Egyptian Revolution 2.0?

Thousands of protesters came back to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday. Despite the sometimes dark depictions of continuing unrest in the Western press, from all accounts the atmosphere was light and carnivalesque.

Crowds chanted, “No parties, no Muslim Brotherhood! The Egyptian people are in the square!” (La ahzab, la Ikhwan! Al-Sha’b al-Misri fi al-Maydan!” according to al-Ahram. That is, these activists were worried about the revolution being coopted by the parties and fundamentalists active before January.

Sample Tweet:

‘_safi__ Safi: Excellent! Numbers still up in #Tahrir this is officially a sit in, people singing, smiling :) #july8 ‘

and:

’25Egypt يوم الحرية
ائتلاف شباب الثورة: محاكمات علنية وشفافة وتطهير وزارة الداخلية شرطان لفض الاعتصام #Egypt #July8 #Jan25 #Tahrir

That is to say, the Coalition of Revolutionary Youth [demands] open trials, transparency and cleansing the ministry of the interior, as two conditions for ending the demonstration.

Or this, from early morning Saturday:

‘ sarrahsworld Sarrah
#tahrir still closed,no traffic. Thousands sitting in. Post midnight,the square is very much lively. More ppl coming to join the sit in :)

Many tents were set up, and tweets such as “this time we are here to stay” made clear the organizers’ intention to remain in the square and to put pressure on the interim military government of Air Marshal Husain Tantawi to move to democracy more quickly and to try corrupt officials.

Sympathy demonstrations were held in Alexandria, Suez, Sohag Kafr Shaikh and Aswan, according to al-Ahram–i.e. up and down the Nile Valley.

The huge demonstrations show that the sentiments and spirit that animated the revolution last winter against Hosni Mubarak yet survive, and now challenge the Tantawi caretaker government. If you compare this moment to the changes in Tunisia, it is clear that the Tunisia elite is further ahead than the Egyptian one. They brought in a prime minister who is widely respected and was not close to the old regime and have already tried the former dictator, Zine El Dine Bin Ali, and convicted him in absentia. Similar processes in Egypt are taking so long that many Egyptians are infuriated with the transitional government in a way that most Tunisians are not.

In Egypt, the trade unions are essential actors and potential partners for the other revolutionaries.

Aljazeera English has a video report:

The Egyptian Revolution is not over, and we could still see major changes.

7 Responses

  1. Professor Cole – on a more pessimistic note, I think the turnout of yesterday’s protests were far fewer than expected. If you compare them to the last ‘Day of Rage’ on 27 May, when Islamist activist groups like the MB officially boycotted the demonstrations (though MB youth activists ended up coming anyway), I don’t think yesterday’s were much larger, even with broad-based participation that included the MB. We were expecting these numbers to be truly huge, as we saw during the revolution. Instead, I think this might be a sign of the growing division between the activists, who want to maintain the momentum of the revolution and continue pressuring the SCAF, and the ordinary Egyptians, especially older working men and women, who just want life to return to normal.

  2. link to vanityfair.com

    The Kingdom and the Towers
    Was there a foreign government behind the 9/11 attacks? A decade later, Americans still haven’t been given the whole story, while a key 28-page section of Congress’s Joint Inquiry report remains censored. Gathering years of leaks and leads, in an adaptation from their new book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan examine the connections between Saudi Arabia and the hijackers (15 of whom were Saudi), the Bush White House’s decision to ignore or bury evidence, and the frustration of lead investigators—including 9/11-commission staffers, counterterrorism officials, and senators on both sides of the aisle.

    Hi Juan,

    Maybe you have already seen this article but it seems very well researched and raised very disturbing issues. Will you post anything regarding this matter?

  3. I support David’s view above, and am optimistic as well. Anyone who studies history knows that political change of any magnitude takes a long time. Which is because political change of any magnitude involves the majority of a society each changing his or her personal world view (map, mind-set, attitude) for life; to include one’s world view for what is a proper and acceptable way for a government to operate. And any personal world view modification takes time.

    Egyptians have lived in a culture that didn’t accept individuality, didn’t accept personal freedom, was very much oriented to living within the parameters of the section of society in which you were born and live, for their entire multi-thousand year history. Obviously they now want individual freedom for each to pursue her own destiny, free of an impedance from one’s family, friends, community, culture or government. But that involves a huge shift in personal responsibility over what was there before. And that shift is not going to occur through demonstrations in any public square. Such demonstrations are good to provide fuel for the soul, to steel the soul for the hard work necessary to transform how one operates in one’s daily activities. The function of the government is going to be based on the current state of people’s worldview modifications, not on the numbers present in demonstrations.

    I wouldn’t expect real change in the draconian and corrupt nature of the government until after there are new elections for president and parliament, and the new government has become used to governing. And then it will probably take several versions of parliament and presidents before a real viable democracy is in place in Egypt. Until then I wish the Egyptian people the best.

    • I agree with your comment and think that many people (some of whom should know better) are so euphoric at seeing the reign of authoritarianism in the Middle East start to come undone that they start believing that the end of it is going to come before the beginning of the end is over.

      • Mubarak was the big bad guy at the end of the level in a video game.

        Yay, they beat the bad guy! They cleared that level!

        On to the next level. Beep bop boop bop!

    • We might compare this to the Chartist movement in Britain, in which huge protests went on for decades in the early 19th century just to accomplish the purpose of expanding the right to vote from 1% of the male population to 3%. However, that small early success rolled on after the Chartists, such that by the end of that century 90% of males could vote, and not many years later women gained the vote – thus putting British democratic participation ahead of the Jim Crow USA.

      Remember, that was in what was supposed to be the wealthiest, most powerful and advanced country in the world.

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