The 2011–2012 Egyptian revolution (Revolution of 25 January) took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of February 2012. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, and labor strikes. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian PresidentHosni Mubarak. Despite being predominantly peaceful in nature, the revolution was not without violent clashes between security forces and protesters, with at least 846 people killed and 6,000 injured. The uprising took place in Cairo, Alexandria, and in other cities in Egypt, following the Tunisian revolution that resulted in the overthrow of the long-time Tunisian president. On 11 February, following weeks of determined popular protest and pressure, Mubarak resigned from office.
Grievances of Egyptian protesters were focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, uncontrollable corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages. The primary demands from protest organizers were the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime and the end of emergency law; freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government, and a say in the management of Egypt's resources. Strikes by labor unions added to the pressure on government officials.
During the uprising the capital city of Cairo was described as "a war zone," and the port city of Suez was the scene of frequent violent clashes. The government imposed a curfew that protesters defied and that the police and military did not enforce. The presence of Egypt's Central Security Forces police, loyal to Mubarak, was gradually replaced by largely restrained military troops. In the absence of police, there was looting by gangs that opposition sources said were instigated by plainclothes police officers. In response, watch groups were organized by civilians to protect neighborhoods.
International response to the protests was initially mixed, though most called for peaceful actions on both sides and moves toward reform. Most Western governments expressed concern about the situation. Many governments issued travel advisories and made attempts to evacuate their citizens from the country. The Egyptian Revolution, along with Tunisian events, has influenced demonstrations in other Arab countries including Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria and Libya.
Mubarak dissolved his government and appointed military figure and former head of the Egyptian General Intelligence DirectorateOmar Suleiman as Vice-President in an attempt to quell dissent. Mubarak asked aviation minister and former chief of Egypt's Air Force, Ahmed Shafik, to form a new government. Mohamed El-Baradei became a major figure of the opposition, with all major opposition groups supporting his role as a negotiator for some form of transitional unity government. In response to mounting pressure, Mubarak announced he would not seek re-election in September.
On 11 February Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak would be stepping down as president and turning power over to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. On 24 May, Mubarak was ordered to stand trial on charges of premeditated murder of peaceful protestors and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.
The military junta, headed by effective head of state Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, announced on 13 February that the constitution would be suspended, both houses of parliament dissolved, and that the military would rule for six months until elections could be held. The prior cabinet, including Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, would continue to serve as a caretaker government until a new one is formed. Shafik resigned on 3 March, a day before major protests to get him to step down were planned; he was replaced by Essam Sharaf, the former transport minister.
Although Mubarak resigned, the protests have continued amid concerns about how long the military junta will last in Egypt; some are afraid that the military will rule the country indefinitely.
This was just an overview a brief introduction to the revolution taking place in Egypt, in the later part of the report we will be analyzing the reasons and aftermaths of the Tahrir Revolution in detail as follows.
History of Tahrir Square
The square was originally called "Ismailia Square" (after the 19th-century rulerKhedive Ismail, who commissioned the new downtown district's 'Paris on theNile' design. After theEgyptian Revolution of 1919the square became widely known as Tahrir (Liberation) Square, but the square was not officially renamed until theEgyptian Revolution of 1952, which changed Egypt from aconstitutional monarchyinto arepublic. The square was a focal point for theEgyptian Revolution of 2011. Tahrir Square has been the traditional site for numerous major protests and demonstrations over the years, including the1977 Egyptian Bread Riots, and the March 2003 protest against theWar in Iraq.
Reasons Behind 2011 Egyptian Revolution
Inheritance of power
Gamal Mubarak, the younger of Mubarak's two sons, begins being groomed to be his father's successor as the next president of Egypt around the year 2000. Gamal started receiving considerable attention in the Egyptian media, as there were no other apparent heirs to the presidency. Bashar al-Assad's rise to power in Syria in June 2000, just hours after Hafez al-Assad's death sparked a heated debate in the Egyptian press regarding the prospects for a similar scenario occurring in Cairo.
In the years after Mubarak's 2005 reelection several political groups (most in Egypt are unofficial) on both the left and the right, announced their sharp opposition to the inheritance of power. They demanded political change and asked for a fair election with more than one candidate. In 2006, with opposition rising, The Daily News Egypt reported on an online campaign initiative called the National Initiative against Power Inheritance which demanded Gamal reduces his power. The campaign stated, "President Mubarak and his son constantly denied even the possibility of [succession]. However, in reality they did the opposite, including amending the constitution to make sure that Gamal will be the only unchallenged candidate."
