Egypt’s Revolutionary Moment Turned Uprising

Sahar Aziz

On January 25, 2011, the world watched as millions of Egyptians filled the streets demanding political and economic justice and an end to the Hosni Mubarak regime. After decades of suppression, political sentiments among Egyptians could no longer be contained. For eighteen gut-wrenching days, Egyptians surprised the world with their resolve to bring down a dictator. The protesters in the streets were not simply looking to topple Mubarak, but rather sought to create a new political system that served the people.1 The message was loud and clear: Egyptians demanded and deserved democracy and they were willing to fight for it.

What followed, however, was not a new democracy, but a military-run regime with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (scaf) at its helm. Political scientists who had long studied the regime were quick to catch on to the fact that this turn of events was fatal for the revolution.2 But it would be months before most Egyptians came to this realization. Indeed, even today many Egyptians still harbor the belief that the events of January 25, 2011, triggered a revolution, despite clear indications to the contrary.

Accordingly, this chapter examines the failure of the January 25, 2011, revolution to bring about an open and democratic political system in Egypt. I argue that despite indications of political contestation at the margins, and a short hiatus from authoritarianism, Egypt’s government has largely defaulted back to repressive state practices under the firm grip of the military-security apparatus. I propose that by acknowledging the failure of the revolution to achieve democratic outcomes, we can begin a candid discussion on whether a real revolution is imminent.3

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