On November 29 deposed President Hosni Mubarak, and a number of his officials, were dismissed of charges of corruption and killing protesters by an Egyptian criminal court. The verdict, which has only provided further proof of Egypt’s corrupt justice system, was met with a mixture of dismay and ridicule by the revolutionary camp. While some felt frustrated, others said it was expected given the current political situation in Egypt. The public prosecutor decided to appeal the court decision citing legal flaws in judgment.
As soon as the verdict was announced a group of protesters gathered in Abdelmoniem Riad Square, near Tahrir Square, to express their anger chanting against Sisi, Mubarak, Tantawy and Morsi. Outside the revolutionary camp however, another group cheered the acquittal of the dictator and his cronies.
Here’s a glimpse of the opinions held by the predominant camps:
The cronies are those who generally benefited from the Mubarak regime, such as the corrupt businessmen and tycoons who pursued policies of economic monopoly, expanding their wealth only due to avid facilitation by the regime.
Hussien Salem, for example, is one of the defendants in the case of “selling gas to Israel” along with Mubarak. His gas company sold gas to Israel very cheaply, causing a loss of hundreds of millions of US dollars to Egypt’s economy. There is no way a deal like this could have taken place without the government’s approval. The court ruled Salem and Mubarak not guilty, with the justification that the deal was approved and moderated by Egyptian Intelligence.
Another example is that of Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon who was very close to Gamal Mubarak, the son of the former president. Ezz also financed many of the activities of the now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) which was the ruling party during Mubarak’s reign, in addition to monopolizing the steel industry, making huge fortunes. To the surprise of no-one, he was released in August and a court reduced the fine imposed on him for monopolistic practices by 90%. After the ruiling, his lawyer requested 45 million EGP ($6.3 million) in compensation from the government. The fine he had initially paid up.
For the likes of Salem and Ezz, the regime’s fall after the January 25 revolution was a shock. Even if they were not all hauled before a court, the calls for reform and social justice were a great threat. This explains the overwhelming support of the private media outlets owned by these tycoons for Sisi’s regime, as they hoped to revive the privileges they had under Mubarak’s rule.
People who fall under this category mostly belong to the middle and upper-middle classes. Due to prolonged political stagnation, many Egyptians are back inside their social bubbles, completely disconnected from public affairs. This was perfectly described by Egypt’s top satirist Bassem Youssef in an interview at the University of California, Berkeley. He said: “[Before the revolution], if you are form a certain educated level you would write your statuses [on social media] in English [but] after the revolution, we all turned to writing in Arabic because now we’re talking about what’s happening in our country”.
For some, the revolution changed their lives and made them more interested in politics. This, of course, is one of the most valuable gains of the revolution. But others understandably viewed this change as a possible threat to their lifestyles, especially with the rise of Islamists. The latter group were quick to embrace conspiracy theories touted by Mubarak’s remnants as they couldn’t see, due to their disengagement, any other reasons for revolting. For them, it’s not Mubarak who killed the protesters but rather some “foreign elements” like Hamas or Hezbollah.
There’s a group of Egyptians who felt very confused about the uprising when it erupted. While they experienced dire living conditions and daily hardships under Mubarak’s rule, they were also influenced by what Tarek Osman, the author of “Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak”, identifies as the “Fatherhood” notion. This notion, Osman notes, allows Mubarak to be viewed as someone who has a “top-down authority, sense of superior knowledge, assumption of deep wisdom, and exercising the right to educate, instruct, discipline, and punish” that makes him the perfect leader, despite the numerous flaws of his government.
The regime used media propaganda and the education system to assert this sentiment in the mindsets of many Egyptians. In a sense, the fatherhood notion can be considered the Egyptian version of the Stockholm Syndrome, in which victims develop an emotionally illogical relationship with their oppressors.
The bad news for Egypt’s “new-old” authorities is that the Egyptian population is young, and does not fall predominantly under any of these categories. The average age of an Egyptian is 24.5, and most of them do not rely on educational syllabuses or conventional media to analyze events or to take a position. They have witnessed the fall of a dictator and the revolution has greatly contributed to the formation of their consciousness.
Two days after the ruling, Sisi called for a meeting with young media men and stressed that January 25 was a real revolution that “should have happened 15 years ago”. He also said that he will issue a law to criminalize defamation of the revolution in an attempt to limit the continuous smearing campaigns of the 2011 revolution by media outlets and therefore contain the anger of the revolutionaries.
There’s no doubt that the Sisi regime stands in total contrast to what the January 25 revolution represented and such action reflects a real anxiety towards the people’s reactions. However, unless this statement is followed by an equally tangible agenda to fulfill the youth’s aspirations, the regime is likely to face turbulent times very soon.