Research Paper on
Arabic Spring with Special Focus on Egypt
Arab Spring started in December 2010 and engulfed the entire Arab peninsula in very short span of time. It overthrew the long established monarchies and dictatorship through public protests and demonstrations ably helped by the social media. The main actors in the Arab spring have been the Arab youth and social media and both in coordination fought against the corruption and poverty prevailing in Arab society (Lauri 2). Among many other Arab countries, Egypt has been one country where protestors achieved their goal of overthrowing Hosni Mubarak in a record short time of just eighteen days.
Events in Tunisia inspired people of Egypt and Egyptians gathered on their national holiday Police Day on 25 January 2011 to protest against the thirty years old dictator regime of Hosni Mubarak. They protested against decades of suppression by the dictator and the inability of the regime to improve the living standards of the people of Egypt. Poverty of people and corruption by the authorities were the two main issues that brought people on street in Egypt on their national day. Small street protests very soon developed into a revolutionary movement at national level. In a matter of just eighteen days, National Democratic Party was removed from power which ended the 30 years of dictatorial rule of Hosni Mubarak. Initially, demonstration and protests were held only in the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria, however, later, masses gathered in the central Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) in Cairo and fought street battles with Mubarak’s troops. Mubarak’s forces countered the protests fiercely but Egyptians had overcome the fear of dictatorship and they kept fighting in Tahrir Square and in the streets of different cities of Egypt. On 27 January, governments ordered the shutdown of internet and mobile services which did make no difference to the protestors and protests continued. Army then decided not to react and open fire on protestors. Hosni Mubarak from a weaker position made few concessions and promises to the people but to no avail. Appointment of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Vice President, promise of not again running for the Presidency after the end of the term, did not appeal the people of Egypt. In the face of “Friday of Departure” demonstrations Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign on 11 February, 2011. Supreme Council of Armed Forces took over the reign of country, disbanded the parliament and suspended the constitution of the country (Korany and Rabab 14).
Revolution in Egypt is considered to be a result of number of factors, and it was not merely the poverty and corruption caused the revolution. Demography of Egypt, modern technology, foreign policy of Hosni Mubarak, legitimacy of the state itself and torture of people against the Hosni Mubarak’s regime along with the major help provided by social media, made the revolution quick and successful. There are people who call it a social media revolution and few term it as a revolution caused by high prices of food. Human rights groups claim the abuse of human rights a reason for this revolution. In nutshell, there have been varying drivers of change in making the Egyptian revolution a quick success.
First factor of change was the demographics of the country. There was a volatile amalgam of energized youth, urbanization of educated people and availability of university level of education to the people. There were more number of people with university degrees but with no job. Jobs available in the country was only sufficient for about twenty-five percent of graduates, and remaining remained jobless. Second factor of technology and availability of social media made the major difference. Social media and the modern technology helped gathering people in Tahrir square and coordinating their next day’s strategy. Social media and technology was used to coordinate the protests and demonstrations. Third factor was the Egypt’s foreign policy that was divorced from public opinion since many years especially the policy about Israel and Palestine. Existing foreign policy made people believe the government was US sponsored which reduced its legitimacy in the eyes of public of Egypt. There were other questions raised about the Legitimacy of the Hosni Mubarak government. The factors that undermined the legitimacy of Egyptian government included absence of institutions that influence the bureaucracy, institutions that illustrate the political behavior through rewards and punishments, procedure for culpability of politician and institutions that give wider political space for participation by ordinary citizen. The next factor was the growing incidents of torture and corruption that kept the protestors together throughout the revolution period. Major factor that caused Hosni Mubarak to abandon his chair was backing out of Army from his support. The incident of the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, caused a domino effect in Egypt and rest of the Arab world. The sequence of events in Egypt helped Egyptian people to overcome the deep rooted and well justified fear of the protestors. It was amassing of huge numbers of people on the street that gave the protestors a degree of immunity from the action by the Army and other Law enforcement agencies. Small groups of protestors started with the technique of simultaneous flash mob demonstrations at multiple locations. It was a new type of urban and social media driven insurgency where security forces were outmaneuvered. Protestors also used humor as a weapon and displayed different placards and posters showing the incompetency and corruption of Hosni Mubarak regime.
Most of the demonstrators were not part of any organized activist group and they were common people formed in small groups of protestor throughout Egypt. Some of the protestors were part of organized groups and they played their role at critical moments of the revolution. When on 2 and 3 February, protestors were badly attacked by the government forces, it was Muslim Brotherhood who organized football fan group and defended themselves as small cohesive groups in Tahrir Square (BBC News World 1). Role of politician and businessmen were not visible during the eighteen days of revolution. It was a male dominated revolution and only men were seen on the TV. Participation by the women was estimated to be 10-15% which is an adequate representation of the gender in view of Egypt’s historical standards. Role of social media remained very crucial throughout the revolution period and even in the post revolution period. Protestors coordinated their demonstrations and next day’s events through Face Book and Twitter. Social media provided the inner stories with images of the revolution to the outer world. Social media awakened the Egyptian youth, and it was youth that spearheaded the protests throughout the country and gave a standoff in Tahrir Square. On 12 February, 2011, thousands of Egyptian gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate the ouster of Hosni Mubarak on clear skied Saturday and hoped and promised for a new Egypt.
However, an analysis of post revolution period does not give a pleasant view of the Egypt. Egypt seems to be more repressive today as it was at the time of Hosni Mubarak. Muslim Brotherhood was considered to be moral and a patriotic group. Egyptians took a sigh of relief after the election of first democratically elected president Mr. Morsi from Muslim Brotherhood but their dream of a democracy turned into a nightmare. A different game started and framing war began. America and West backed so called pro-democracy protestors gathered in Tahrir Square; this time with the aim of removing the first democratically elected Egyptian President. In order to establish the writ of the government and remove protestors from Tahrir Square, government used force and held many foreign generalist suspected to be behind the conspiracy against the government. West and America got the reason to move forward with their plan of removing Morsi from the Presidency. President Morsi was removed and a state of emergency was imposed with military taking over the control of the country (Raheem 2). Judiciary got politicized and awarded death sentence to 1200 members of Muslim Brotherhood including their leader Mohamed Badie. Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization. Criminal trial of a democratically elected President goes on under a biased and politicized judiciary. Army leader is planning to contest the election of next President and has recently removed his uniform so as to be eligible for the election. The new democracy under the military rule is the democracy with no trust, no care, no love, no freedom and no opposition. People of Egypt now miss the era of Hosni Mubarak. The people of Egypt regret the revolution when they see military back in power. There are few Egyptians who are still hopeful and want the democracy back in their country. They are not ready to give up. The struggle for democracy goes on.
Lauri Laker. Arab Spring and Social Media Technology. 2013. Web. 22 May. 2014.
Korany, Bahgat, and Rabab El-Mahdi. Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond. American University in Cairo. Web. 22 May. 2014.
BBC News World. Arab Uprising: Country by country- Egypt. 2014. Web. 22 May. 2014.
Raheem, Ahmed Abdel. The Arab Spring Chokes in Egypt. 2014. Web. 22 May. 2014.