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Why Egypt's Revolution Is So Different

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', conflict, crime, death, freedoms, Eygpt, government, middle-east, politics, society, world )

- 1957 days ago -
The authentic voice of the Egyptian people was heard without filters and this form of direct action politics put unprecedented pressure on authorities to enact meaningful reforms.

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. (0)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 10:32 am
This writer throws words around without any thought. Egypt did not have a revolution, it had a right wing Brotherhood based take over of the country. A revolution is an overthrow of government rule - yes, that happened all right.
Mubarak is viewed as a dictator, I would put that word in quotes. The nation enjoyed peace during his term, there was a free exchange with Israel, the people viewed the Western world through the internet, and newspapers.
Women were treated with respect, and people did not live in fear of being killed if they disagreed with Mubarak's policies. In terms of a standard of living, Egyptians enjoyed freedoms almost equal to the Jordanians.
Now, I wonder, what percentage of people want the "dictator" back?

Kit B (276)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:23 pm

Well Allan, you really should get a job working for Fox news. That was more disinformation in a short paragraph than one can get in most of your comments.

Roger G (154)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:24 pm
noted, thanks !

Kit B (276)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:26 pm
Photo: guardian uk

Entering the third year of the revolt in Egypt, no amount of repression seems able to contain the swelling pressure exploding throughout the country the last several weeks. In fact, protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohammed Morsi seem to be gaining support. The truth is, the revolution in Egypt is deeper and more profound than any of the other valiant examples of the Arab Spring.

“We are not always coming together in protests,” 28-year old unemployed accountant, Saber, told me as he arrived for a demonstration in Tahrir Square last week. “Most workers have families which they must feed, so they go to work. Other youth, like myself, have nothing to lose. Our future is past.”

As Saber explains, political sympathy among the population cannot always be measured in the size of the recurring protests. But for sure, the rebellion remains alive.

When Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship fell on Feb. 11, 2011, the decayed state structures collapsed along with him. Social and political institutions running Mubarak’s regime were in complete shatters. His regime was exposed as a very thin layer of corrupt officials and family friends.

His political party was outlawed, his parliament dissolved, his cabinet disbanded, local municipal councils in disarray and his secret police dispersed. Significantly, Mubarak’s national labor federation, already thoroughly discredited, had its national leadership temporarily dismissed as well.

All these steps occurred under pressure of the mass revolt.

This sweeping disintegration was unique to Egypt and it had revolutionary consequences because the political and social void was filled by an energized people raising demands unrestrained by residual conservative institutions and parties.

The authentic voice of the Egyptian people was heard without filters and this form of direct action politics put unprecedented pressure on authorities to enact meaningful reforms.

The 500,000-strong army was the only Mubarak institution left standing. It was also quite unscathed because it had historically avoided conflicts with the population, leaving that abhorrent chore to the despised Ministry of Interior security force.

It was left to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), therefore, to fill the empty political space. There was no credible alternative representing the old order.

But, as it turned out, the prestige enjoyed by the army did not last out the year. Protests against military violence and arbitrary military trials grew increasingly larger until the Muslim Brotherhood government finally took over in 2012.

Now this government, after only six months in power, faces the same stiff resistance to its rule as did the military.

Direct Action Prevails over Parliamentary Debates

Yet, the struggle continues at a high level in Egypt because, as I argue, the unfiltered voice of the people is being heard through the organization of street protests.

By contrast, in Tunisia, a massive trade union confederation helped lead the revolt. It became a huge factor in initially stabilizing and giving credibility to the new post-revolutionary regime and Parliament. Currently, however, this government is undergoing severe criticism for failing to lead the country out of economic stagnation and for including many remnants from the regime of ousted dictator Ben Ali.

Nonetheless, despite its current problems, there was definitely a period of stabilization and broad acceptance of the initial transition in Tunisia that simply never emerged in Egypt.

In fact, the new Egyptian Parliamentary elections in 2011 were immediately met with controversial charges of Muslim Brotherhood manipulation. The reputation of the newly elected parliament was further eroded after legislators failed to enact even one meaningful reform.

