On the Egyptian Revolution and its Demands

I have been growing increasingly weary with those who put forth the following questions: What will it take for you guys to quite down? Haven’t all your demands been met?

Those who pose questions such a these have little understanding of the nature of the revolution. I ask a counter question: At what point in time was the revolution reduced to a fixed and well specified set of demands? I don’t recall a distinct point in time when we pinned down our demands and said: This is all we need, do that and we will live in eternal bliss and gratitude!

I was quite disappointed to find director Mohamed Diab stating, in a recent op-ed article,  that all the demands that the protesters have put forth have been met and they not longer have much cause to complain or protest. He made reference to the gigantic banner that was put on display in Tahrir on the 4th of February with a declaration of non-negotiable demands.

Those demands were for:

  1. The president to steps down 
  2. The parliament to be dissolved
  3. An end to the state of emergency 
  4. Forming of a new unity government  
  5. Electing a  parliament which will reform the constitution lead to a new presidential election 
  6. Putting on trial those responsible for recent violence (immediately
  7. Putting on trial those who have robbed the wealth and assets of the country. 

Diab memory seems to be a bit fuzzy, he only recalls (1, 3, 4, 7) and by saying that they have all been met, he forgets that state of emergency is still on. In recent article by Maria Gloria she says:

With parliamentary elections looming, the Emergency Law is not just in force, but amplified by the curfew and protest ban. Mubarak’s imprisonment has taken precedence over demands for basic human rights, which continue to be abused.

But even beyond that when it all started on the 25th of January the set of demands were quite modest and they have kept on evolving. Even those banner demands were later better articulated and refined.

Reducing the revolution to check list is plain silly if one was being generous, and I suspect in most cases it is used as tool of pressure and manipulation. The supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) seem to be often repeating the mantra: just trust us, and we will fulfill all your demands. Never has the SCAF articulated to us what they believe those demands to be.

The SCAF have been warned early on that if the do not act fast that they should expect an ever rising ceiling of demands. They did not head that advice and demands have gotten to a point where protesters called for the ouster of Tantawi. I suspect that they anticipated that the ceiling will keep rising anyways and thought to slow down its accent. This strategy backfired pretty badly and we could see the SCAF now doing a great deal of backpedaling to avert a disastrous naked confrontation with the revolution.

The revolution was never about a laundry list of demands, it was always about the birth of new spirit and creating a new future for Egypt. We have seen glimpses of that future during the most testing times in Tahrir, and we are determined to create a society were that spirit can grow and be nurtured. Anything that stands in the way of that goal, we will DEMAND and FIGHT for its removal from our path. Nothing will comfort us unless we TRUST that we are on clear trajectory towards that goal. 

3 thoughts on “On the Egyptian Revolution and its Demands

  1. thank you for such a clear thought…its really very helpful coz lately we have so much going on in our heads that we often miss the point…i find myself speechless every time im faced with that question: why r u going to eltahreer??? so thank u again for organizing the mess in my mind:)

  2. I consider myself totally aware of the nature of the evolution of demands when it comes to a revolutionary change.

    But I beg to differ in 2 points to be exact:
    The revolution was never about a laundry list of demands, it was always about the birth of new spirit and creating a new future for Egypt.
    No matter how great the “spirit” of the revolution is, it still has to be materialized in some form of plan (Maybe the word “list” is a bit too simplified ). A scheduled timely and prioritized form of points that can eventually be used to measure the success of the revolution at any given time. The revolution took stages/phases and right now, it started off angry and loud and maybe even a bit chaotic and unsure.. but it matured by time and now it should be in the “building” phase. And I have seen no buidling with no list! There has to be a list.

    2- If your main concern is really about the state of emergency , let me argue back with the state of undeniable instability the country is going through. Yes, the existence of the curfew turns a whole country to a group of 12-year-old girls who have to be home by a certain hour. But at current state, the symbolism of power and enforcement of the law has to be present even at its faintest form. (The existence of the curfew is only through very late hours of the night says just that)
    And as for the ban of the protest law, the refuting of the law was also pretty generic because as far as I witness almost on daily basis, there still exists protests in different parts of the country. The law in itself is necessary also to ensure order and cautiousness of the protestors (I am sure that you would be aware even more than myself, the existence of official places — such as Hyde park in London– for protesters to give a certain kind of message without blocking or hindering the rest of people’s business), so the law is mainly a regulator not a ban. yes the law initially was a ban, but it was re-formed fairly enough to suite the right the nation currently want to exercise more than ever: The freedom of speech.

  3. @gjoe allow me to address your points:
    1. I think it is quite useful to have some sort of list with well articulated demands at any point in time. However that is not to say that there is one singular list that fully captures what the revolution is about. I disagree with you on the notion of having a “scheduled timely and prioritized form of points”. This appears to me like applying the mental paradigm of something stable and well understood like a construction site to a revolution–highly inappropriate! Who will project manage this list? What is to prevent certain facts and events from coming to the fore the would require positive action on part of the revolutionaries?

    2.The state of emergency really worries me. I fail to see that better policing, or even being tough on crime is in anyway synonymous to maintaining that cursed “state of emergency”. How is maintaining a “state” the allows for indefinite incarceration without cause, or making illegal public gatherings make the country safer? I doubt that it was useful during the past 30 years and I doubt that it will be useful now. With regards to the curfew, please note that the curfew is only being enforced in Tahrir, I have yet to hear of any account of somebody being penalized in a way for violating curfew outside of Tahrir (please correct me if I am wrong). This leads me to suspect that the curfew is only there make sit-ins at public squares illegal.

    I really worry about very poorly worded laws, laws the can not be enforced for practical reasons, or laws that are selectively enforced. Such laws, only weaken the state and give rise to chaos. This the case with both the curfew and the protest banning law (they only changed the title, the paragraphs of the law have not changed a bit).

    The bad old way of terrifying the populace into submission is a dangerous one at this stage. A better way would be to try to understand their grievances, assure them that they will be addressed (it does not have to be instantaneous). Having mechanisms to deal with the grievances in manner that is open and transparent will reestablish trust in the state and will make it clear that there are other means to overcoming injustices other than protests. This is crucial if we want to have a smooth process of democratic transition.

    With regards to Hyde park, it is there for the expression of free and unfettered political speech. Protests still do happen around the London. There was a relatively recent one in Trafalgar square.

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