9th Anniversary of Egypt’s Revolution Marked Without Fanfare

Africa

CAIRO, EGYPT – The anniversary of Egypt’s January 25 revolution, which swept veteran Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, is being observed in a fairly low-key manner. Most Egyptians were given that day off and the government celebrated the role of the country’s police in maintaining order.

Opponents of the Egyptian government, particularly Islamists, had harsh words for general-turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in social media and on TV channels originating from Qatar and Turkey — which support them — but in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and most of the rest of the country, there were no significant protests and most people stayed home after being given the day off.

Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square — where most of the major protests against former President Hosni Mubarak took place in 2011 — remained eerily quiet, except for some light traffic, and police were on heightened alert along the major arteries leading into the city center.

A number of government-organized events took place to mark the event, including one at Cairo stadium with music to entertain the crowd.   

Egyptian TV played music to honor the country’s police and President Sissi attended a number of events in recent days to hand out awards and personally thank top officers and commanders. The day originally marked the anniversary of a police insurrection against British toops in Ismailiya in 1952, which was seminal in the country’s military coup that toppled King Farouq.

Well-known political sociologist Said Sadek tells VOA that the 2011 revolution left a mark on the country in many ways, despite the fact some analysts outside the country have negative words for the ultimate outcome.

“We have to remember that revolutions do not produce immediate results. It takes time. We have some results and maybe we’ll get more,” he said. “For the first time, Egypt began to talk about reforming the educational system … reforming religious discourse. This never happened before, so a lot of taboo topics began to be raised.”

Sadek also notes that both women and Copts, who were previously marginalized, began to play a major role in politics after the revolution, due to their first-hand encounter with “repression and violence under the Islamists” who ruled the country from 2012 to 2013.  

Egypt’s military, led by then Defense Minister General Sissi, overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.

Egypt has witnessed an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since general-tuned-president Sissi came to power in 2014 – jailing Islamists as well as secular activists – while his government has put through austerity measures badly hitting the country’s poor and middle classes.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, tells VOA that Egypt’s unhappy period of Islamist rule, put a damper on efforts to democratize the country.

He says the big problem with the Egyptian revolution is that it wasn’t carried out by democratic forces that would have been able to effect veritable transformations.

Abou Diab notes the Egyptian revolution “was a historic phenomenon, given the massive mobilization of crowds in a peaceful manner,” and that there have “always been conflicts between military forces and Islamists in the Arab world, which clouds the horizon and makes democratization a difficult process.”

Given the recent wave of protest movements, Abou Diab insists he sees some reason for optimism in Iraq and Lebanon, with efforts to “create a national discourse,” but that the process is “mired in regional an international rivalries between Iran, the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

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