By: Omar Baraka
It was the first ever civilized country, home to culture and the arts in the Arab world, and it’s the most populous country in the Middle East. However, after two revolutions in the last two and a half years, Egypt faces a struggling economy, political and social unrest, and is struggling to find its identity. But, we have to understand how far the roots of the revolution go back and before we can talk about what the future holds.
You’re probably asking what makes me credible to talk about this topic and how it’s different than every other article that’s been written about the Egyptian revolution. Well, I was born and raised in Egypt and I was there for both revolutions, in the streets. I protested in 2011 with all the tear gas, police brutality, the army being deployed in the streets and all the celebrations. I was also there later that year when the police left the streets and we created civilian checkpoints to protect our neighborhoods. Then, I voted during the presidential elections and I was there for the 2013 protests that ousted President Mohamed Morsi. This article is different because I am just stating the facts, no opinions, so that you can make your own decisions on whether what is happening is justified or not. Articles within Egypt are very pro-army, while articles abroad are generally very pro-Muslim Brotherhood.
Let’s go back to the year 2010; Egypt is under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak as a developing country with a real GDP growth rate of 5.1%, an unemployment rate of 8.9%, and the EGX30 Index (largest 30 companies being traded) on the stock market was stable at an average of 7200 point. Not too bad for a developing nation right? Well, you see in the background, behind these promising numbers, the country was ridden with corruption, police brutality, inequality, lack of change and a growing gap between the rich and the poor. But why did the revolution happen now and not when all of these problems began 30 years ago? You see because the revolution didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen because of a successful revolution in Tunisia, this was a revolution years in the making, this was a revolution to fix what was wrong in the country, this was a revolution that was just waiting for a spark to unite the people. That spark was the death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed at the hands of the Egyptian police; Khaled Saeed was beaten to death in the street for allegedly having drugs on him on June 6, 2010. Following his death, a group on Facebook was created called, “We are all Khaled Saeed” in which they posted a photo of his disconfigured corpse and therefore sparking outrage and contributed to growing discontent in the following months leading to January 25, 2011. On that day, the people took to the streets. At first they were protesting for a promise of change, but one thing led to another and the people eventually demanded for the president to resign. On February 11, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak steps down, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) takes over as an interim regime led by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and the people rejoice.
2011 then becomes a grim year for Egypt’s economy; with the real GDP growth rate slowed all the way down to 1.8%, unemployment rates went up to 12% and the EGX30 Index closes at 3586 points at the end of the year. Politically speaking, however, things start to look up. We see several political groups starting to form, such as the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood Party), Free Egypt Party, the Egyptian Alliance Party, etc. Moving on to the year 2012; presidential elections are held and out of 13 candidates, Mohamed Morsi (Freedom and Justice Party) is elected and on June 30, 2012 he takes his oath and becomes the president of Egypt.
After that, things start to go downhill even more; real GDP growth rate was at 2.2%, unemployment went up to 13.5%, but the EGX30 Index went up to 5462 points at the end of the year. For the next year we see problems piling up and promises broken. President Morsi ran his campaign on the basis of providing Egypt with a return of security in a month and economic stability within a year, both of which were not accomplished. We also see his party attempting to legalize necrophilia against women, where the husband can have sex with his deceased wife within the 6 hours following her death. Later that year the president issues a decree that allows him to make decisions and pass laws without judicial review, the first step to a dictatorship. The people protested this decree in large numbers in several cities and it was then revoked a few months later. His party then drafted up a constitution that gives no rights to minorities in Egypt and while it was wildly unpopular among the people, it passes. On top of all that, Egypt is faced with fuel shortages, frequent power outages across the country, higher prices, higher unemployment, arrests for criticizing the president on TV (famous Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef was arrested for having a TV show that pokes fun at politics and political figures, including the president, in Egypt), lack of human rights, no security and a failing economy.
The people once again take to the streets on June 30, 2013 and demand that the president step down. Egyptian and foreign news estimated about 20 million people went out to protest that day with approximately 10,000 people supporting the president. On July 3, 2013 the army, led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, abides by the people's will and forces the president to step down and puts Adly Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as interim president, until the army can restore security and have fresh presidential elections.
So here we are back in the present, we have the army and the Muslim Brotherhood killing each other in the street, a still failing economy, a government full of technocrats and no real guarantee of where Egypt is heading. However, the people are still hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country. Why are we still hopeful you might ask? Because anyone whoever becomes president knows that whether he's backed by the army or not or whether he’s liberal or conservative, there is not a force in Egypt stronger than the people and if they are not happy, he won't be either.