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February 15, 2012

The Anatomy of the Egyptian Revolution

Hassan Sherif

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After 60 years of military/autocratic rule, Egypt descended into a lamentable state of existence.

As a result, and over the years, Egypt’s standing in the world steadily declined. Its standing deteriorated (as documented by the UN agencies and World Watch organizations) in the field of Education, health, human rights, life expectancy, standard of living, culture, corruption… not to mention politically and economically.

Not only did Egypt regress on the world stage, but in the Arab world as well, its leadership position significantly eroded.

The middle class has all but evaporated; leaving behind a venire of obscenely rich while the majority of the population straggled for the everyday survival. This huge gap of discrepancy created a large reservoir of anger and frustration.

The above scenario, in the new world of mass media and the internet, was not sustainable and could not be defended or maintained even with the formidable security and control apparatus of Mubarak’s regime.

Out of extreme frustration and despair and inspired by the Tunisian revolution, Egypt’s revolution was born.

Now, a year later, groups from within the country and others, from near and afar, are in a tug of war, each claiming the high moral ground and strongly  (often fanatically) defending their position.

Life during Mubarak’s era was simple; you are either with the regime or against it. Opposition was not tolerated and the rigged-parliament had no power. Mubarak’s regime had the absolute power and his departure precipitated a power vacuum, opening up many choices for the Egyptian people for the first time in a long time. In unfamiliar waters the new leaders of Egypt will have to navigate and chart a new course for the country.

These fighting groups, some new and some old, are represented in the diagram below:

The first group (A) includes millions, and is led by Mubarak’s former people in politics, media, business, government, police and army. No one should underestimate their power, influence, and financial resources. They hate the word revolution and what it implies, and refer to the youth who led it as “al-‘eyeal - the boys”.

They also despise the Islamist of all stripes in particular the Salafist. They view the MB’s as sophisticated version of the Salafist albeit more conning, dubious and dangerous. They firmly believe that these Islamist movements will isolate Egypt form the world and take it back to the Stone Age.

They constitute the textbook counter-revolution. They work underground and above ground, any victory of any kind in the New Egypt is their defeat. Egyptians give this group the name “floul” – meaning “those who are left over from the old regime” – all candidates who ran for the recent parliamentary election were defeated.

“Floul” hate chaos, they yearn for the comfortable and relative stability of the old regime; they are praying/ hoping for a military coup (taking their side), freeing their leaders from prison, instating a strong man and returning things to the “good old days”. It is a farfetched scenario but in their view possible. They do not necessarily like the military either but they feel it is the only power in Egypt today that can stop/ control the Islamist. They consider the Military the better of the two Evils.

The second group, (B) which also includes millions that are loosely formed, was there from before the revolution but totally unorganized and leaderless. This group includes liberals, leftists, socialists, democrats, progressive, the April movement, El Kefaya movement, the feminists, and Nasserites.

They claim that they are “the real revolutionaries” and that their revolution was hijacked by Islamists. They believe that the country would be better off if the transfer of power to a civilian authority is done immediately, not at the end of June.

They are critical of the military and do not believe that they will - as they say – step down. They escalate the confrontation with the military at the risk of having a military coup abort the revolution.

They have an impressive agenda for political and economical reform but lack focus and articulation. Their massive loss in the elections left a bitter taste in their mouths. They never expected that the people would turn away from them in droves, as they did.

They are desperate to score better in the next parliamentary elections and or next Presidential election, which they hope will be very soon. They are willing to continue their struggle at the risk of derailing the revolution and taking the count to a long period of exhausting political instability.

This group includes most of the Facebook groups. They look down at the masses that elected the Islamists claiming that their votes were cheaply bought. They blame the military for everything – from the deaths during the recent soccer match, to the line-ups to buy gas tanks for households who do not have access to gas lines, to the political and economical stagnation of the country.

This group is omnipresent on TV talk shows and the print media. They do not trust the elected Islamists members of parliament and are on daily attack campaigns.

The third group is the military, which says they will hand over power in June, but in fact many people in Egypt believe that they are waiting in the wing for the right opportunity to pounce-on and seize the power “for good”. Of course they will do that in the name of national security and under the guise of saving the country. They have, after all, self proclaimed that they are the supreme guardian of the country, and the power of last resort that will prevent the disintegration of the country.

The fact is the Military is implicated in almost all aspect of life in Egypt, and has huge interest that will protect and will not relinquish power easily.

This group is represented by (C) in the diagram above.

The forth group, the Islamist, claim they are the strongest pillar of the revolution, (the real one) and the true representative of the Egyptian people. This group is not monolithic; it spans a wide spectrum, from the ultra-religious to the “moderates”. They are now the predominant force in Parliament and the net winner of the revolution. It remains to be seen who the MB will align themselves with, and how will they govern the country. This of course assumes that the parliament will become a governing body.

This group is represented by “Da” for the MB, the moderates and “Db” for the Salafist, the extremists.

The fifth group and the last group from within can be called “others”, they include those who want to be “full time protesters”. The majority of which are young; many are unemployed and include some criminal elements. This group strives on chaos, extremely frustrated and, desperate. They are looking at chaos as a way to vent their anger.

This group is not depicted above because they do not have a fixed ideology/ position.

As an overlay, the five groups above are influenced and supported (financially and morally) by external forces. The US and the West in general, the Arab world and the Islamic world at large, are attempting to manipulate the outcome of the revolution for their benefit.

In conclusion, I ask you “the reader”, who is the true representative of  “The Egyptian Revolution”, and which group will best harness its tremendous and potent power for the better of the country (and not for grabbing power!)?

Which way will Egypt go, Presidential, Parliamentarian, Secular, Islamism…

Only the Future can tell.

This article was inspired by and uses ideas brought forward by Dr Mohamed Elmasry’s recent article “Derailing Egypt’s Revolution”

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