View slideshow Alumnus shares perspective on Egyptian revolution
Protestors succeed in deposing President Hosni Mubarak
In Tahrir Square of Cairo, Egyptians gather to protest their government and call for the end of President Hosni Mubarak's regime. The revolution began on Jan. 25, when 20,000 protestors flooded the streets of Cairo.*
Egyptian protesters have flooded the streets of major cities, such as Cairo and Alexandria, in hopes of deposing their President, Hosni Mubarak, who has been in office the past 30 years. Since the riots, the death toll is said to be over 300, with over 3,000 people injured.
Rioting first began with 20,000 protestors occupying the streets of Cairo on Jan. 25, demanding the resignation of President Mubarak. These protests were organized in a more unconventional manner using services such as Facebook and Twitter to inform people where to rally.
Aside from the Egyptian youth leading the way in protests, an organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition group that joined the protests. The demands of the Muslim Brotherhood were concise: "Mubarak has to step down."
Thirty years ago, Mubarak was elected President of Egypt following the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat. Since then, he has stayed in power through various elections.
Since Mubarak's inauguration, he has had six attempts made on his life. However, he has maintained power in the midst of opposition from many people in Egypt.
Alumnus offers opinion, gives insight
Over the years, the U.S. has held a relatively steady relationship with Egypt, and because of this, Egypt shows evidence of many Western influences and hosts American citizens. As one of these citizens, '00 alumnus Eli Williams lived in Egypt for a total of four years, studying Egyptian culture at the American University in Cairo and interning at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Although some people believe Egypt's administration was due to fall soon, Williams holds a different opinion.
"The fact that after three decades Hosni Mubarak has been deposed by a movement of the people is something that I, and the vast majority of Middle Eastern observers, never saw coming," Williams said.
The Egyptian people are demanding untainted and free elections for their next president. In response to their demands, Mubarak announced that he will not run in the next election, but will finish his current term and remain in the country. However, this was not sufficient for the people's demands, so they stipulated that Mubarak leave the country immediately and step down as President.
"The fact that after three decades Hosni Mubarak has been deposed by a movement of the people is something that I, and the vast majority of Middle Eastern observers, never saw coming." --Eli Williams, '00 alumnus
For 18 days, the riots proceeded and compromises were attempted; for example, President Mubarak offered to remain in office only until September, when the elections are held. However, the people rejected this proposal and demanded that President Mubarak step down immediately.
In response to the people's demands, President Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 and transferred all power to the military forces, which will run the Egyptian government until elections in September.
"The Egyptians have not had a history of fair elections and, in most cases, Mubarak was not even fairly elected," Williams said. "During one election I was there for, the ballot for President simply said, 'Hosni Mubarak, yes or no' -- not exactly a choice."
In regard to the transition of power, Williams points out some flaws in the way Mubarak was succeeded.
Alumnus Eli Williams, '00, spent four years in Egypt studying Egyptian culture at the American University in Cairo and interning at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Based on his experiences there, he says that the people's recent movement to depose President Mubarak was unforeseeable.
"The military seems to be doing well in terms of respecting a peaceful transition process," Williams said. "However, they have completely dissolved parliament and the constitution with nothing in its place. With no institutional checks in place to safeguard against another power grab, there remains a large window open for the removal of one dictator to be followed by another."
Future path of revolution
Since Mubarak has stepped down, the protests have not stopped but have actually made way for new protestors.
The latest protestors have consisted of government workers such as policemen and ambulance drivers calling for increased pay and better treatment. Policemen also want their names cleared, since many Egyptians view their police force as tarnished and corrupt.
These protests do not just include government workers, however; a sense of rebellion has spread throughout the Egyptian workforce as airport workers, electrical employees and even journalists have begun standing up to their managers. As a result of this widespread rebellion, banks have closed, Egyptian textile industries have been crippled and the Egyptian economy in general still remains in a state of shock.
Despite all the setbacks, Egypt appears to have made one more step on the path toward a more fair democracy. Williams suggests that satisfaction of the people can be achieved through limited power of the President.
"The critical change the government needs to make is to ensure the peaceful transfer of power with significant limits on powers of the President," Williams said. "This must also go hand-in-hand with adequate protections for a robust multi-party system that caters to the diverse population of the country. In short, it needs to institutionalize political participation."
For more information on the Egyptian riots, read the Feb. 11 New York Times article, Egypt Erupts in Jubilation as Mubarak Steps Down.
*Editor's note: This photo by Maged Helal (Flickr user magdino20) is used in accordance with its Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.