The key to understanding post-revolution Egypt is recognizing that since 2011, there have been effectively three revolutions – not one.
The January 25th revolution is referred to as Egypt’s revolution simply because it was the first. This is not to suggest that the title is unearned, however, it casts a shadow on subsequent, and equally important, mass protests.
The first revolution was against Mubarak by the people supported by the military. The second was against the old guard by the people supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. The third was against the Muslim Brotherhood by the middle class and minorities supported by the political elite – and yes – the military.
Considering that these events took place over the span of just 30 months, it is no wonder that objectivity or meaningful comprehensive analysis of the situation is absent. It is evident that a catalytic force is highly engaged and is clearly dissatisfied. But what could possibly be shared by these vastly different regimes?
"There is a certain futility to the Egyptian regime’s marginalizing and fighting the youth that is almost comical
Is it possible for a capitalist autocracy, a military dictatorship and authoritarian theocracy to have things in common? The answer is unequivocally, yes.
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These regimes believed that the waves of continuous unrelenting protests were seeking new faces to the same system. While in fact, all three revolutions were explicitly revolting against the system itself. Egypt’s ever expanding demographic – the youth – were, and remain, the largest faction of society that has not seen lasting change come out of the protests.Egypt’s youth over the span of the same 30 months went from accusations of being paid foreign spies, to the saviors of the nation, to traitors for protesting against the army, to the ushers of democracy, to agents of creative chaos, to the backbone of the nation and finally – funnily – betrayers of the revolution.
When I refer to “youth” I am in no way implying the presence of a nationally organized force but something more abstract. A group of young Egyptians who have never known a President other than Mubarak, who - despite all odds - were knowledgeable and educated, who were never interested in the sham political arena and who were fully aware that the current situation was unsustainable and posed a direct threat to their collective future. It is thus clear why youth was the most engaged demographic but also the hardest to satisfy.
However, three years of sharp up and downs have created persistent frustration that is manifesting heavily in the active engagement of youth. The current round of crackdowns on political dissidents and the suffocation of public political freedoms have - to an extent - proven to be a battle the youth have refused to walk away from. Arguably, because all the battles fought before had paved the way for politicians that went back to doing the same things that previous protests had erupted against.
With no accountability, politicians have been consistently getting away with achieving their own political ends on the back of the youth. For this round, Egypt’s youth are refusing to be a stairway to yet another power that has proven to be no different.
There is a certain futility to the Egyptian regime’s marginalizing and fighting the youth that is almost comical. Without ever holding political office, this group of people was able to create a profound change in the country’s long history. Without a charismatic leader this group was able to rally an entire nation behind their calls for liberty and equality.
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Over the last 3 years Egypt’s youth have ushered in an era of national and political consciousness that is unlikely to be quelled. But ultimately, does that even matter? This influential group is - quite literally - Egypt’s future.