What is Egypt expecting on Jan. 25 revolution anniversary?

Many are wondering about the magnitude of anticipated unrest

Sonia Farid

Published: Updated:

Statements issued by Egypt’s Interior Ministry about security precautions for the fifth anniversary of the Jan. 25 revolution have left many wondering about the magnitude of anticipated unrest. “The ministry will not allow any faction to ruin Egyptian people’s celebrations at the anniversary of the revolution, and terrorist groups involved in any attempts at spreading chaos will be severely penalized,” said the statement.

Ministry officials made a number of announcements that included security measures across Egypt in order to respond to any attacks, especially around strategic facilities and main roads, and intensive training for security personnel and special forces toward that end. Citizens are requested to report any suspicious objects.

Journalist Mahmoud Abdel Radi said the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to be the source of trouble on the revolution’s anniversary. “First, they started with spreading rumors about internal divisions while they are secretly uniting to undermine the state,” he wrote, adding that the information is provided by sources from inside the Brotherhood.

“Then the group started contacting its supporters in different parts of Egypt while inciting others against the state for its alleged inability to solve their problems and for the allegedly politicized verdicts it issued against Brotherhood leaders.”

Abdel Radi said Brotherhood members plan to organize labor protests, which they hope could lead to civil disobedience. “The Brotherhood will attempt to present those protests as Egyptian and not Islamist through raising the Egyptian flag instead of the Rabaa sign and through allying with revolutionary non-Islamist groups such as the April 6 Youth Movement.”

Journalist Abdel Qader Shuhaib said fears are mainly centered around the possibility of the government being toppled or destabilized, and the Brotherhood returning to power or at least gaining ground.

“Those fears are not groundless, but it is wrong to think that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only suspect, for there are other non-Islamist factions that want to see the current regime toppled because it did not give them the political power they aspired for,” said Shuhaib. “Other factions serve the interests of foreign powers such as the United States, which is also not on very good terms with the current regime.”

The plot against the Egyptian state, he said, is based on taking advantage of problems that are not actually the doing of the government, but rather an accumulation of decades of negligence. “The plotters will underestimate efforts by the current regime to solve those problems, and will also downplay the significance of major national projects such as the New Suez Canal and the nuclear facility.”

Those factions, says Shuhaib, ignore the fact that 2011 and 2016 are not the same. “In 2011, conditions were deteriorating at all levels, but this has changed. Now there are elections, and the bequest of power scenario is gone forever. People also feel that the president is doing his best to solve their problems and to protect them from terrorism.”

Exaggerated fears?

Al-Sayed al-Badawi, chairman of the liberal Al-Wafd party, said fears over Jan. 25 are exaggerated. “This is not the first time we hear concerns about the revolution’s anniversary and then nothing happens,” he said. “Security forces are blowing the whole issue out of proportion, and I am positive nothing will happen since Egyptian people will not be deceived into taking part in protests organized by factions that plot against the state.”

Mohamed Sami, chairman of the leftist Al-Karama party, said political parties do not support staging protests on Jan. 25 since they are organized by factions that aim to undermine the state. “However, I find security precautions exaggerated, and I am worried that would make a lot of people angry, especially youths.”

Former Trade and Industry Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour agreed: “I object to harsh security measures even if the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are calling for protests. And every violation on the part of security officers has to be properly investigated.”

Journalist Loay al-Khatib said the state is scaring the people for no good reason. “Statements make it seem like a catastrophe will take place, and it looks like the state is more convinced than the Muslim Brotherhood itself that something big will happen,” he wrote.

Khatib added that there are no indications that another uprising might take place on Jan. 25. “Before January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2013 escalation was very obvious and we were left with no doubt that massive protests were about to happen, but none of this is happening now.”

Ahmed Ramy, spokesman of the now-disbanded Freedom and Justice Party - the Brotherhood’s political wing - said the group is not ready to start a revolution. “The Brotherhood is suffering from a lot of internal problems that makes it difficult to mobilize for protests,” he wrote. “But the revolution is not about the Brotherhood only. Other factions can play the same role and do what we cannot do.”

Journalist Shaimaa Hamdi expressed surprise at the way the revolution is being treated as an offense. “The constitution glorified the revolution, but now belonging to it is considered a crime,” she wrote, referring to the arrest of two activists on charges of belonging to an illegal group called the January 25 Youth Movement.

Rights activist Karim Abdel Radi said the state will violate the constitution if it takes action against people who attempt to revive the Jan. 25 revolution: “Security forces are in full gear to face any possible protests commemorating the anniversary of the revolution. This means that the state is declaring war against the revolution.”

Ali Maher, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement politburo, accused the state of fabricating conspiracies in order to target revolutionaries. “How can this happen while the current regime is only in power thanks to the Jan. 25 revolution?”