Egypt’s Fight Against Mubarak Was More Successful Than America’s Fight Against Trump; Why?

Linda Davidson/The Washington Post

Recently the U.S. has been experiencing an outburst of demonstrations whose purpose is to manifest the country’s opposition towards the newly elected president. There have been different demonstrations around the country, such the Women’s March and A Day Without Immigrants, that have not been affective in achieving its goal of manifesting the nation’s discontent with the way the newly elected president is governing and the way he is threatening our fundamental rights. What are the Americans doing wrong? My professor Tanya Rawal-Jindia asked us to consider why the Egyptian protests in 2011 were more effective in achieving their goal of getting the former president Hosni Mubarak to resign than the current protests against Trump? I decided to do some extra research to see if I could figure out why.

Hosni Mubarak: A Brief History of the Man who Started it All

Ḥosnī Mubārak, 2009.

Hosni Mubarak is an Egyptian military officer and politician who served as president of Egypt for almost 30 years. Hosni Mubarak attended the Egyptian military academy of Cairo and after graduating he works as a flight instructor. He rose through the ranks in the Egyptian Air Force and held command position. His ambition encouraged him to continue to obtain higher and more prestigious positions; therefore, in 1974, he was promoted to the rank of air marshal. Mubarak demonstrated a distinguishing military talent during the Yom Kippur War with Israel in 1973 which encouraged President Anwar el-Sadat to appoint Mubarak as his vice president in 1975. In October 6, 1981, Mubarak was sitting next to Sadat when he was killed by Muslim extremists during a military parade. As a result, Mubarak was elected president of Egypt and became the most disliked, longest-serving Egyptian ruler since Muhammed Ali Pasha.

Almost 30 Years of Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak’s almost 30 years of presidency brought an increase of poverty, corruption and suppression. Under his rule, more than half of the country was not making enough money to sustain a family, for most Egyptians made an average of about 50 dollars a month which it’s not enough specially because the prices of the essentials, such as food and sanitary products, were constantly being raised. Some Egyptians couldn’t afford to buy diary or meat products more than twice a month and others couldn’t afford to buy these products at all. The Egyptian economy was continuously growing, but the government failed to “spread the wealth” among the different classes and special failed to fairly share the wealth among the working class which was suffering the most. The wealthy businessman with ties to the government were the once receiving most of the revenue that the country was creating The government did nothing to try an alleviate the poverty problems that most of the country was under, but instead continue to raise the prices of the essential products and keep the money the country was creating among the elite, specially those affiliated with the government.

“Egyptians are sick and tired of being corrupted, and when you live on 300 pounds a month [about $51], you have one of two options, you either become a beggar or a thief…”

Mubarak’s presidency also brought corruption, for he was able to manipulate the system and democracy in order to be reelected as president not only for two or three terms but for five terms. Mubarak’s 30 years as president seemed more of a dictatorship hidden under the name of the democracy. He corrupted the electoral system in order to get the reelections and as many terms as he desired. The government was enjoying the money that they were depriving and taking away from the country and when the Egyptians try to use their citizen votes to choose a leader they thought was going to alleviate the poverty and corruption in Egypt, Mubarak manipulate the voting system to favor him and not the people of Egypt. Mubarak also allowed corruption to pervade Egyptian life. The corruption that was present under Mubarak’s regime made it highly difficult for the average Egyptian to make an honest living. Many of the Egyptians who were living in poverty during his presidency felt force to beg for money on the streets or rob in order to survive and support their families.

“We are not beggars, and we do not want to become thieves.”

In addition, Mubarak’s regime repressed opposition leaders. He accused anyone that went against his ideals and the way he ruled the country of threatening the nation’s well-being and arrested them without a legitimate cause. He used his presidential power to manipulate the news outlets. Mubarak controlled the flow of information by having the newspaper Al-Ahram, a government controlled and funded newspaper, as the main circulated newspaper. Even though other newspapers published honest and accurate information, many Egyptian were forced to believe that the government funded newspaper had reliable information.

The Egyptians Uprising

On January 2011, Mubarak began to be pressured to step down from office by the Egyptians who were angered by the repression, corruption, and poverty in the country. Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Cairo, Egypt, demanding for the end of his presidency and for democratic reforms. The Egyptian uprising lasted 18 days. It started in the 25 January and ended on the 11 February when Mubarak finally decided to step down of office.

Egypt Demonstrates How to Fight Back

Tahrir Square during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

25 January: Day of Anger/ Day of Revolt

On the 25 January 2011, thousands of people gushed into Tahrir Square to mark a historic turning point for Egypt. Protests took place in different cities of Egypt such as Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. The purpose of the protests across the country were to manifest the country’s demands for the restoration of a fair minimum wage for the working class, term limits for the president, and the termination of Egyptian emergency laws which suspended their constitutional rights and extent police powers. In Cairo, protesters congregated in front of the High Court in the center of the city. The demonstration exceeded the expectations; as a result, approximately 15,000 protestors broke through the security cordons and moved the protest to Tahrir Square. Immediately the police were sent to try and halt the demonstration by using tear gas and water cannons; however, the protestors didn’t let the police intimidate them and they threw stones at the police officer forcing them to retreat.