Over the course of the decade perception grew that Gamal would succeed his father. He wielded increasing power as NDP deputy secretary general; in addition to a post he held heading the party's policy committee. Analysts went so far as describing Mubarak's last decade in power as “the age of Gamal Mubarak.” With Mubarak’s health declining and the leader refusing to appoint a vice-president, Gamal was considered by some to be Egypt's de-facto president.
Both Gamal and Hosni Mubarak continued to deny that an inheritance would take place. There was talk, however, of Gamal beingelected; with Hosni Mubarak's presidential term set to expire in 2010 there was speculation Gamal would run as the NDP party's candidate in 2011.
After the January–February 2011 protest, Gamal Mubarak stated that he would not be running for the presidency in the 2011 elections.
An emergency law (Law No. 162 of 1958) was enacted after the 1967 Six-Day War. It was suspended for 18 months in the early 1980s and has otherwise continuously been in effect since President Sadat's 1981 assassination. Under the law, police powers are extended, constitutional rights suspended, censorship is legalized, and the government may imprison individuals indefinitely and without reason. The law sharply limits any non-governmental political activity, including street demonstrations, non-approved political organizations, and unregistered financial donations. The Mubarak government has cited the threat of terrorism in order to extend the emergency law, claiming that opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood could come into power in Egypt if the current government did not forgo parliamentary elections and suppress the group through actions allowed under emergency law. This has led to the imprisonment of activists without trials, illegal undocumented hidden detention facilities, and rejecting university, mosque, and newspaper staff members based on their political inclination. A parliamentary election in December 2010 was preceded by a media crackdown, arrests, candidate bans (particularly of the Muslim Brotherhood), and allegations of fraud involving the near-unanimous victory by the ruling party in parliament. Human rights organizations estimate that in 2010 between 5,000 and 10,000 people were in long-term detention without charge or trial.
According to a report from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, police brutality has been common and widespread in Egypt. In the five years prior to the revolution, the Mubarak regime denied the existence of torture or abuse carried out by the police. However, many claims by domestic and international groups provided evidence through cell phone videos or first-hand accounts of hundreds of cases of police abuse.
According to the 2009 Human Rights Report by the U.S. State Department, "Domestic and international human rights groups reported that the Ministry of Interior (MOI) State Security Investigative Service (SSIS), police, and other government entities continued to employ torture to extract information or force confessions. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights documented 30 cases of torture during the year 2009. In numerous trials defendants alleged that police tortured them during questioning. During the year activists and observers circulated some amateur cell phone videos documenting the alleged abuse of citizens by security officials. For example, on 8 February, a blogger posted a video of two police officers, identified by their first names and last initials, sodomizing a bound naked man named Ahmed Abdel Fattah Ali with a bottle. On 12 August, the same blogger posted two videos of alleged police torture of a man in a Port Said police station by the head of investigations, Mohammed Abu Ghazala. There was no indication that the government investigated either case."
The deployment of plainclothes forces paid by Mubarak's ruling party, Baltageya, has been a hallmark of the Mubarak government. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has documented 567 cases of torture, including 167 deaths, by police that occurred between 1993 and 2007. Excessive force was often used by law enforcement agencies. The police forces constantly squelched democratic uprisings with brutal force and corrupt tactics. On 6 June 2010 Khaled Mohamed Saeed died under disputed circumstances in the Sidi Gaber area of Alexandria. Multiple witnesses testified that Saeed was beaten to death by the police. A Facebook page called "We are all Khaled Said" helped bring nationwide attention to the case. Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, led a rally in 2010 in Alexandria against alleged abuses by the police and visited Saeed's family to offer condolences.
During the January — February 2011 protests, police brutality was high in response to the protests. Jack Shenker, a reporter for The Guardian, was arrested during the mass protests in Cairo on 26 January 2011. He witnessed fellow Egyptian protesters being tortured, assaulted, and taken to undisclosed locations by police officers. Shenker and other detainees were released after one of his fellow detainees' well-known father, Ayman Nour, covertly intervened.
