The special January 25, 2021 event, “Ten Years Since Tahrir Square: Egypt Then and Now,” featured an outstanding group of Egypt experts and examined the following questions: With a decade of hindsight, what can we see more clearly about the Uprising? Why did the attempted democratic transition fail? What are the lasting effects of January 25 on politics and society? How does al-Sisi’s regime differ from Mubarak’s? What are the main sources of instability in Egypt today, and what might a future popular uprising look like?
- The revolution had no leader. At the time, I was afraid that things could get ugly without organization, and I was right. For any future political movement in Egypt, organization is as important as mobilization. Many revolutionaries also put our trust in the military—but things have never ended well for any political or civilian force in Egypt that put trust in the army.
- One lesson from Egypt’s post-2011 experience is that the judiciary is not as independent as Egyptians thought. The post-2011 era was quite a disappointment for judicial independence, and the legal profession must be rehabilitated. One of my key takeaways is that judicial independence is a key component of ensuring that Egyptians have the tools they need to prepare for the next political opening.
- The Muslim Brotherhood is heavily damaged as a political force, but it is not dead. A lot of Egyptians were very disillusioned with what happened while the Brotherhood was in power, but I suspect a base is still there. My guess is that if there were a political opening in Egypt, we would see the Brotherhood reemerge in some form.
Ezzedine C. Fishere
- Egypt is an underdeveloped country with lots of problems that are not easy to fix. And it has a Pharaoh-like ruler, al-Sisi, who is trying to deal with all these problems while also antagonizing and alienating all political forces and large segments of society. He is trying to do this impossible mission while losing a lot of the potential that Egypt possesses, and with doubtful finances and using a state-led model that has been tried over and over again in Egypt and failed.
- The transformational openings that we saw in 2011 in Egypt and the region are incredibly rare. Authoritarian regimes, despite huge challenges, can sustain themselves for a very long time. Thus, when such an opening comes, it should be treated as unique and precious, not as the sort of thing that lends itself to short-term political thinking.
Salma El Hosseiny
- After women were attacked and brutalized during and after the 18 days of uprising, political parties and youth coalitions initially denied the problem. But women kept forcing the issue onto the public agenda. This paved the way for what we are seeing now: younger generations of women breaking taboos, reclaiming autonomy over their bodies, and demanding accountability for violence and discrimination.”
- If the coup de grâce of Sadat and Mubarak was their miscalculation of politics or their flawed politics, I would say that the vulnerability of the al-Sisi regime is the total absence of politics. Not the absence of politics in the general sense—there is always power relations inside the regime—in terms of practice.This puts al-Sisi in a very vulnerable position. He gave away some of the political tools for ruling, the channels of influence and information, that were very effective under Sadat and under Mubarak.
- Who’s running the state? The military is running the state, in a way that it has never done before, with far more extensive engagement in the actual management of the state, to say nothing of ownership of the economy. A perhaps less observed junior partner, however, are the new administrative elites. Al-Sisi’s reconfigured educational system is being used to create a politically loyal, technocratic administrative elite, very much part of an authoritarian, top-down development model.