Social Movements in Egypt

Social Movements in Egypt

Amr Amr 12/10/2013 Egypt Burning: How one Egyptian revolutionary movement overthrew a dictator while one another overthrew a democracy. On the 17th of December, 2011 a vegetable vendor lit himself on fire in response to the corrupt and inefficient bureaucratic system in Tunisia. This small event by an unknown vendor led to the biggest and fastest spread of social movements in the history of the Arab world known as the Arab spring.

Yet while the Tunisian example has been seen as relatively successful, in Egypt things seems to be more complicated and difficult especially with two different social movements, the irst mobilized on the 25th of January and overthrew the long time autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak, while the second had its beginnings in December of 2012 led to the overthrow of the first democratically elected president on June 30th of the following year was able to rally the biggest protest in modern history.

This research paper’s goal will be to analyze the two social movements, their origins, make-up, organizational structure, their image abroad and finally their conclusion. For example why did the January 25th movement, which had clear goals from the onset and an xtremely diverse make up ranging from secular liberals to conservative Islamists get sidelined and collapsed after achieving their first goal?

And why did the Tamarod movement (rebel in Arabic) which had its origin in a petition form and was able to garner more active support, including the average non politicized Egyptian, was looked upon as undemocratic by the majority of the democratic nations and their overthrow of the Mohammed Morsy as a coup? Three days after the January 25th revolution a remarkable event occurred. The Muslim Brotherhood, a secretive conservative group with the goal of increasing the influence of Islam in ublic life and government, Joined the secular youth groups that made up the initial January 25th movement.

Islamist and Secularist, movements on the right and the socialist left all united in achieving the goals set by the movement: Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice. Yet why and how where all these different groups able to unite? To answer this question one must first look at the recent history of Egypt to see what alienated such a diverse assortment of groups into rebelling against the state.

Mubarak comes from a line of military leaders who took control of Egypt since the 50s n response to British colonial policies and while both his predecessors put down Islamist dissent, they had the broad support from the rest of the Egyptian populace who supported their nationalistic and socialist ideologies. Yet unlike his predecessors Mubarak only played lip service to those ideologies, seemingly more concerned with bringing Egypt into the free market system which seemed to enrich him and his close associates while impoverishing the lower classes.

By not only forgoing the ideologies that got support of the majority of the population but continuing to suppress Islamic ovements, none of the mosaic of Egyptian movements felt that the autocratic leader where defending their interests. Shukrallah in her article sums it up by stating that ” It is all these grievances that started to come to the surface particularly in the past five years where daily protests by different sectors of the population became the norm.

These protests included a wide variety of the population that never before took part in any political or even economic movements. As people became more desperate, fear of the police decreased and protesting became infectious. ” Adding on o this new found zeal for revolt by these various groups was the fact that Mubarak, though Just one cog of the state, symbolized all the injustices committed by it. Make it easier for these movements to unite against a tangible target.

Yet as Hellyer states in his article “How the June 30 Uprising wasn’t the January 25 revolution”, “The January 25 revolution was not about Hosni Mubarak per se, but about the insistence on building a future based on bread, freedom, social Justice and human dignity. The removal of Hosni Mubarak was a necessary, but insufficient, precondition for that to appen. ” And herein lies the weakness of the movement, while having Mubarak, an autocratic leader, be the poster boy for all these injustices, his removal soon after led to the disintegration of the revolution and its coalition.

With such broad goals, as freedom and human dignity, each group interpreted in the frame of its own ideology whether that meant establishing these goals through a democratic state based on sharia law championed the various Islamic groups or a secular civil state espoused out by the liberal youth groups, “When the various Egyptians protested in Tahrir Square, that utopian vision of what Egypt could become, the ideas of freedom and justice were agreed upon across the board. But once you stepped out of that square you realized that the idea freedom you were fighting for was in fact completely different than that of your bearded comrade. (Khalil, 125) This disintegration led to only surface level reforms and to a very contentious and sectarian transitional period. Unfortunately for those that began the initiative for the January 25th revolution, getting rid of Mubarak was the easiest goal to achieve. For a social ovement to be successful, it must either be coopted by the state or completely replace it if one is to follow the Marxist example and what the initial revolutionaries of the 25th movement failed to realize was that Mubarak was only one of many components of the state.