Corruption in government elections
Corruption, coercion to not vote, and manipulation of election results occurred during many of the elections over 30 years. Until 2005, Mubarak was the only candidate to run for the presidency, on a yes/no vote. Mubarak won five consecutive presidential elections with a sweeping majority. Opposition groups and international election monitoring agencies accused the elections of being rigged. These agencies have not been allowed to monitor the elections. The only opposing presidential candidate in recent Egyptian history, Ayman Nour, was imprisoned before the 2005 elections. According to a 2007 UN survey, voter turnout was extremely low (around 25%) because of the lack of trust in the corrupt representational system.
Restrictions on free speech and press
Even though the Egyptian constitution provides for the universal freedom of speech the government has frequently sanctioned home raids, torture, arrests, and fining of bloggers and reporters that criticize the government in any way. Under the current state of emergency laws, the government can censor anything if it is considered a threat to “public safety and national security”. If any reporter or blogger violates this law by criticizing the government, they could be legally penalized with a fine of 20,000 pounds ($3,650) and up to five years in prison. The Moltaqa Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue reported that between January and March 2009, 57 journalists from 13 newspapers faced legal penalties for their governmental critiques. The Egyptian government owns stock in the three largest daily newspapers. The government controls the licensing and distribution of all papers in Egypt. The Egyptian government shut down the Internet to most of Egypt during the recent protests in order to limit communication between protest groups.
Demographic and economic challenges
Unemployment and reliance on subsidized goods
The population of Egypt grew from 30,083,419 in 1966 to roughly 79,000,000 by 2008. The vast majority of Egyptians live in the limited spaces near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers, where the only arable land is found. In late 2010 around 40% of Egypt's population of just fewer than 80 million lived on the fiscal income equivalent of roughly US$2 per day, with a large part of the population relying on subsidized goods.
According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics and other proponents of demographic structural approach , a basic problem in Egypt is unemployment driven by a demographic youth bulge: with the number of new people entering the job force at about 4% a year, unemployment in Egypt is almost 10 times as high for college graduates as it is for people who have gone through elementary school, particularly educated urban youth—the same people who were out in the streets during the revolution.
Poor living conditions and economic conditions
Egypt's economy was highly centralized during the tenure of President Gamal Abdel Nasser but opened up considerably under President Anwar Sadat and Mubarak. From 2004 to 2008 the Mubarak-led government aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth, but postponed further economic reforms because of global economic turmoil. The international economic downturn slowed Egypt's GDP growth to 4.5% in 2009. In 2010 analysts said the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif would need to restart economic reforms to attract foreign investment, boost growth, and improve economic conditions. Despite high levels of national economic growth over the past few years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remained poor, though better than many other countries in Africa.
And all of these incidents led to the demonstration in Tahrir Square on January 25 2011.
2011 Egyptian Revolution
Tahrir Square was the focal point of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution against former president Hosni Mubarak. Over 50,000 protesters first occupied the square on 25 January, during which the area's wireless services were reported to be impaired. In the following days Tahrir Square continued to be the primary destination for protests in Cairo. On 29 January Egyptian fighter aircraft flew low over the people gathered in the square. On 30 January, the seventh day of the protests, BBC and other correspondents reported that the number of demonstrators had grown to at least 100,000, and on 31 January Al Jazeera correspondents reported that the demonstrations had grown to at least 250,000 people. On 1 February, Al Jazeera reported that more than 1 million protesters peacefully gathered in the square and adjacent streets. However, such media reports that so many people congregated in Cairo’s largest public square are believed to be exaggerated for political purposes and, accordingly to Stratfor analysis the real number of gathered protester never exceed 300,000 people.
The square became established as a focal point and a symbol for the ongoing Egyptian democracy demonstrations. On 2 February violence erupted between the pro-Mubarak and pro-democracy demonstrators here, followed by the 3 February 'Friday of Departure' demonstration, one of the named "day of" events centered in the square. Within a week, due to international media coverage, the image and name of Tahrir Square became known worldwide.
A Facebook page called "Tahrir Square" was maintained by a rotating staff of twenty during the uprising, particularly to offset the lack of and/or distorted coverage of events and responses in the state-run media outlets.
The 18-day revolt centered in the square provided the Egyptian Armed Forces an opportunity to remove Mubarak from power on Friday 11 February 2011, when the president officially stepped down from office. The announcement that Mubarak had passed all authority to the Council of the Armed Forces, was made by longtime intelligence chief and new vice president Omar Suleiman. Tahrir Square erupted in a night-long celebration after the twilight announcement, with shouts such as "Lift your head up high, you're Egyptian," "Everyone who loves Egypt, come and rebuild Egypt," and others. The next day Egyptian Cairen women and men came to clean up the square, "they came and cleaned up after their revolution," relaying 'projectiles' in the cobblestone paving and removing eighteen day's worth of trash and graffiti.
