The Unrealized Dreams Of The Egyptian People

August 9, 2020

By: Mohamed Ahmed

The Arab Spring was a period of huge change throughout the Middle East. Starting in Tunisia, it consisted of a series of pro-democracy uprisings in many Arab and largely Muslim countries. The first demonstrations occurred in Tunisia in December 2010, which were triggered by a man who lit himself on fire in an act of frustration towards Tunisia’s high unemployment rate and police corruption. Protests calling for President Bin Ali to step down occurred throughout the country, with police often using violence to control crowds. Demonstrations continued, forcing Bin Ali to flee the country. At the time, it felt like a movie, the oppressed people rebelling against the tyrannical dictators and fighting to gain freedom and democracy for all. However, eleven years later it is apparent that this 'movie' did not have a happy ending. The results of the Spring have been particularly disappointing to many who were optimistic about the hope of democracy in the region. One of the most notable and interesting cases of this is what happened in Egypt. It is a story of brave, yet naive protesters toppling oppressive regimes instead of fixing the broken system which allowed the regimes to exist in the first place.

In early 2011, large demonstrations occurred throughout Cairo and the rest of Egypt calling for the removal of long time President, Hosni Mubarak, from office. Protesters complained of wealth inequality, unemployment, corruption, and autocratic governance of the president who had ruled the country for 30 years. These protests were largely held by youth from diverse political and social backgrounds who were inspired by the revolution that occurred in Tunisia. These demonstrations were met with violent clashes between security forces and protesters which resulted in hundreds of deaths. On February 11th, 2011, 18 days after protests began, it was announced that Mubarak had stepped down and would hand over power to the army. After this, the people went home to see what the army would implement. To many, this was the biggest mistake made by the revolutionaries. Many believe that they should have continued rallying until a reliable constitution was formed and trusted political parties were created.

One year after Mubarak stepped down, elections were held, the main candidates were Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik. Morsi was an Islamist representing the Muslim Brotherhood and Shafik was the last Prime Minister of Mubarak’s regime appointed by the military council and their former minister of aviation. Many revolutionaries felt like neither of the main candidates represented them, but regardless, elections occurred on the 16th and 17th of June and it was announced that Mohamed Morsi had won with 51.7% of the vote. Many believe Morsi to be Egypt’s first democratically elected president. However, his presidency was short-lived as massive protests ensued for and against his rule. This ultimately led to him being removed from office in a military coup. Following Morsi’s removal from office, the Minister of Defence, Abdelfattah el-Sisi dissolved the Egyptian Constitution of 2012 and proposed, along with leading opposition and religious figures, a new political road map. This map included the process of voting for a new constitution as well as new parliamentary and presidential elections. Sisi is also considered responsible by many for the August 2013 Rabaa massacre which took the lives of 638 protesters, however, the unofficial number is far higher at about 2600 casualties. 

Sisi won the 2014 elections and remains president to this day. Many believe Sisi rules an authoritarian regime. This is because the Egyptian military has unchecked power, and elections are not free and fair. The regime has been accused of torturing, killing, and sexually assaulting critics and journalists of Sisi and his government. Among other things, Sisi has been accused of corruption, treason, and giving himself unchecked powers. Sisi ran again in 2018 as the only main candidate resulting in him winning 97% of the vote. Many who were against Sisi cast invalid ballots, over 1,700,000 invalid ballots were cast for the popular Egyptian football player, Mohamed Salah. In 2019 Sisi changed the constitution by altering the term limit, this allows him to remain in power until 2030. He was also proven to have spent billions of Egyptian pounds building personal palaces for himself and others.

Some of the foreign policy decisions he has made in the past were actually unfavourable to the Egyptian people. For instance, his government made a deal with Israel to export oil and natural gas to them for less than the international price but then also import oil and natural gas from Israel for the international price.

It appears to many that Egypt is back where it was before the Arab Spring. Under the rule of an undemocratic, authoritarian regime. Many tribute the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt to the continuation of the problems that brought down Mubarak. A weak government, an overly powerful military, a weak opposition, corrupt security services, and no effective democratic institutions have remained after Mubarak’s fall. They have undermined successive governments as much as they eventually undermined his own. It was never the people that prevented the Arab Spring to succeed, it was the undemocratic institutions that were never changed. Until these institutions are changed, the democratic dreams of the revolutionaries will never be achieved.


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