“People are fed up of Mubarak and of his dictatorship and of his torture chambers and of his failed economic policies. If Mubarak is not overthrown tomorrow, then it will be the day after. If it’s not the day after it’s going to be next week.”

28 January: Friday of Anger/ Day of Rage

During the 18 days of protest

The demonstrations continued across Egypt and on the fourth day of the revolution thousand filled once more the cities of Egypt on the day that came to be known as the “Friday of Anger” or “Day of Rage.” Before the protests started, the Egyptian government shut down the Internet service attempting to end the communication between the protestors, for the activist used the Internet, specifically Facebook, to communicate with their fellow protestors. Some of the protestors were able to communicate via text, but others weren’t able because the government also attempted to block their phone service. However, the protestors continue with their goal to get their demands met; therefore, thousands of Egyptians gather to protest and within hours the numbers began to increase. Throughout the day, the police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water at the protestors. In Port Said, protestors burned multiple government building. In Giza, protestors gathered in front of the I-Istiqama Mosque where they fought the police that was there. In Suez, police shot and killed one protestor. The streets of Egypt were covered by a plethora of national flags and anti-Mubarak graffiti.

“We are one, we are one”

4 February: 1st “Friday of Departure”

Riot police officers rushed to confront protestersScott Nelson for The New York Time

On the 11th day of protests, protestors demanded that Mubarak step down immediately and they gave him 4 February as their deadline. Many of the protestors that spent the night in Tahrir Square started the day with a circle of prayer. About a million people flooded Tahrir Square before the demonstration to participate in the Friday prayer. The Egyptians created a human chain in the square around those who were praying to protect them from any disruptions by the police. After the circle of prayer, the protest began and the crowd that was gather in Tahrir Square began the “Friday of Departure” and headed to the presidential palace in Heliopolis, but were stopped by the police before they could reach it. In Alexandria, more than a million protestors were present which made it the largest protest there. The Egyptians in the city of Alexandria heard about the intervention in Cairo and they warned the government that if they used violence against the protestors in Cairo, the millions of the protestors in Alexandria would join those of Cairo and make their way into the presidential palace. According to The New York Times, the U.S. administration was in contact with Egyptian officials and the administrations suggested that Mubarak resigned before the protestors became a much greater harm, but Mubarak refused to give up his power.

11 February: “Final Friday of Departure”

After weeks of intense pressure, on 11 February 2011, Mubarak finally agreed to resign. At first Mubarak refused to step down which resulted in a nationwide escalation of protests. The massive protest in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and other cities continued. Protestors began to make their way to the presidential palace once more. They were received by the army which surrounded the presidential palace. After so many days of demonstrations and conflict with the police and the army, Hosni Mubarak took the decision of stepping down from office.

Egyptian Youth

Young protesters in Cairo

The groups of “spirited and enthusiastic youth” dominated the demonstrations. The youth was responsible for the mobilization, online and in the streets, which helped bring down the oppressive, nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. This was their protest. The large segment of Egypt’s young population came out of the shadows and protested against a “regime that gives much to worry about and little to aspire.”

However, today some of those young activists that contributed to the demonstrations are not taken into consideration when they aspire for a leadership or management position. This is due to the fact that the post-Mubarak Egypt is governed by a patriarchal culture that seems to favor the older segment of the population because they contain more experience than the young. This shouldn’t be the case, for the youth that participate in the 2011 Egyptian uprising should be giving the opportunity to further demonstrate their willingness to create a more democratic country.

Social Media

The media played a significant role in the Egyptian uprising. Social media helped Egyptian coordinate and create events on Facebook. Arab countries, such as Egypt, don’t use the media because they are not entirely familiar with the navigation of social media compared to other countries like the U.S. The video of a young man, Khaled Said, depicting the way he was killed by the police went viral and Egyptians began to see social media as a useful tool to use against Mubarak’s regime. The young were mainly the ones that took control of social media to try an inspire their fellow Egyptians to join the revolution. Asma Mahfouz, a 26-year-old Egyptian woman, is one of the many who used social media to encourage people to take action. Mahfouz recorded herself giving a speech in which she was encouraging the nation of Egypt to protest and she uploaded it to YouTube and posted it on Facebook. The video went viral and it inspired thousands of Egyptians “to participate in protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, calling for an end of the 30-year authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak.

What did Egyptians do that Americans are not doing?

The U.S. marches should use Egypt’s example. Instead of having multiple movements, we should identify the problem, the current president, and become one single movement and force. We need to create one single goal, show our discontent with the current president’s actions, and make the demonstrations revolve around that goal. Also, our demonstrations should be consistent in order to show the newly elected government that our demands our serious and they need to be met. We should also use Asma Mahfouz example and use social media as a tool that to help us voice our discontent and encourage others to take action as well. We need to stop using the media to promote that which causes us harm and use it to show the government that we would not stand by and watch how the government destroys our country and takes away our fundamental rights.

“I came to express my opinion against what I believe this government is doing wrong…”
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