January 2011, the Egyptians commemorated their protest against their dictator, Hosni Mubarak who had been ruling since three long decades. The fight was against poor-governance, corruption, poverty and unemployment. After being grappled with the constant pressure of being relegated to a second-world country gradually, the common man decided to pursue the fight against injustice.
Highlighting the historical facts of the year 2011 in Egypt, on January 25th the Egyptians started coming out on the streets in large numbers as it later came to be known as “the day of rage”. After frequent protests, police fired tear gas and water cannons against all demonstrators calling out “down with Mubarak”. Followed by the break-out of protests in the Mediterranean city, the interior ministry issued a statement claiming that the civil unrest was a result of Egyptians banning the largest opposition party which consequently was unacceptable by the Muslim brotherhood. Thereby, the blame was put on the Muslim community. As the Tahrir square in central Cairo became the center of the protests, on the 26th of January, the police usage of tear gas, water cannons led to the dispersement of protesters in Cairo. Thereafter, in the Suez clashes, 55 protestors and 15 policemen were said to be injured.
Following these riots, on the 27th of January, the former UN nuclear watchdog turned democracy advocate joined the protest as well and was reportedly willing to “lead the transition” as well. Meanwhile, the protests spread across various cities of the country where numerous were arrested but were adamant to give up until their demand were fulfilled. While in the Sinai area of Sheikh Zuweid, hundreds Bedouin and police exchange gunfire. Alongside in Ismailia, hundreds clashed with the police forces. Joining the public, the judiciary also decided to stand for their due rights which led to numerous lawyers staging protests in the Mediterranean and Nile delta. A significant development along with this was the disruption of Facebook, twitter and blackberry services throughout the nation.
An important advancement on the 29th of January took place where Hosni Mubarak delivered a public announcement stating that the cabinet was sacked but his whereabouts were still unknown to the public. On the same day, Egyptian armed forces took initiatives to protect Cairo’s antiquities museum particularly, the gold mask of king Tutankhanum. However, the biggest threat to the museum was the fire that was set by protestors on the ruling party’s headquarters (which is just next door) a night before. Another significant event was the appointment of a vice-president by Hosni Mubarak for the first time in the three decades of his rule. Joining these upheavals, the gulf co-operation council also laid down their demands of having a stable Egypt. Meanwhile, the US embassy in Cairo ordered all the Americans residing in Egypt to return to their country due to the political unrest.
On the 30th of January, thousands of protestors still continued to protest in the Tahrir square of Cairo. The public cheered as they went on to say “what we have started can never be pushed back”. Following the footsteps of America, the very next day Turkey also commanded its Turkish citizens to be sent back home. Followed by this was an important announcement by Mubarak stating that despite all the unrest, he still refuses to step down but protestors continued to defy the military imposed curfew. Alongside, the white house suggested that the Egyptian government must engage with its people in order to address their issues and therefore, find methods to resolve them on a large scale. Amidst this unrest, investors worldwide continued to withdraw significant amounts of capital from the country further deteriorating the economic situation. On the same date, Mubarak also named his new cabinet on state television, among them Mahmud Wagdi being sworn in as the new interior minister.
As the central demand of protestors was that Mubarak should give up his post, however on the 1st of February in an important television announcement he made it clear that even though he won’t run for re-election, but he will still not withdraw from his seat. Along with this statement, he also claimed to bring about modified reforms to the constitution with focus on improving the economy and providing better jobs. Shortly after this speech, riots broke out between the pro-government and anti-government protestors in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The number of protestors in Tahrir square therefore, revised to more than a million. Following this, the next day clashes broke out between anti and pro-government protestors in Alexandria. Internet services were also partially restored in Cairo. Throughout the day, violent clashes led to almost 15,000 being injured.
On the 3rd of February, bursts of gunfire aimed at anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir square, left at least 15 people dead. On the 4th, an important event was the announcement by protestors gathered in Tahrir square who termed the day as “the day of departure”. However on the 5th, thousands who still remained in the square feared an attempt by the military to evacuate them. According to reports by the Egyptian health minister, 11 people died while the UN states that 300 may have been killed during riots throughout the country. Following these events on the 10th of February, the Egyptian prime minister formed a committee that will gather evidence on “illegitimate practices”. On the same day, Mubarak makes another announcement confirming that he will not re-run presidential elections. The historical day arrived the next day on the 11th of February when Mubarak announced his resignation from his post of president. This announcement was made by the vice-president, Omer Suleiman.
