The Egyptian Revolution 2011: From virtual reality to a democratic and secular state

When the 'Facebook Youth' decided to move their battle from the cyberspace to reality, the old ruling generation didn't imagine that they can change the face of the country and force the regime to step down in 18 days; simply because they were still living in the middle ages, thinking that they are protected by their 1.5 million riot police force.

by Ayman Zohry

The Egyptian revolution of January 25th, 2011 attested that communication technology can jump from virtual reality to real life. The revolution proved that the power of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can force an established dictatorship to step down and end three decades of Mubarak's regime. The revolution started in the cyberspace; the only available place for Egyptian youth to practice politics after banning political practices in Egypt under the emergency law that was the main arm of Mubarak's regime to oppress any voice against the regime. Political participation was controlled by the ruling 'National Democratic Party', obedient cartoon parties, the regime media and journalism, and the son of Mubarak.

When the 'Facebook Youth' decided to move their battle from the cyberspace to reality, the old ruling generation didn't imagine that they can change the face of the country and force the regime to step down in 18 days; simply because they were still living in the middle ages, thinking that they are protected by their 1.5 million riot police force. The peaceful demonstrators raised one single slogan, 'People want to overthrow the regime'... and it happened! The peaceful demonstrations were faced with rubber bullets and tear gas grenades and water cannons. Mubarak's adherents attacked protesters by medieval weapons; camels, horses, and stones; more than 300 people were killed.

The catalysts of the revolution

Three reasons were behind the end of fear and the demonstrations against the Egyptian regime; youth bulge, communication technology, and corruption.

Youth Bulge. Due to the demographic transition and the decreasing fertility rates in Egypt in the last few decades, Egypt witnesses a marked youth bulge, a phase in which the percentage of youth increases significantly compared to other age groups. Youth bulge is a double sword; Young people can be regarded as an asset for development  the cases of Asian Tigers a clear example of this case. In addition, youth bulge can be a catalyst for instability and civil wars - Ruanda could be regarded as a clear example of this case. Investment in this important age group requires concrete policies related to the labor market and political openness as well as political institutions that are capable to turn the energy of this age group to a force for change and growth. Unfortunately, Mubarakís regime was lacking such policies. Hence, political and social marginalization, and high unemployment rates, loss of hope, and belonging to sub-national identities and supra-national identities such as religion prevailed instead of practicing politics.

Communication Technology. Migration to virtual reality among Egyptian youth was the alternative of the lack of real participation in political life due to seizing political life by Mubarak's regime. Despite the socioeconomic drawback of Mubarak's regime, the communication technology sector in Egypt has witnessed a large boom in the last few decades. Internet users in Egypt reached 20 million in 2010. In addition, Egyptian facebookers reached three million. Communication technology was the soft tool that witnessed the formation of public opinion†against Mubarak's regime.

Corruption. If a slogan to be selected to describe Mubarak's regime, 'Corruption' will be the name! Mubarak's regime was a symbol of corruption such as lack of free elections, emergency law for the duration of his presidency, powerful businessmen in the National Democratic Party and in the People's Assembly, the ambition of Gamal Mubarak to replace his father, state control of resources, and the widespread of slum areas and poverty.

The way ahead

The Egyptian revolution is 'a religion-free movement', commentators say. Egyptian dare for a democratic and secular country. Theological movements will not replace Mubarak's regime; this is the message that should be conveyed to the world. Egypt is not Iran and will not be. Under the transitional period led by the Egyptian Army, Egyptians started the process of building a new democratic, secular, and modern state in the Middle East. A committee was formed to review the constitution, a poll will be called soon, and a corruption-free parliament to represent the voice of the nation will be elected. Egypt will join the crew of developed nations soon. Let's cross our fingers for Egypt!

 

Photo credit: RamyRaoof's/Flickr