January 25th. Four years later.
As I was reviewing my post from last year, I realized that what I had hoped would not transpire-the election of former General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi-has come true. Sisi has been president for less than a year, and in some ways Egypt has calmed: there are less protests, the Muslim Brotherhood has been relatively quelled, and tourists have returned, boosting the economy. In exchange for this ‘calm,’ Egyptians have surrendered their dreams of a New Egypt: the military is back in power and mightier than ever. The press is harassed. Most importantly, former President Hosni Mubarak’s court case was dropped, as were the charges against his two sons. Currently they are all walking free.
A corrupt dictator who had innocent people murdered is free. Why won’t the International Criminal Court pursue him? Is this how Egypt protects human rights and democracy? I have no words to say.
This January 25th, let us honor those protesters who have tried to return to Tahir Square to continue the work that seems to have been largely forgotten. Let us remember those who have died in the past few days. Let us honor Shaimaa AL-Sabagh, a mother and wife and member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) who went to Tahrir Square to lay a wreath for the Revolution before being shot by the police.Let us honor Sondos Reda, a 17-yr old Islamist who was killed in Alexandria. No matter their opinions, they should not have been shot and killed by police.
In going through my WordPress drafts I found an old opinion piece I had written about the Revolution as the 1st-year anniversary neared. I have posted it here:
Every Spring is Followed by a Fall and Winter
Spring and Fall are restless months. They are the months where change is occurring; the cold, dark and snowy winter turns into the warm, inviting and sunny summer, and vice versa. Spring is of course optimistic, when one anticipates the languid days ahead and feels the sudden softness of the breeze; wind and rain give way to greenery, and our days, no matter how harried and depressed they may be, suddenly are tinged with hope simply by viewing mother nature. Likewise, in fall, we become instantly downcast; the honeymoon of summer is over, and we start to feel the cold biting at us, telling us that we can’t hide from winter’s chill and anger forever.
The term “Arab Spring” was coined to define the era when, starting in 2011, several Arab countries overthrew their leaders and many more experienced revolt and change. Ironically enough, the “Arab Spring” did not start in spring but in perhaps one of the worst months of the year: January. What started in cold Mediterranean-coastal Tunisia spread to the bitterly cold sands of Cairo, Egypt and then, much like a summer wildfire in fact, to all corners of the Arab world.. The Arab countries shed their old leaders and governments which were tired, too patched up and plugged in corruption and a mess of shady greys, in the hopes of new brighter, transparent governments.
However, there is much to be remembered in the analogy of the seasons: how spring becomes summer, only to become fall and then winter and then spring again. If we are to analyze a country by using the seasons, then the beginning of the regime, or the revolution, is the spring, when people have thawed from the brain freeze that was the old regime, are fired up and full of hope and grand ideas about the future. However, once the initial revolution has been secured, what happens next?
Do we consider the immediate aftermath of the revolution still part of the “spring,” or do we declare that it is summer? When can one officially state that the new regime is in place, that progress and the aspirations have been met? After a country revolts, or overthrows the old regime, there is followed a brief “honeymoon” or summer phase, when people are still euphoric about their accomplishment and are still drunk on the grandiose thoughts of the future. This time period can vary in length; the French Revolution certainly had a lengthy honeymoon period, when people thought that creating an entirely new calendar and renaming the seasons would make France glorious and prosperous. However, eventually the honeymoon glow fades, and like the bride returning to her house only to realize that it’s time for business, and that the spotlight has moved onto other brides and other things, reality sets in. Like the cold ebbing away from summer’s haze, the tourists heading home from the beach back to their cities and lives, so too will the cold, hard reality of what has occurred during the Arab Spring come to a head. The question is, how will people react?
The video and photography showing Tahrir Square on that day was humbling to behold; outsiders watched a nation that had come together under a single goal, and who had achieved that goal. For once, the common man triumphed over the great machine; for once, mankind proved that there is usually more power at the bottomest level, than at the very top, and the common man anywhere in the world could perhaps share the winning sentiment of the Egyptians on that day.
Egypt has edged now out of it’s honeymoon phase; the afterglow of the revolution and all it’s promise has subsided into the cold winter’s air. It is time to realize that Rome, so to speak, was not built in a day; that dreams and prosperity do not happen overnight. That change in Egypt will take time like anything else, and that positive change can occur, if people work at it.
The leaders of the Arab World probably never thought something like the Arab Spring could happen. No doubt they believed that their winter twilight would continue on as it had for so long—for after the glory days of summer that was their regimes, corruption and antipathy ushered in the falls of their regimes and they slid into the winter of frozen ineptitude—as they never believed that the people, after so much time, would care. Indeed, the last question we may ask ourselves about the Arab Spring is why it took people so long to usher in the Arab Spring in the first place, but at the same time, the answer to this question does not matter. The people finally realized that their dreams could become a reality, if only they stood up and made the change, and change they did.
If the military truly cared about the citizens of Egypt, it would quickly assemble presidential elections—or at least some sort of handoff to a congress of sorts—and gracefully exit into the background as the gaurds and protecters of the country, which is what the military is supposed to be. A military is built to defend a nation, not to rule it and terrorize the citizens it is created to protect.