President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi summed up the major economic, social, and political overhaul that Egypt has been witnessing in this brief sentence: “Egyptians will not be fooled by slogans; they now understand the whole deal.”
Within a relatively short period of time starting with the January 2011 revolution, the Egyptian youth have lived through massive pressures and critical junctures. The first few months of the revolution were full of hope, ambition, and dreams that seemed to be within reach. As such, the Egyptian youth rallied behind that revolt with all their might, willing to pay any price to achieve the desired change. They formed the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which included young people from all political affiliations, including, even, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Everyone except those affiliated with the former regime was welcome.
At the time, the Egyptian youth did not realize that a scheme was being plotted in the dark to rob them of their revolution. They thought the intention to change for the better was a clear, collective objective. When the MB came to power a year later, the Coalition was dissolved. Shaken by the quick unraveling of their dreams, the youth split in two: some rejected the MB’s failed administration of the country, while others stood behind the group in the hopes that a certain miracle would turn Muhammad Morsi’s into the government of their dreams.
The first deception to leave a deep scar in the spirits of young Egyptians was the feeling that MB leaders deluded them with false hopes and fooled them with slogans they knew would hit the youth close to home. Soon, the youth took to the streets once again to overthrow the Morsi government a year after it came to power. And sure enough, a second government was toppled within two years thanks to their pressures.
A feeling of betrayal swept through the youth. Many lost hope. Some withdrew from the political scene; others left the country. When Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office, Egypt was languishing in a sea of debts, at the cusp of economic collapse, and living under the security threat of the enraged MB after their own streets rebuked them. The international community watched as the biggest Arab country struggled to stay afloat, expecting nothing but failure and casting doubt on its ability to survive all these hits and threats.
If President al-Sisi were to be asked about his first concern at the start of his term, I think he would say: restoring hope in the spirits of the youth.
For that reason, he had to deliver concrete achievements on the ground, because they had tired of hearing slogans and trusting promises.
Two factors greatly contributed to Egypt’s resurrection following the MB’s control and disruption of the state. The first is the support offered by Arab countries, especially the political and economic support provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Emirati support and contribution to the reconstruction of the economic structure. We all remember that thorny period, when the west was racing to end all renaissance attempts in Egypt.
The second factor was the existence of a real national desire to build a New Egypt. This was not another slogan, but a continuous, arduous effort that have lasted throughout the seven years of President al-Sisi’s administration, despite the many bumps on the road.
With the Middle East always brimming with clashes and conflicts of interests so deep they could easily instigate war, many countries looked at Egypt’s renaissance and development era with an evil eye, hoping for recession, a currency crisis, and security destabilization in the country.
However, Egypt eventually regained its prominent position at the regional, Arab, and African levels for the first time in several decades. When one visits Cairo today, one clearly sees the major change in the capital city, starting from the airport to the buildings, streets, and houses. Clearly, the driver for such an overhaul was a strong national will with honest intentions.
Last week, the city of Sharm El Sheikh hosted the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum. Young people from 196 countries met to discuss and exchange ideas and hopes on key issues such as human rights, climate change, the best uses of technology, and the post-Covid-19 era. This is not the first megaevent to be hosted by Egypt, but what makes it special is that it is aimed at the youth, but not only the Egyptian youth, which can finally hold their head high and breathe, but the youth of the entire world. Thousands attended and participated in the Forum, including UN leaders and experts. Many platforms were created for the Forum and will remain for the whole year to follow up on the recommendations of young leaders.
Today, the last thing Egyptians care about is right and left. The compass is pointing in only one direction: up. Their talks and concerns focus on development and the real breakaway from political partisanship and secret meetings. Thanks to its faithful administration and loyal youth, Egypt has risen and won the challenge. In a speech at the Forum, the representative of the Geneva Center for Security Policy said: “I trust President al-Sisi when he says the youth are the key to a more stable and productive world.”
Today, Egypt has finally made it to this remarkable stage after a long and arduous path that required a whole lot of determination and free will.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
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