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2011 Egyptian Revolution (Fall 2012)

        The year of 2011 was one of the most significant years in the history of Egypt. It was the year that marked the beginning of another meaningful era for the Egyptians. In that year, one of the most important events in 2011 for the world history took place in that country. There are many names have been used to refer to this event like Freedom Revolution, Rage Revolution, Revolution of the Youth and etcetera, but it is internationally popular as 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The event was about the massive uprising of people that overwhelmed the whole Egypt started from late January 2011 and lasted until the mid of February. The protest, which comprised of millions of people from various backgrounds, demanded the abolishment of the regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the man who ruled Egypt for about 30 years. The event it was the time when the people of Egypt finally extinguished the terrible life quality and oppression they received under the ruling of the dictatorial Hosni Mubarak. 

        The huge uprising which began with in Cairo on 25 January erupted following the previous successful the so called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia that concentrated in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, which also perceived as the major influence to the beginning of the Arab Spring, the event that refers to the wave of uprisings in several of the Arab countries . The protest in Cairo was first advocated through social media by a guy named Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager for Google, which used the Facebook to spread the idea about the protest.  At the beginning, the call for protest in Egypt was anticipated to be not as successful as the way it has been in Tunisia due to some differences between the general public in both countries especially in term of education level (Hauslohner). But the outcome turned out to be the opposite. 

        The protest first began to be coincided with the National Police Day in Egypt, a national holiday to commemorate the police forces, which was seen as a symbolic to protest against the police brutalities that happened throughout the time Mubarak was in power. A few hours after the Egyptians took it down to the streets of the downtown of Cairo, the protest started to spread wider to the other cities like Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta, and in several other cities on the southern part of the country. The protest kept ongoing for a couple of days. Two days later, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, which is an organization under the auspices of United Nation, voiced out his support to the demonstration. That hugely strengthened the intensity of the protest.  As the situation got worse for the government, military enforcement started to get involved on the next day as ordered by the government. Internet and mobile phone connections were also terminated by the government in order to impair the communications between the demonstrators. 

        Seeing the protest did not show any indication to cease, Mubarak decided to dismiss the government on January 28th. He sacked the cabinet in the government and for the first time appointed a vice president on the next day. Nevertheless, Mubarak still refused to abandon his power as the president.  That prompted the protesters to keep on demonstrating.  On January 31th, the international communities began to get involved in the conflict. European Union (EU) called for free and fair elections to be held in Egypt while many investors continue to withdraw their capitals from the country.  The credibility of the government only became worse when they began to detain members of the opposition political parties and arrested several international journalists. Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition party in Egypt, although with the fact they had undergone serious illegitimate bans throughout Mubarak’s ruling, made a claim that more than 20 of their members had been detained. 

        By February 1th, the uprising just kept ongoing and the amount of people occupying Tahrir Square of Cairo rose into more than a million of people. However, Mubarak still declined to fulfill the major demand of the protesters, which is seeing him stepping down from as president immediately. He only made a promise that he was not going to participate in the next election and to reform the country according with the constitution. He also announced through his newly elected vice-president Omar Suleiman that dialogues between the government and the opposition parties will only be brought forward if the protest was to be put to a halt. Nonetheless, those efforts were not enough to satisfy the protesters to stop their activity. 

        After 11 days since the uprising erupted, there had been a number of deaths occurred. There were a lot of reports came out to specify the actual number of fatalities (Agencies). Tahrir Square had already become a tented camp, and the government continued with its efforts to extinguish the uprising. A bunch of people who had been arrested earlier by the government were released including Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and political activist who played the key role in the calling for the protest, and also 34 other political prisoners which mostly were the members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Mubarak also approved for a raise of 15 percent in salaries as an attempt to appease the unsatisfied protesters.  

        As tens of thousands of protesters seizing the streets of the Cairo city were unlikely to show any sign of giving in, Mubarak eventually stepped down as president on February 12th, marking a victory to the people of Egypt in the uprising.  The announcement of the resignation of Mubarak was made by te vice president Omar Suleiman, and the ruling of the country was temporarily given to the military. The military promised the people that the power of Egypt will be given to an elected and civilian government, putting an end to the repressive era under the Mubarak’s government. As the majority of the Egyptians celebrated joyfully the collapse of the regime of Mubarak, the protesters started to leave the Tahrir Square with a huge hope for a better future of the country. 

        The factors that led the revolution in Egypt can be classified into two perspectives; the short-term and the long-term. The long-term factors can be narrowed into another two different aspects which are political and economic factors.

        The ruling of Egypt under the power of Hosni Mubarak was notorious with its corruptions and repressiveness. The corruptions under Mubarak’s administration were very widespread and serious. Corruption occurred in the management of Egypt’s assets and public sources. One of the means that contributed to the spreading of these mischiefs was the promotion of privatization (Lesch).  Mubarak and many other ministers under his administration had taken advantage over this situation by selling considerable portions of the public sector for their personal gains and the cut in public investment in agriculture, land reclamation, education, health and housing. (Lesch), corruptions also were outspread within cases of land deals by many of the ministers like the minister of housing Ahmed al-Maghrabi, and the minister of tourism Zuhair Garana. 

        Hosni Mubarak had been ruling Egypt for almost 30 years. His ability to stay as the ruler of Egypt for that ridiculously long range of time did not come from his popularity as a politician, (Wikipedia).  Mubarak used all the means that he had to manipulate the outcome of each of the government elections; disallowing any neutral agencies to either overlook or monitor the work behind the system that administered the elections and also procuring easy wins through contentious invalidations and detainments of the other presidential candidates from other parties in the elections especially the representatives from the strongest opposition party Muslim Brotherhood.  A report by United Nation in 2007 suggested a serious lack of trust over the administration of the election process as the voter turnout was found to be extremely low at 25 percent. 

