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How did Tamarrod topple the Muslim Brotherhood?

Tamarrod didn’t exclude any political faction from its mission, whether the armed forces, or National Democratic Party members “who weren’t convicted of any crimes”, as long as they shared the same end-goal.

Ahmed Zidan
15 July 2013
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Image by the Lebanese artist, Rola Khayyat. (Twitter: @rolakhayyat). Used with permission.

The Tamarrod cofounders are Badr, Hassan Shahin, Mohammed Aziz, Mai Wahba and Mohammed Heikal. They’re Muslims whose ages range between 22 to 30 years, and unfamiliar to the public. Badr and Shahin work for an opposition newspaper, while Aziz acts as the Youth Coordinator of Kefaya Movement, one of the earliest opposition movements against Mubarak that was established in 2004.

The cofounders - aside from their anti-Morsi and anti-MB sentiments – share a common political background. They are Nasserite, nonpartisan, oppose the US intervention in Egypt’s affairs, and take a stand against Israel.

Tamarrod, like many opposition groups, felt that Morsi and the MB were deviating from the revolution’s goals, and subjecting the country’s institutions to gradual brotherhoodization under the guise of renaissance, in addition to the deteriorating economy and the lack of essential services.

The movement called for mass protests against Morsi, and started collecting signatures in Tahrir Square on May 1st, the Labor Day in Egypt. The response was so massive that the campaign was expanded by unknown volunteers outside of Cairo.

Although Jun. 30th, 2013, the day of the protests and the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration, was a business day in Egypt, rather than the Fridays of protests that the Egyptians have mastered, Tamarrod’s calls were tremendously successful. But how did that happen in such a short time span? And how can Tamarrod go from here?

First, “Egyptians felt that Morsi’s allegiance is to the MB guidance office, and not to his country”, said Kareem Sadek, a physician who protested in 2011 and 2013.

Second, Like any successful venture, Tamarrod identified the problem – they are a peaceful and politically-neutral grassroots movement simply representing the aspirations of millions of Egyptians.

Third, the movement went viral, thanks to a Facebook page which has now more than half a million fans. The social network was heavily used for mobilization and sharing. “Print, copy, sign and collect” was inspired by the April 6 Youth Movement tactics in the 2008 general strike.

Fourth, the flawless organization and planning, as the movement had an office and/or representative in almost every major Egyptian city and across selected countries worldwide. The addresses and/or cellular numbers of these representatives were publicly posted on their Facebook page.

In some areas, like Almammar Square in Ismayilia (71 miles North East of Cairo), the volunteers used public spaces to meet and collect signatures. “The dream was so big, but the determination was even bigger”, said Ahmed Abdo, the Coordinator of Tamarrod Movement.

Fifth, the mass mobilization of the otherwise unpoliticized citizens, who in turn outnumbered the supporters of MB, an establishment famous for its extensive ability to mobilize.

The message was successfully propagated to teenagers and university students who enthusiastically volunteered to collect signatures. “It’s my first time to join a protest in my life” said Mahmoud Yehia, a 22-year old unemployed protester who volunteered with Tamarrod to collect signatures.

“When Tamarrod reached out to ordinary citizens in a deeply compromised socio-economic environment, they were able to gain this unprecedented support”, said Nelly Corbel, the Civic Engagement Manager at the Gerhart Center in the American University in Cairo.

Sixth, Tamarrod didn’t exclude any political faction from its mission, whether the armed forces, or the National Democratic Party members “who weren’t convicted of any crimes”, as long as they shared the same end-goal. This political pragmatism, or the “enemy of my enemy” approach, was very successful in mobilizing millions of stakeholders.

Seventh, the relatively free opposition media, most notably the prime time “Albernameg” weekly show by the satirist Bassem Youssef, facilitated the protests by highlighting the mistakes of Morsi and the MB, something that barely happened under any of Egypt’s previous presidents. “There was a strong campaign building up against Morsi in the last month (Jun) in the liberal media that helped mobilize people to join the Tamarrod movement protest”, said Naila Hamdy, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo.

Members of the MB think that the success of Tamarrod was part of a big conspiracy, “the media misinformed and brainwashed the people, and the church mobilized them with the help of the remnants (folool) of Mubarak’s regime”, said an FJP member who declined to identify himself.

But to sustain this success, Tamarrod, “needs to avoid the mistakes of the April 6 Movement who were tricked into supporting the MB (in the presidential elections)”, said Nervana Mahmoud, a British-Egyptian commentator on Egypt and the Middle East affairs.

The future might not be entirely clear for the movement, mainly due to the lack of any ideological foundations. But their ability to stand their ground and take steps forward will be under thorough scrutiny from now on. Latest news -  “We haven’t yet  decided on the prospects of founding a political party”, reports Ahmed Abdo.

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