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History rewritten: Egypt’s battle over narratives

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January 25 2011 seemed forever immune, until now. Amidst the brutal violence, an ideological battle rages on for the soul of Egypt.

Ahmed Kadry
23 August 2013

Egypt has been blown in various different political and ideological directions for over two and a half years. Yet, despite these tumultuous changes in its ever-complicated political paradigm, the date of January 25 2011 seemed forever immune to whatever was happening in the present, the undisputed start date of Egypt’s glorious, peaceful revolution - until now.

The ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 sent events in Egypt into overdrive, and for the first time, the narrative of the January 25 Revolution finds itself under suspicion. The revolution was revered as a demographically inclusive movement against tyranny and corruption - against continued nepotism and social injustice - a refusal to allow Egypt to continue to be governed as if it were one man’s personal fiefdom.

Yet, for the first time, under the auspices of General Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the head of Egypt’s military and the most powerful man in Egypt, the narrative on January 25 has begun to be mixed in with the restrictive and biased binaries that currently plague Egyptian politics and its domestic life alike.

Since July 3, clear battle lines have been drawn up between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, with every Egyptian seemingly picking a side. Pro-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood protests and sit-ins have been attacked leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured, while in the Sinai, police and army personnel have been murdered by “Islamic militants.” Amidst the brutal violence, an ideological battle rages on for the soul of Egypt. State and private TV channels tell Egyptians daily that the military is “fighting terrorism” - now a synonym for the Muslim Brotherhood, while the Muslim Brotherhood, the TV channels favourable to their cause shut down since Morsi’s ouster, resort to YouTube videos and internet statements that condemn the military who they see as wanting to return Egypt to its pre-January 25 state. In retort, el-Sisi and the interim government characterise the Muslim Brotherhood as a counter-revolutionary force that seeks to impose its own religiously fascist agenda on Egypt. Tragically, and ironically, both sides are probably right, and Egypt is struggling to find any third options.

This has meant that both sides have inevitably dragged January 25 2011 into their armoury. All of a sudden, the revolution that was less about politics and more about social justice and equality, is being used for political gains as an end in itself. The Muslim Brotherhood claim this is the return of the “deep state” of Mubarak to undo all the achievements of January 25, while el-Sisi and his army, as well as many TV channels, now argue that January 25 was not an uprising against Mubarak and tyranny, but rather the rebirth of a different tyranny in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the death toll rises, Egypt has seen the return of the Emergency law, one of the most despised aspects of Mubarak’s regime – now being invoked in the fight against “terrorism” in every military and government statement, not to mention on almost every TV channel. It comes as no surprise that there have been no protests against the return of the Emergency Law. There have been no protests over the implementation of the evening curfew, further proof that Egyptians have placed their trust and security in the hands of the army, and most worryingly, accepted the military’s narrative of events as fact.

News of Hosni Mubarak’s release from prison makes one feel that January 25 2011 seems a lot longer than two and a half years ago. The spirit of the revolution that was once a source of pride for Egyptians appears to be at least temporarily lost to us. Tahrir Square is empty, perhaps patiently waiting for its people to remember why this all started in the first place. But for that to happen, TV’s need to be turned off. Egyptians only need to look outside onto the street to remember that there is a country worth fighting for here, and that that fight began on January 25 2011. 

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