Magazine article The Christian Century

Egypt's Uprising

Magazine article The Christian Century

Egypt's Uprising

Article excerpt

The popular uprising that led to Hosni Mubarak's downfall may have caught the world by surprise, but to many who knew Egypt it seemed inevitable. In a recent book appropriately titled Egypt on the Brink, Tarek Osman painted a picture of a 30-year regime that was out of touch with its people, lacked a compelling national vision and cracked down harshly on dissent, sometimes using torture.

Since the 1970s, the population of Egypt has nearly doubled. Economically it is a pyramid, with a small elite at the top and a very broad base at the bottom. More than 40 percent of the people live in poverty. Unemployment has been high, especially among the young, who experienced a deteriorating education system and who had no political outlet. That was a combustible situation. Presciently, Osman wrote that "the detachment of the majority of young Egyptians, amid crushing living conditions and the absence of a national project to ignite energy and momentum, could ... at a moment at which the regime fails to grab hold of the country ... rouse a tornado of turmoil in which anger and despair trump hope."

Amazingly, the "tornado" that Osman predicted turned out to be largely hopeful and nonviolent. Pro-Mubarak forces seemed to have precipitated what little violence there was in the protests, and the protesters did not respond in kind. Egypt's regime change contrasts dramatically with the U.S. military effort in Iraq, which accomplished a regime change at the cost of tens of thousands of civilian lives, not counting military losses on both sides, and which left Iraq with a government still racked by sectarian violence and ethnic strife. …

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