The youth, the foundation of the revolution, had set radical reforms to take place after the ouster of Mubarak, such as wide ranging Police reform, radical institutional reform, and for civilian oversight of the army to achieve a true democratic civil state. Yet as Jeff Goodwin and James Jasper state in The Social Movements Reader, “If nothing else, the state lays down the rules of the game within which protesters maneuver, and if they choose to break those rules they are likely to encounter punitive action from the police or armed forces. And what these youth groups failed to realize it was the Egyptian Army, the most venerated institution in Egypt now responsible for the transitional period, not Mubarak who were the true power behind the state. And as they began clamoring for these radical reforms the Generals fought back by demonizing the protesters, calling them foreign agents, and laiming that their ongoing protesting was damaging the already weakened economy. This led to a loss of support from the ordinary Egyptian, including those who did not participate in the overthrow, known as the couch party.

As an Egyptian labor worker said during an interview by the Christian Science Monitor “Right now I am focusing on achieving an adequate minimum wage for the workers, but there are so many obstacles and many people see labor protests as a way of disrupting the countrys stability. And if there’s anything Egyptians have cared about the most since the Pharaohs, it’s stability. With no broad support from the overall population, the coalition broke apart, which led to the Islamist taking advantage of the rift by siding with the army and reaching power, controlling half the Parliament and the presidency.

And this is where the Tamarod movement, the leaders of the June 30th revolution, succeeded. Not only did the Tamarod movement and the Army share a secular and nationalistic ideology, the Morsy presidency had alienated the Army and the average populace with economic blunders and its incapability to deal with terrorist attacks plaguing the nation. With the backing of such a powerful institution and the support of the “couch party’, Tamarod had the green light to organize mass demonstrations to oust the Muslim Brotherhood president.

As Maha Azzam states in the article “Egypt’s Tamarod and the military united for now’ “Their success is not down to collecting signatures and protesting, it’s down to the backing of the armed and security forces,” Yet this was only possible as “The military wanted to be sure it had a mandate from the people,” a valuable resource with which it gained the support of the State, in essence Tamarod coopted the State into mobilizing to verthrow its head as it saw the movements goals mutually beneficial.

And in return Tamarod guaranteed its survival after the coup by following the militarys rules, unlike the previous revolutionary movement, by supporting the following harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood which now found itself playing the role of the opposition. “We’re happy about the military’s involvement in the fght against terrorism and violence as practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to a Tamarod statement. This summer’s events proved how essential institutions can be to the success and the survival of a movement.

Yet It’s this position of excluding the Muslim Brotherhood and its various Islamist allies and supporting the army’s brutal crackdown which led to the death of at least 300 “anti-coup” activist that led it to be almost shunned by the international community who saw this as military interference and not a revolution. Yet in both the January 25 and June 30th case, the army nudged out both presidents so why was one seen as unprecedented revolution and the other as a shameful interruption of democracy?

How the rest of globe views a social movement can be essential as domestic support, especially in his globalized world, can make or break the outcome of a revolutionary outcome. In fact, it is a movement’s ability to manipulate different forms of media that can make it gain or lose support domestically and internationally. We cannot forget that it was the daily pictures and news reports of the bloody combat in Vietnam that fueled support for the antiwar movement in the late 60s early 70s.

While the effects of Facebook and Twitter are hotly debated, it can’t be argued that social media was a powerful weapon in the January 25 movement’s arsenal. But not only did it have rganizational possibilities, it helped gain it international support as the world followed the revolution on the web, with the activists determined for the world to view the events as they were happening, in the attempt to coax friendly nations to pressure Mubarak out of power.