Even an increase in the minimum wage was enacted in 2011 by a court, not by parliament. And there are credible charges that the government has since actually obstructed its implementation.

As a result, millions have no confidence in the governing institutions reconstructed since Mubarak.

Unsolved Economic Tasks of the Revolution

Democratic and justice concerns of Egyptians are compounded by growing concerns for the third demand of the Jan. 25, 2011 revolt – bread!

The economy has actually worsened since Mubarak fell. The Egyptian pound suffered seven percent inflation since December, tourism is down some 20 percent, petrol subsidies have been reduced and President Morsi very cautiously floated in December possible sales tax hikes, food and commodity subsidy reductions and cuts in the number of state employees as a result of International Monetary Fund loan stipulations.

Furthermore, according to Stanford University historian Prof. Joel Beinin, “the Muslim Brothers embrace the same neoliberal policies favored by the Mubarak regime and, if anything, envision an even more expansive program of privatization of public assets.”

When I cited World Bank statistics claiming 40 percent of Egyptians live on two dollars a day, Mohammed, a thirty-two old Cairo physical therapist with two children, immediately interrupted me to say that it is “below two dollars a day now! Doctors working in a hospital like me, we must work three jobs with four or five extra shifts and even then I have to postpone paying all my bills to the last minute.”

His friend, Mahmoud, is also a doctor and agreed. “It is worse now. The rich are still rich but the poor are more poor. And, when John Kerry came to Egypt, he met with Morsi and other top leaders. He did not meet with poor people like us. The U.S. likes to support those in charge.”

Asked if people are getting tired from all the protests, Mohammed matter of factly responded that “we will not get tired because nothing has changed.”

Saber, the unemployed accountant, explained further: “We chose Morsi. We thought his religion would make him more compassionate and he would listen to us. But now after six months, it is worse. So we come back to Tahrir to make another revolution.” And he very consciously added in response to my questions about the government, the military and the parliament that “we must do this ourselves.”

Thus, the voices heard in Tahrir and in protests throughout the country demanding genuine democracy, real social justice and significant economic improvements hold more credibility among the majority of Egyptians than any of the institutions of power and it is this reality that keeps the rebellion growing.

But history also teaches us the hard lesson that state institutions representing old elite powers, no matter how unresponsive, can recover by disguising their goals and by making compromises with sections of their opposition whose economic interests are not so very different from their own.

Of course, this would mean once again that the majority of Egyptians would be left out in the cold.

As an alternative, a new Egypt can arise when the youth, unemployed, women and working class, sharing similar economic objectives, unite nationally in a new, mass political force that combines electoral and direct action mobilizations challenging the power of the elite to finally establish a democratic, just and economically prosperous society benefiting the majority.

The future of this great country will be determined by which social force, the bottom or the top, actually succeeds in filling the political void that so far has made Egypt’s revolution so unique and so powerful.

By Carl Finamore, BeyondChron | Op-Ed | Truthout

Angelika R (143)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:40 pm
ISN'T it nice when concerned members are extremely fast to jump in with high profile comments before one can even submit the article into comments section-we love that, yeah! (happened to me,too)

Thanks Kit! The world keeps watching what will happen there, we just hope and wish for the best!

Angelika R (143)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:46 pm
I think Egypt was simply in lack of an ideal candidate, many of those who voted for the now president did it not full heartedly but also as sort of "the lesser evil".. most did NOT want an Islamic Sharia state, nor a military rule nor inexperienced journalists etc and the choice of candidates was not really perfect.

Kit B (276)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:52 pm

As I understand it Angie, there was a minor (23%) turn out for this election. Though Morsi may still retain some popularity with those who voted for him, the majority are not. Mubarak was not popular with the people and they finally had lived under enough repression and fear. That it may take a while for things to reach a level of democracy and freedom that many want is not a surprise.

Angelika R (143)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 1:52 pm
We also remember the much disputed election result... recounts etc-who knows..

