Five years after January 25: How has Egypt really changed?
Five years after the eruption of the Jan. 25 uprising that was expected to change Egypt forever
Five years after the eruption of the Jan. 25 uprising that was expected to change Egypt forever after toppling longtime President Hosni Mubarak, questions about what has really changed are still being asked in 2016.
Such questions, in fact, emerge every year as the anniversary of the revolution approaches and achievements, if any, of that specific year are thoroughly scrutinized. As the day has arrivef, now it’s time to ask this year’s questions.
Political parties have different views about achievements during 2015-2016. Judge Bahaa Abu Shuqa, deputy chairman of the Wafd Party, argues that Egypt has become more stable.
“Egypt is making remarkable progress in the war on terror and this becomes particularly obvious in comparison to other countries in the region, such as Syria,” he said.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants in Sinai for years, but attacks against security forces have significantly increased in frequency after Islamist President Mohammad Mursi's ouster in 2013 and later spread to the mainland, with assassinations and bombings.
But police have shown zero tolerance for anti-government street demonstrations since Mursi's ouster and have cracked down on militancy in Sinai.
The stability Abu Shuqa refers to “resulted in the launching of several national megaprojects,” he said. “These projects will soon achieve economic stability and offer numerous opportunities for youths.”
Abu Shuqa believes Egypt has regained its international standing in the past year. “This is demonstrated through prospering relations with several world powers and in winning a nonpermanent seat at the Security Council.”
Bread, freedom and dignity
But for others, the basic demands of the 2011 revolution have not been achieved.
Nabil Zaki, spokesperson from the leftist al-Tagamou Party, said that social justice, one of the uprising’s main demands, has not been achieved.
“The gap between classes is still widening. Solving this problem requires eliminating poverty and unemployment and improving education, healthcare, and social services,” he said.
Zaki also believes no serious steps have been taken to alter the extremist religious discourse that translates into terrorist operations.
Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, chairman of the leftist People’s Alliance Party, believes that the main slogan of the revolution calling for “bread, freedom and dignity” has not materialized.
“This is the result of a number of factors mostly owing to the legacy of the former regime, but the current regime is not working on addressing them,” he said.
Shokr says that while Egyptians are generally against protesting at the moment, he believes will eventually take to the streets if none of the revolution’s initial demands are achieved: “The achievement of these demands is linked to the empowerment of youths, civil society and political parties.”
According to the spokesman of the liberal Free Egyptians Party Shehab Wagih, one of the revolution’s main goals has been achieved, which is the establishment of a democracy: “Other demands will need time, especially in light of economic difficulties and terrorist operations.”
Dina Abdel Aziz, one of the youngest members of the newly-elected parliament, considers the percentage of youths in the House of Representatives a major triumph for the revolution.
“The parliament now has 64 youths as members, most of them independents who do not belong to any political party,” she said. “Youth empowerment was one of the demands of the Jan. 25 revolution. Thanks to the revolution the political culture in Egypt has changed and people now vote for youths.”
The convening of the new parliament in itself is seen by many as an achievement of the revolution’s demands.
“The parliament will work on achieving the goals of the revolution,” said Rami Mohsen, head of the National Center for Parliamentary Affairs. “The parliament’s rejection of the civil service law indicates that it is supporting the people’s demands and this is expected to happen with other laws.”
On the other hand, Ahmed Bahaa al-Din Shaaban, head of the Egyptian Socialist Party, noted that the parliament is not representative of the revolution. “Only 15 members of the current parliament are revolutionaries and this is a very small number,” he said. “The majority of the members are working on undermining the revolution and crushing its demands.”
A number of politicians, activists and intellectuals signed this month a statement that demanded the restoration of one of the revolution’s major gains: the right to protest.
“We demand that the state release all prisoners charged under the protest law and to respect citizens’ rights to assemble and protest, a right which is granted by the constitution,” the statement read. The statement added that suppression of freedoms, which violates the principles of the revolution, will not lead to stability as claimed by the state.
“On the contrary, this encourages violence as anger builds and frustration surges,” it added. The signatories included former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, satirist Bassem Youssef, and novelist Alaa al-Aswani.
According to Mohamed Abdel Aziz, activist and member of the Tamarod movement that launched a campaign to oust Mursi in 2013, the January 25 revolution has until now only succeeded in toppling Mubarak.
“In fact, the January 25 Revolution also gets the credit for ousting Mursi, which means that Egyptians have become aware of their rights. But nothing beyond this has changed,” he said. “The country is still ruled by the same administrative apparatus and the same system.”
Activist Khaled Teleima argued that not achieving the goals of the revolution is mainly related to the state’s perception of the concept of freedom. “The current regime believes that freedom does not go hand in hand with progress and stability,” he said.
Meanwhile, a researcher at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Yousri al-Azabawi argued that the current regime is doing its best to achieve the goals of the revolution. “It is still too early to judge the regime,” he said. “In fact, the current regime is a part of the Jan. 25 revolution due to the progression of events that followed it.”
Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an Arabic and English campaign titled “Egypt is Better Today” aiming to highlight the goals of the revolution that have already been achieved.
“The campaign will focus specifically on political rights, economic reform, youth empowerment, social justice and the enhancement of diversity,” said ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid.