Egypt: 5 Years After the Revolution
by Isha Lele and Gigi Protasiewicz
On January 25th, 2011, Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, flooded with millions of protestors and demonstrators that demanded the government for their freedom and dignity back in means of social justice. The protesters called for the president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, to step down from office for reasons including high economic instability and rampant police corruption. During the three weeks of mass protest until Mubarak finally stepped down on February 11th, the regime’s police force met the civilians with tear gas and water cannons. With rising anger of the citizens and new international pressures, Mubarak finally stepped down and handed power to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. In the absence of the old president and encouraged by the fact that charges were being pushed against him for the killing of innocent protesters, many hopeful citizens and activists saw the potential for a more peaceful and stable nation.
Today, more than 5 years since the end of the revolution, some Egyptians fear that their country has come full circle, back to a place of despotic rule and instability. After fully denouncing Mubarak and driving him out of office, Egyptians selected Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood party as their first elected president after long waited, fair elections. The policies of him and his party, though, soon drew criticism as seeking to impose religious rule and eliminate political competition; again, protesters began to fill the streets. The Muslim Brotherhood party was even declared a terrorist organization by countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as result of the rule, making citizens of Egypt even more outraged. In the wake of this turbulence, the military stepped in, overthrowing Morsi and seizing power for former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the youngest member of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.
The power grab of new leader al-Sisi proved quite violent, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Morsi’s supporters and the imprisonment of thousands of protesters and journalists. As the new government established itself, it chose to pursue repressive policies, more self-aware of the potential for revolution than Mubarak’s government ever could have been. For example, Sisi’s government has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of Morsi, and routinely imprisons and tries journalists for investigating its actions. Moreover, police forces, who have given themselves the authority to arrest people without charges, often badly mistreat detainees whom they have thrown in prison. Promoting further dissatisfaction among Egyptians is the country’s persistently stagnant economy, one of the reasons for which they originally launched protests against Mubarak’s rule.
Currently, unemployment is at 12%, compared to 9% before Mubarak’s ouster. Additionally, tourism revenues have fallen dramatically, down about 35% in 2015 compared to 2010 before the revolution. In light of such troubling aspects of the new regime, it is evident that the root causes of the 2011 revolution have not been addressed. In fact, clearly some of these problems have been exacerbated in the past five years. In considering the similarities of Egypt’s two recent repressive governments, it might be easy to lose faith in the power of the revolution, and wonder if the country will ever come to achieve its own goals. However, it is plain to see that authoritarian regimes cannot be truly stable; in the modern era, their policies only fuel anger and protest, sparking a cycle of censorship that reaches its inevitable end with tremendous violence and conflict. Despite tensions both within the country and bordering neighbors, Egypt has been able to best stick to their new unitary, semi-presidential republic and try to persevere to reach their greatest potential as a nation.