Mike S (86)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 4:45 pm
Thank you for this great article Kit. I support and wish the people of Egypt success in their struggle for true democracy, equality and freedom for all.


pam w (139)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 5:20 pm
Egypt hasn't had any experience with democracy or even the process to achieve it! We can only support them as they work out their destiny. OF COURSE there will be hard resistance from the Muslim Brotherhood....Islam HATES democracy. The Egyptian people, however, may have other ideas.

I hope so.

JL A (281)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 6:52 pm
Repression keeps people down only so much and for so long when there is a taste for something more--that spirit clearly remains in Egypt, which is a multifaceted and complex society with elements without counterparts in the US making overly simplistic comparisons fall on their face (after the laughter ends).

Beth S (330)
Sunday February 10, 2013, 10:28 pm
Well I am glad to see that the people of Egypt have not settled for an Islamic theocracy, which I hope they thoroughly defeat. The Islamic Middle East needs to trash its theocracies, thugocracies, kelptocracies and autocracies. Hopefully they can evolve into true democracies, and Egypt is badly in need of one. So good luck to the people in achieving that. As they say, people often get the types of governments they deserve.

Ben Oscarsito (153)
Monday February 11, 2013, 5:56 am
"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere"
(Nelson Mandela)

Abdessalam Diab (145)
Monday February 11, 2013, 8:14 am
Allan Yorkowitz
It is obvious that you have no idea about what was going on in Egypt under Mubarak at least during the last 10 years . It seems that your first interest isHundreds of thousand of $$ had been smuggled abroad in his accounts abroad together with his wife and two sons. He was planning to put his son as a president in the September,12011 elections. If the Egyptian revolution in January 2011 could put an end to only this plan,then it is a victory for Egyptians. May be the good thing and the bad thing at the same time is that there wasn't a leadership for that revolt to take over when Mubarak stepped down> The absence of that leadership at that time gave a chance to Muslim brotherhood and other Islamic political current who were well organized working under earth.
I am sorry I can't agree with you that " people did not live in fear of being killed if they disagreed with Mubarak's policies." NO sir opponents of Mubarak were put in prisons,tortured and even killed. Don't forget that during the revolution against Mubarak hundreds of protesters were killed by snipers and under police armored viechles specially on January 25,26 and 28 ,2011 and after that on 2 and 3 February 2011. That is why he and his minister in charge of police were sentenced to life prison. Many of his assistants are still being under trial in courts for corruption.
Egyptians were living in fear and only by that revolt they got rid of fear for ever.Egyptians still
view the Western world through the internet, and newspapers. Women are part of the revolution and despite all attempts of the present rulers they are still fighting together hand in hand with men to get rid of the present rulers and get Egypt back to what it deserves and what it used to be as a leader of the Arab world.
I assure you sir that the great majority of Egyptians are against Mubarak and his regime remenants in spite of the economic difficulties they might face.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Monday February 11, 2013, 3:09 pm
Thanks again Kit.

Birgit W (160)
Monday February 11, 2013, 3:42 pm

marie C (163)
Monday February 11, 2013, 4:32 pm
Dear Pam I hope so too we just have to wait and see
Thanks Kit

Alexander Werner (53)
Monday February 11, 2013, 7:39 pm
Abdessalam, to you like to a member of Egyptian Muslim majority the Muslim Brotherhood does not represent a direct threat. But that Brotherhood does present a threat to other groups of population: Mubarak protected Christians better than Morsi.

I am waiting to see if Morsi will be able to ensure that economy is doing at least the same, as under Mubarak. If not, and Egyptian reserves are wasted on populist measures, extremism and militancy will spead, and your country will be basically go down the drain.

Billie C (2)
Tuesday February 12, 2013, 1:24 pm
egypt went from the flying pan into the fire. obama has helped make it worse for the people of egypt. he's given our tax dollars to a bunch of muslim terrorists and now he's giving them our fighter jets. they will be used against our allies and us. wall off the muslim idiots and let them rot. obama needs to stop giving our money to terrorists and take those jets back. if he wants to love muslims so much let him go live in a muslim country.
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