Egypt beyond Tahrir Square

Egypt beyond Tahrir Square

Egypt beyond Tahrir Square

Egypt beyond Tahrir Square

Synopsis

On January 25, 2011, the world's eyes were on Egypt's Tahrir Square as millions of people poured into the city center to call for the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak. Since then, few scholars or journalists have been given the opportunity to reflect on the nationwide moment of transformation and the hope that was embodied by the Egyptian Revolution. In this important and necessary volume, leading Egyptian academics and writers share their eyewitness experiences. They examine how events unfolded in relation to key social groups and institutions such as the military, police, labor, intellectuals, Coptic Christians, and the media; share the mood of the nation; assess what happened when three recent regimes of Egyptian rule came to an end; and account for the dramatic rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood. The contributors' deep engagement with politics and society in their country is evident and sets this volume apart from most of what has been published in English about the Arab Spring. The diversity of views brought together here is a testament to the contradictions and complexities of historical and political changes that affect Egypt and beyond.

Excerpt

Bessma Momani and Eid Mohamed

On January 25, 2011, the world’s eyes were on Egypt’s Tahrir Square as millions of people poured into Cairo’s city center, demanding “freedom, bread, social justice and human dignity” and defiantly calling for then president Hosni Mubarak to step down. After a successful overthrow of Tunisian longtime autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, it seemed as though the entire Arab region would be reshaped by a domino effect of falling Arab dictators. the Egyptian people also felt empowered like never before and believed this would be the moment for real revolutionary change. After camping out in the square for weeks, most Egyptians hoped that through a sheer determination to bring about change, they could uproot and address Egypt’s ailing socioeconomic conditions and political institutions. the uprisings in Tahrir soon spread nationwide to cities across Egypt. Mubarak and his notorious police responded violently, with tear gas, batons, and arrests of peaceful demonstrators. On January 28, 2011, the embattled police force collapsed, and army tanks entered the scene to play the role of the popular savior of a revolution. On February 11, 2011, Mubarak relinquished all powers to the military, which, two days later, dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution. in fewer than twenty days, it seemed the authoritarian regime under Mubarak had come to an end. the military’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) rode into power on a wave of popular support as it appeared to usher in a transition toward democracy.

Welcomed by the masses as a caretaker government, the scaf managed to supervise successful parliamentary and presidential elections. On March 19, 2011, and in the first post-Mubarak vote, Egyptians cast ballots on constitutional amendments sponsored by the military, setting the framework for the transition to democracy, including scheduling the first parliamentary and presidential elections. Islamists backed the amendments as they were eager to hold elections and take advantage of their widespread grassroots support built during the years of repression under Mubarak and his predecessors; in contrast, smaller and newly founded parties had less time to prepare for elections and cried for more time. Many liberal revolutionaries pushed for a “no” vote on the military-written constitutional amendments and argued that a constitution should be written from the bottom up and not rushed. Despite liberals’ objections, the constitutional . . .

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