On fifth anniversary, a revolution no more in Egypt
CAIRO - The T-shirt of a rights advocate walking towards Cairo’s Tahrir Square to mark the anniversary of the January 25, 2011, uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak probably denoted the desperation of revolutionaries who toppled the long-ruling president.
Sanaa Seif, whose brother, Alaa, was one of the anti-Mubarak activists five years ago but is now imprisoned, wore a shirt proclaiming: It’s still the January revolution.
There had been a call for wide protests to mark the anniversary but a crackdown by the current Egyptian government likely dampened participation. Egypt stepped up security in Cairo, especially near Tahrir Square, which was the epicentre of the 2011 revolution.
Thousands of homes were raided recently, as authorities jailed tens of thousands of people for breaking a law banning protests, such as those that fuelled the 2011 uprising, the BBC reported.
That left the January 25th gatherings in Tahrir Square — numbering in the hundreds rather than the hundreds of thousands who crowded the area five years ago — mostly showing support for the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Pro-government supporters were much more evident than any form of protest, even though few of the revolution’s demands have been met.
In 2011, Egyptians streamed onto squares demanding the overthrow of the man who manipulated the country for three decades. But by 2016, political science Professor Tarek Fahmi said, Egyptians are fed up.
“They have seen that protests bring about, not the best, but the worst,” he said. “The 2011 uprising brought about a Muslim Brotherhood regime, even worse than Mubarak.”
The Brotherhood was accused of hijacking the revolution begun by secular revolutionaries, such as Seif’s brother, who dreamed of turning Egypt into a true democracy, not an Islamic caliphate.
The revolution did give Egypt its first civilian president — Muhammad Morsi — after Mubarak but Morsi’s policies were divisive as he sought to impose the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda, instigating anger and paving the way for the return of the military to power.
Since then, legislation has been enacted making protests such as those that gave birth to the 2011 uprising difficult to organise. The result was an anniversary in 2016 that hardly resembled the event it was commemorating.
Seif and a 27-year old Egyptian artist on a bicycle were among the few out on the streets on Monday, overcoming apathy and disappointment that the hopes of the revolution were dashed. Many of those who might have joined them have been inhibited by the fear of Egypt’s heavy-handed security forces.