adam Michnik, a Solidarity activist jailed by the Polish communist regime for his dissident activities, and now among Poland’s most prominent public figures, discusses the legacy of that revolution with Yasmine El Rashidi, a young intrepid Cairo-based journalist whose essays and articles on the (unfinished) Egyptian revolution were nominated for an Amnesty International Media Award. Can a velvet revolution offer any useful lessons to a bloody one?
Adam Michnik is the founder and editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, a daily often referred to as “The New York Times of Eastern Europe.” He is among Poland’s most prominent public figures, with a distinctive voice dedicated to dialogue, tolerance, and freedom. He spent a total of six years in prison between 1965 and 1986, detained by the Communist Polish regime for his dissident activities as a prominent “Solidarity” activist. In 1989, he participated in the Round Table Talks, which resulted in Poland’s nonviolent transition to democracy, and he served as a deputy in Poland’s first non-communist parliament (1989-1991). He is the author of several books and countless essays, analyses, and interviews. His four books in English include: Letters from Prison (1987); The Church and the Left (1993); Letters from Freedom ( 1998); In Search of Lost Meaning ( 2011); and The Trouble with History (2013). Among his many honors are the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the Order of the White Eagle Ðthe highest distinction attainable in Poland. He regularly travels throughout the world, giving lectures on democracy, totalitarianism, and the paradoxes and dilemmas of contemporary politics. He lives in Warsaw.
Yasmine El Rashidi Rashidi
Yasmine El Rashidi is an Egyptian writer. She is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a contributing editor to the Middle East arts journal Bidoun. A collection of her writings on the Egyptian revolution, The Battle for Egypt, was published in 2011, and her essays feature in the anthologies Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The New York Review Abroad: Fifty Years of International Reportage. Her writing on the revolution was nominated for an Amnesty International Media Award, and she was a 2013 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Centre for the Arts. She lives in Cairo.
Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and former roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. In recent years, Shuster has helped shape NPR’s extensive coverage of the Middle East as one of the leading reporters to cover this region Ð from Iraq, to Iran, and Israel. His 2007 week-long series “The Partisans of Ali” explored the history of Shi’ite faith and politics, providing a rare, comprehensive look at the complexities of the Islamic religion and its impact on the Western world. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his reporting, including an Overseas Press Club Lowell Thomas Award. He was NPR’s senior Moscow correspondent in the early 1990s, when he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and a wide range of political, economic, and social issues in Russia and the other independent states of the former Soviet Union.
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