This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution. While the widescale protest commenced on the 25th of January, the coup lasted until the eleventh of February 2011. For two weeks, the nation held the world’s attention. The protesters rallied against government abuse and corruption, and thirty years of malfeasance. They were pining for the head of then-President Hosni Mubarak. In particular, his crimes against his political enemies were at the top of their agenda. Cairo’s Tahrir Square became the focal point of the action, much like EDSA in the Philippines. For the uninitiated, the second People Power revolt ousted then-President Joseph Estrada.
A different revolution
Unlike the (generally) placid protests in Manila, the Egyptian version was not a peaceful one. While there was only one fatality at EDSA 2.0, 846 people perished in Cairo and in excess of 6,000, injured. This was a result of the violent encounters between rallyists and security forces. The masses retaliated by setting fire to over 90 cop stations. During the insurrection, Cairo was deemed ‘a war zone’. Moreover, the demonstrations spread to cities around the nation, including Alexandria and Suez. The eleventh of February saw Mubarak resigning from his aerie. He ceded power to the military, which announced the suspending of the constitution, dissolving of Parliament, and military rule for half a year.
Women and the military
Several factors made the movement gain traction. In my post, ‘Anatomising the Egyptian Quandary’, I dealt with the role of media disruption, online activity, and social media. There is little need to rehash those observations. The part that women and the military played also must not be discounted. While the ladies only accounted for ten percent of prior protests, this figure rose up to fifty percent. They made their voices heard, whether veiled or not. The Egyptian Armed Forces were better regarded than their police counterparts. However, as they led the country and clashed with protesters, their reputation nosedived.
Ten years on, what has the mass protests achieved? They deposed their abusive leader, lifting a historic thirty-one-year state of emergency. Mubarak’s cronies at the top were likewise footnotes. Mubarak died under house arrest last year. Before then, he was charged and detained for his crimes. His two sons likewise joined him there. Other abusive government agencies were disbanded or dissolved. Elections took place for the first time in time immemorial. For many Egyptians, this was their initial chance to cast their ballot. The locals discerned their strength in numbers. When the succeeding government was no different, they again took to the streets and gained results. While the old guard has links to Mubarak, their younger brethren are American pawns.
While the late master mind, Mubarak, is the obvious enemy, his toppling did not spell the end of discrimination or corruption. The military has imprisoned over ten thousand enemies of the government. A third of young people are job seekers. Quality of life has not improved for the average Egyptian. However, the masses’ demands for an increased minimum wage has been met. The protesters chanted four main demands: ‘jobs, freedom, social justice, and human dignity.’ The realisation of these claims is still in question. In light of the crisis, Egypt became a no-go zone for expatriates. Foreign nationals were directed to return home. Amnesty International spoke for most when they regarded the heavy-handed approach on protestors as ‘unacceptable’.
The reaction around the world was mixed. Some leaders called for calm but advocated the need for reform. Ex-British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was the first world leader to visit. The resoluteness of the Egyptian masses moved US President Barrack Obama. Then-US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was another early guest. Meanwhile, many states in the area showed sympathy for Mubarak. Among them were the Saudis, which was strongly against the insurrection. The Egyptian masses found friends in Tunisia and Iran. Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged silence but one of his constituents sided with the multitude.
Indeed, this uprising is part of the so-called Arab Spring, where various countries across the Middle East rallied to depose their cruel masters. Tunisia came before Egypt, but neighbouring Libya and Syria followed suit. The Libyan struggle had a violent end for their erstwhile boss, Muamar Ghaddafi. However, the country remains in disarray. Meanwhile, the Syrian example was a far cry from Egypt. While Mubarak resigned, his Syrian counterpart did not. Cairo may have been a ‘war zone’ for a few weeks; Syria has been one ever since. Its citizens have become refugees and Aleppo – the largest city – is unrecognisable. Even with the help of the Americans’ superior weaponry, the masses could not turn the tide.
It’s hard to believe that a full decade has passed since the Egyptians captured the world’s attention. As outlined above, the uprising rates fairly well when compared to others in the region. They have shown the world how it’s done. However, the Egyptian example also shows that rebuilding from the ashes is no simple task. More often than not, the replacement is just another variant of the king you so despised. (See also: Gloria Arroyo in Anatomising the Egyptian Quandary). I remember wandering round this Buddhist exhibit not long since the revolt. The older lady told me that she’s been to Egypt and that it is ‘fairly secular’. However, her visit was a while ago. Regardless, let’s detract nothing from what the masses have accomplished: the limitlessness of possibilities when the multitude works together.