When masses of people assembled in Egypt’s public squares and succeeded in toppling President Husni Mubarak in 2011, the world went a little bit mad. That an urban uprising unseated one of the contemporary world’s most favored autocrats became freighted with symbolism. The two-week occupation of Tahrir Square was not unprecedented in world politics; Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was methodically held by student-led demonstrators for six weeks in spring 1989 until the military violently dispersed them on June 4. But though Tiananmen received ample international television coverage, it paled in comparison to the attention lavished on Tahrir. One week into the encampment, Egypt’s protests had become the biggest international news story in the US media, surpassing coverage of the Iraq war, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the US war in Afghanistan.
As social phenomena, epidemics and the responses they generate reveal much about a country’s political economy and a state’s relationship with its citizens. In Egypt, the manner in which President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s regime has approached an epidemic of hepatitis C on the one hand and the arrival of the coronavirus on the other illustrate that the politics of healthcare in Egypt are evolving.
Responses to the tragic death of the Egyptian leftist and queer activist Sarah Hegazy reflect a significant transformation in the desire of individuals in the Middle East to claim queer identities. Zeina Zaatari places this moment in the historical context of decades of activism and struggle for freedom and social justice that continue despite tremendous backlash from governments and society.
Mona El-Ghobashy pays tribute to the scholar Ellis Goldberg and his pathbreaking work on Egypt. Living in Egypt at the time of the revolution in 2011, Goldberg provided in-depth commentary on events in his blog, Nisr al-Nasr. El-Ghobashy’s appreciation of Goldberg explains why his insights were so unique and so influential for MERIP writers and readers.
Recent research in Egypt demonstrates how trauma can be (and has been) weaponized as a counterrevolutionary strategy by military and political elites who seek to maintain and strengthen their economic and political power.
Since the 2013 coup, Egypt’s posture vis à vis information and cyber warfare has evolved from a defensive one—geared toward domestic surveillance and blocking—to an offensive one also focused on influence operations abroad. This shift has pulled Egypt further into an open embrace of Russia.
US President Donald Trump’s public embrace of autocrats and his virtual silence on their repressive behavior appears to have made autocrats, particularly those allied to the United States, less constrained than they were in the past.
Over the past few years, students and staff at the American University in Cairo have joined forces with faculty against the increasingly draconian measures taken by the AUC administration.
Early in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, activists and protesters battled their way into state security archives around the country. But the revolutionaries handed over the documents to the army, who later took power. Inside the state security archives were the blueprints for uprooting the police state and making lasting structural change.
Egypt’s President Sisi has acquired sophisticated technological capabilities to block internet activity, passed restrictive internet legislation and now surveils users and censors content on a scale never seen before. Much of this has been facilitated by Western allies who have been more than happy to sell potentially repressive technologies to the authoritarian regime, emboldening Sisi’s attempts to eliminate freedom of expression in Egypt.
While mass arrests and arbitrary detentions are nothing new to Egypt, the escalation and widening pattern of arrests over the past year indicate that the authoritarian mindset of the Egyptian regime has significantly changed. Egypt under President Sisi has succeeded in reestablishing authoritarianism in a manner that is far more brutal—and far-reaching—than that of the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Once contested, albeit controlled, battlegrounds for politics are being decimated.
Cairo, July 2. The National Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu‘) held its second national congress in Cairo on June 27-28, 1985. The Tagammu‘, Egypt’s principal left opposition party, is a united front formation including members of illegal communist organizations, independent Marxists, Nasserists, enlightened religious elements and a number of newer, less politicized members who have joined the party since the parliamentary elections of May 1984. The Tagammu‘ did not win any seats then in the People’s Assembly, due to an undemocratic election law and some falsification of the election results.  But the nationwide campaign and the presence here of some 750 representatives from throughout Egypt—including women, workers and peasants—indicates that the party has substantially increased its size and organizational capacity since its first congress in 1980.
Although climate change is a major issue of global consequence, blaming climate change for the 2011 uprising in Egypt fails to account for the political and economic issues that were behind the uprisings across the region and distracts from the factors that produced bread shortages in Egypt.
From day one of his July 3 coup, al-Sisi has directed a relentless campaign to depoliticize and incapacitate the population, riveting the old relations of deference and subordination between those who rule and those coerced to obey. But plebiscitary elections are part of a different type of autocratic rule, one that orchestrates continuous and diverse performances of citizen enthusiasm and state-identification.
Last April, an Egyptian court acquitted Aya Hijazi and seven others of charges related to their work with a charitable foundation for Cairo’s street children. After nearly three years in prison, Hijazi, a dual US-Egyptian citizen, was released and allowed to return to the United States where President Donald J. Trump welcomed her with a visit to the White House. “We are very happy to have Aya back home,” Trump exclaimed while seated next to Hijazi during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office. Even by the standards of an already unorthodox presidency, the scene was a strange one.
Wael Eskandar is a Cairo-based independent journalist who blogs at Notes from the Underground. He has written for Ahram Online, al-Monitor, Daily News Egypt, Counterpunch and Jadaliyya, among other outlets. He has also contributed to Egypt’s Kazeboon campaign and other projects that focus on youth and digital information. Eskandar spoke with Jessica Winegar, associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern University and an editor of this magazine, in April 2017.
Traffic crawls as usual through Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, making its noisy way around the 65-foot pole flying the Egyptian flag newly erected in the middle of the plaza. It is hard to imagine that in January 2011 this very spot was the epicenter of the grassroots revolution that toppled President Husni Mubarak. Since the summer 2013 coup, the military-backed regime has remade this space of insurrection into one of imposed national unity. The revolutionary graffiti is long since whitewashed; the headquarters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, incinerated during the uprising, is demolished.
One need not cast one’s mind too far back to see that both the Egyptian government and the Coptic Orthodox Church are worried more about the December 11 church bombing’s destabilizing potential than about the national unity they spoke of during the state-run funeral.