Wael Ghonim, a renown google executive and social activist, describes in his book Revolution 2. 0 how social media was integral in garnering international support for their movement, “The most powerful consequence of this revolutionary tide is to challenge the false separation between a countrys ideals and its interests. And we did through Facebook! We showed the Western government that our government did not represent or protect its own people, we showed the world that they had lost all sense of legitimacy at the click of a button! Yet according to the article “Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution: Reconsidering Resource Mobilization Theory’, while these “revolutionary’ Facebook groups were able to mobilize the more passionate and energetic youth, their messages could only reach less than half the population with internet usage reaching only 31% in 2011. “While Facebook united Egyptian teens in Cairo against he regime, farmers in upper Egypt whose only source of information would be newspapers, most likely those sanctioned by the state And the youths were in conflict with the Army, these farmers saw nothing but a bunch of troublemakers harming their livelihood. (Eltantawy, 16) So why did the June 30th revolution, which brought to the iconic Tahrir Square the biggest protest in the history of the world, lack the humanitarian image that the previous revolution reveled in but was able to mobilize even more Egyptians then the Facebook saw 25th movement supporters? In the article “The June 30 Revolution in Egypt: A False Pregnancy’ , Dr. Mohen Saleh explains how the Tamarod movement’s decision to pass a paper petition instead of using social media, a tactic more efficient in Egypt with more than half the population having no access to the internet, “… ept the snowballing movement out of the international eye. Let’s Just say it isn’t as sexy as having a group of internet sa’. n. y youth posting images and videos of oppression with their iPhone. ” By ignoring to use a product of the west, Social media, especially in the age of Facebook activism, the world seemed to completely ignore the bubbling frustration in Egypt with the democratically president. In fact news stations didn’t begin reporting on the movement until the president was overthrown by the Army, 6 month after the Tamarod movement began mobilizing its resources.

But in the end, Tamarod’s decision to focus their attention on spreading this print petition, from the coastal city of Alexandria to the Bedouins of the Sinai desert that allowed to mobilize the biggest protest ever recorded. Such a simple form of getting their message across allowed them to access constituents of all socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Yet the question remains, out of all these advantages and disadvantages, how was he June 30th revolution able to garner more support from the wider population then its parent revolution?

One must only look at present events to answer it. After the overthrow of the democratically elected Morsy, his supporters formed a counter movement called the Rabaa movement, which emulated tactics used by both the January 25th coalition and the Tamarod movement yet they lacked one essential resource and that is the support of any institutions. In fact every essential institution from the respected Judiciary to state media mobilize to demonize the Rabaa movement, such as headlines claiming that its suppression was on a war on terror.

Through this analysis we can safely assume that while many factors can determine the success or failure of a movement, it is the support or lack thereof of institutions that can change the tide of ongoing events. Bibliography Goodwin, Jeff and James M. Jasper. The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print. Khalil, Ashraf. Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2012. Print Ghonim, Wael. Revolution 2. 0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power: A Memoir.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition, 2012. Print. Eltantawy and Julie B. Wiest. “Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution: Reconsidering Resource Mobilization Theory. ” International Journal of Communication 5. (201 1): 1208-1220. Print. Azam Mahaa. “Egypt’s Tamarod and the military united for now. ” English Ahram (2013): 1034-67. Print. Shukrallah, Alaa. “An overview of the January 25th revolution. ” International Viewpoint 9 March 2011, http://internationalviewpoint. org/spip. php? article2015 Helley,H. A. “How the June 30 Uprising Wasn’t the January 25 Revolution. ” Brookings July 21 , 2013, http:// ww. rookings. edu/research/opinions/2013/07/21-revolution-egypt-hellyer Salef, Dr. Mohsen Moh’d. “The June 30 Revolution in Egypt: A False Pregnancy. ” A1-Zaytouna Centre for Studies & Consultations August 2013, http://www. alzaytouna. net/en/ publications/articles/1 51613-the-June-30-revolution-in-egypt-a-false-pregnancy. html Loveluck, Louisa. “Why Egyptians dont care about Khaled Said, whose death began their revolution. “The Christian Science Monitor October 2013, http:// www. csmonitor. com/World/Middle-East/2013/1003/Why- Egyptia ns-don-t-care-about- Khaled-said-whose-death-began-their-revolution