Egypt’s uprising continues to be a work in progress

Issandr El Amrani writes: There is a dramatic video made by Egyptian activists that has been circulating online lately. In it, actors play the roles of some of the major protagonists of the Egyptian uprising and its aftermath: Hosni Mubarak, the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, the liberals, and of course the courageous activists who took to the streets a year ago and toppled a “Pharaoh”.

The narrative shows the military turning the political players against each other: the Salafist against the activist, the Muslim Brother against the Salafist, the liberal against the Islamists and so on. Later, the politicians do nothing as the military beats the activist: they are too busy with ballot boxes, and finish by fighting each other for an empty throne. The video ends with the words, “All of you sold Egypt.”

For some of the revolutionaries who participated in last year’s uprising, which began a year ago today, this serves as an accurate depiction of their betrayal at the hands of, well, everybody. The Muslim Brotherhood, which did not even back protests last January, has won nearly half the seats in parliament and is set to be the key negotiator of the military’s handover of power to a civilian government by next July.

Since last October, over 100 protestors have been killed in clashes with army and police, even as elections were under way, and very few politicians joined the protestors’ call for an immediate end to the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Even as the anniversary of January 25 was being prepared and the same revolutionaries called for a “second revolution,” the leading political parties were calling for a calm celebration of the revolution and trust in parliament to continue to transition process.

Meanwhile, the SCAF added insult to (grievous) injury by announcing it would distribute a “January 25 medallion” to every wounded revolutionary and every soldier drafted into military service since the uprising.

So is this what the Egyptian revolution of 2011 has come to, a deal with Islamists and the military to stabilise the country, repress democracy activists and keep the country going pretty much as it used to, except with a more religious and overtly militaristic veneer?

Not so fast. Implicit in the video is not only disappointment with Egypt’s elites, but with its people. In recent months I have often heard the complaint that Egyptians are all too easily manipulated by the military and Islamist politicians, and too eager for a return to normality. It may be true to some extent – in autocracies and democracies alike public opinion is manipulated – but the bottom line of this worldview is a dead-end idea: that the people betrayed the revolution. It is an idea with no future because if not for the people, in whose name are the revolutionaries speaking?

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