        Apart from the enormous corruptions of the government, the people and the politics of Egypt also suffered from a repressive authoritarian. This went from the abuse of the Emergency Law, the brutalities of the police forces, and the extreme restrictions on freedom of speech (Wikipedia). The Emergency Law is referring to law that was first enacted following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and was reinforced back after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 which its enforcement brought to the extension of police powers, the suspension of constitutional rights and the misuses of censorships.   The abuses of the Emergency Law had given Mubarak administration the ability to detain and imprison its people without solid reasons and trials for any period of time and to suppress any kind of non-governmental activities in the country.   A lot of the members from the opposition parties and also civil activists had been arrested and imprisoned through faulty allegations of fraud or threat of terrorism (Wikipedia). These were the kinds of abuses that Mubarak used to help him winning the presidential elections and maintained in power.  

        Police brutalities occurred through the enforcement of the Emergency Law and Mubarak’s attempts to bring fears to the people from making any efforts that can challenge and seem as threats to the continuation of his power.   There were abundant evidences by local and international agencies showing hundreds of cases of police abuses, although the regime kept on denying of such claims (Wikipedia). Within 1993 and 2007 alone, a report by The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights authenticated 567 cases of police brutalities with 167 of them involved fatalities. The death of Khaled Mohamed on June 6th in 2010 which many witnesses claimed was caused by the torture of polices over him had brought countrywide attention and contributed to the forces of the uprising on January 25. Under the emergency law as well, the practices of freedom of speech had been restricted and oftentimes faced with allegations of giving threats to the ‘public safety’ or ‘national security’.  Criticizing the government by any press can be regarded the violation of the law and would be subject to legal actions such as five years imprisonment or $20000 Egyptian pounds of penalization. 

        The protests against the government of Egypt have started even ten years before the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. And not few of them erupted from dissatisfactions over the economy and the quality of living in the country.  The issue of poverty and income inequality has always been serious. Figures by United Nation indicated that over 20 to 30 percent of Egyptians lived under the poverty line. Nearly half of the residents of Cairo lived in unplanned areas that lacked in basic utilities (Green).  The government failed to come with the needed economic-growth strategy that benefited the people as a whole; a lot of the policies were only to provide benefits for the large-corporations but the attention over small and medium enterprises (SMEs) had always been neglected (Lesch). The corruptions by the officials in Mubarak’s government had added into a more serious unequal distribution of wealth. 

        High population growth caused the phenomenon called the “youth bulge”; one in five Egyptians is between the age of 15 and 24 and half of the total population is below the age of 25 (Green). Within the 30 years of Mubarak’s ruling, Egypt had seen an increase of 90% in its population from 45 million to 85 million. This significant spike in the population of Egypt ought to be managed with a good economic performance that can support the wellbeing of the citizens, which is something the government had failed to do (Nivin S. Abdel Majid). It was not surprising that the major portion of those who came down to the streets during the revolution was the young generations with frustrations over their unemployment and the lack of opportunities for economic survivals. 

        The most important events that crucially triggered the unprecedented massive uprising in Egypt for over that decade would most likely be the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia and the murder of Khaled Mohamed. The ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the Jasmine Revolution had been an aspiration for the Egyptians to take the same step as the Tunisians (Wikipedia). Albeit the negative prospects by academic observers about the likelihood of the outcome from that move, it was perhaps the only way out that was available to the people of Egypt as it was proven to be successful in Tunisia (Hauslohner). Apart from that, the death of Khaled Mohamed six months before the revolution took place had been the ultimate peak of the people’s wrath upon the police force brutalities. Wael Ghonim who was at Dubai when the incident happened created a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Saed” which drew hundreds of thousands of followers from across Egypt to international societies around the world (Wikipedia, Death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed). Later on, the day the revolution was planned to begin was chosen to be coincided with the National Police Day in Egypt to show solidarity against the brutalities of police forces.

        The Egyptian Revolution 2011 would be an event that marked the importance of the year 2011 in the world history. Its success was not only meaningful to the Egyptians, but also inspiring to the other communities around the globe as a symbol of a struggle for justice and basic human rights. Politic, government and economic struggle have become the major forces that led to the making of this great historical event. Nevertheless, as the people of Egypt marching down with joy on the streets to celebrate the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, their journey is still long and many other challenges are coming ahead.

  1. Agencies, Al Jazeera ad. Al Jazeera Middle east. 14 February 2011. 9 December 2012 <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/01/201112515334871490.html>.
  2. Green, Duncan. The Guardian. 17 February 2011. 8 December 2012 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/feb/17/what-caused-egyptian-revolution>.
  3. Hauslohner, Abigail. After Tunisia: Why Egypt Isn't Ready to Have Its Own Revolution. 20 January 2011. 8 September 2012 <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2043497,00.html>.
  4. Lesch, Ann M. "Egypt's Spring: Causes of the Revolution." Middle East Policy (Fall 2011): 34-48.
  5. Nivin S. Abdel Majid, Sanaa Al Banna, Rana Korayem, Hoda Salah El Din. The Economic Causes of the Egyptian Revolution. Research paper. Cairo: The American University, 2011.
  6. Wikipedia. 2011 Egyptian Revolution. 9 December 2012. 9 December 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Egyptian_revolution>.
  7. Death of Khaled Mohamed Saeed. 8 December 2012. 8 December 2012 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Khaled_Mohamed_Saeed>.