An analysis of the root causes of the revolution in Egypt can give a detailed overview. Firstly, Egyptians made the choice to struggle for various reasons. Egypt has had a widening income gap throughout Mubarak’s control which became the root cause of the uprising. One half of the Egyptians live on $2/day or less. The average per capita income in the country is only $6,200. Apparently, Egyptians realized they didn’t have to cope with certain things not only promote inequality but repress the rights of workers as well. Al-Jazeera’s steady coverage of the Arab street events from a post-colonial perspective is another root cause. It also has been said that the Iran-Palestine issue plus the Sudan partition has created the psychology impact on the streets.
On January 29th, Mubarak indicated he would be changing the government because despite a "point of no return" being crossed, national stability and law and order must prevail, that he had requested the government, formed only months ago, to step down, and that a new government would be formed. He then appointed Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian Intelligence, as vice president and Ahmed Shafik as prime minister. On February 1st, he spoke again saying he would stay in office until the next election in September 2011 and then leave without standing as a candidate. He also promised to make political reforms. He made no offer to step down.
The Muslim Brotherhood joined the revolution on 30 January, calling on all opposition groups to unite against Mubarak, and for the military to intervene. They joined other opposition groups in electing Mohammed el Baradei to lead a National Salvation Government in the interim period.
Many of Al-Azhar Imams joined the protesters on 30 January all over the country. Christian leaders asked their congregations to stay away from protests, though a number of young Christian activists joined the protests led by Wafd Party member Raymond Lakah.
On 31 January, Mubarak swore in his new cabinet in the hope that the unrest would fade. The protesters did not leave and continued to demonstrate in Cairo's Tahrir Squareto demand the downfall of Mubarak. The vice-president and the prime minister were already appointed. He told the new government to preserve subsidies, control inflation and provide more jobs.
On 1 February, Mubarak said he never intended to run for reelection in the upcoming September presidential election, though his candidacy had previously been announced by high-ranking members of his National Democratic Party
In his speech, he asked parliament for reforms:
According to my constitutional powers, I call on parliament in both its houses to discuss amending article 76 and 77 of the constitution concerning the conditions on running for presidency of the republic and it sets specific a period for the presidential term. In order for the current parliament in both houses to be able to discuss these constitutional amendments and the legislative amendments linked to it for laws that complement the constitution and to ensure the participation of all the political forces in these discussions, I demand parliament to adhere to the word of the judiciary and its verdicts concerning the latest cases which have been legally challenged.
—Hosni Mubarak, 1 February 2011
Various opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), reiterated demands for Mubarak's resignation. The MB also said, after protests turned violent, that it was time for the military to intervene. Mohammed ElBaradei, who said he was ready to lead a transitional government, was also the consensus candidate by a unified opposition including: the 6 April Youth Movement, We Are All Khaled Said Movement, National Association for Change, 25 January Movement, Kefaya and the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei formed a "steering committee". On 5 February, a "national dialogue" was started between the government and opposition groups to work out a transitional period before democratic elections.
The Egyptian state cracked down on the media, and shut down internet access, a primary means of communication for the opposition. Journalists were also harassed by the regime's supporters, eliciting condemnation from the Committee to Protect Journalists, European countries and the United States.
Freedom was given to establish political parties only by "notifying" concerned authorities, resulting in establishing several political parties named after or in relation to the 25 January revolution.
There are numerous other significant reasons of the revolution in Egypt. Mainly, absence of checks and balance system (as prevailed in the American system), monarchy power should’ve long ago been curtailed, a sense of awareness amidst the general public, absence of the rule of law, quest for power were various important factors. Furthermore, even in the past revolutions actually came into existence when the basic necessities of people were not made available at their doorsteps. For example, the French revolution that took place in 1789. There is no doubt that the revolution in Egypt was political but religious factor holds importance as well.
The significance of the revolution in Egypt can be judged by the fact that it has nowset a new trend in other Islamic countries as well e.g. the evolution of democratic process done in the UK after the magna cart of 1215 remained under an evolution process for long. This can aid in abolishing kingship from welfare states. Moreover, Oman remained under dictatorship for 30 long years. These factors can be effectively utilized for future implication in other nations being ruled by monarchs.