On Wednesday, January 25th, Egyptian protestors marked the one-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled the Mubarak regime by marching to Tahrir Square to demand that the ruling military council immediately hand power to civilians.
The renewal of activist dissent is concurrent with Monday’s inaugural session of the first freely elected Parliament in six decades, which resulted in nearly half of the member seats being given to Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now, Egyptians across the demographic spectrum fear that the Islamists will ultimately stifle the democratic movement, which continues to vehemently sweep Arab countries. The larger concern is that both the ultraconservative members of Parliament and army commanders will work jointly to obstruct any reforms that the revolution has fought for. These include grievances about negligible economic growth, grave human rights abuses and the enduring lack of political freedom.
The most urgent responsibility of the newly elected parliament is to act quickly in an effort to amend laws that restrict free speech, association and assembly and that give police (acting under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) far reaching power to violently restrain protestors. And while the SCAF’s chieftain, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, partially lifted the 30-year State of Emergency on Tuesday (which bans public assembly and allows indefinite detention without charge, and prosecution in special courts that allow no appeal process — and subsequently rely on torture to obtain confessions), he said that Egypt would continue to apply the law in cases of “thuggery” (a term so vague and all-encompassing that it seems to almost necessitate that the military use brute force). Of course, this gesture should be considered alongside the fact that the last year has seen hundreds of peaceful protestors convicted by military tribunals on charges of “thuggery.” As such, the notion that the country’s dictatorship has ceased to function with the ousting of Mubarak is an idealized and highly problematic one, and revolutionaries realize this.
The fortitude of Egypt’s demonstrative campaign also seems to parallel the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose protestors — drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring —continue to rally against American economic inequality all across the United States. The difference, however, is the unabashed oppression inflicted upon Egyptian activists by members of the military council. For all the liberty and prosperity young and old Egyptians alike have crusaded for, the move towards true, citizen-inspired democracy in Egypt seems a long way off, whereas there might be glimmers of hope for a reformed American economy.
Moreover, the unwavering revolution can provide lessons for the legion of youth activists and voters who have some stake in both the GOP primaries and the imminent general election. To be a young individual in the United States right now means something similar to being a young individual in Egypt — there is a tangible sense of the need for political efficacy, the consequential reasoning that the votes we cast and protests we participate in have meaningful ramifications for our futures.
Nevertheless, in Egypt, the opportunity remains for new members of Parliament to terminate the long-standing rule by military fiat and transition Egypt into its legitimate democratic infancy. However, facing continuing abuse from security forces makes this an onerous task — but in a reversal of roles, perhaps Egyptian revolutionaries can now look to Occupiers and American youth for inspiration in affecting change. Likewise, perhaps we can look to Egyptian revolutionaries for a sense of unfaltering resolve.