Waiting for a ‘real’ revolution

Overthrowing Mubarak was a pivotal turning point for the Egyptian people but they must not mistake it for an end goal.

Egypt’s new military rulers have vowed to pave the way for a democratically-elected civilian government[GALLO/GETTY]

In bringing 30 years of autocracy to an end, the youth of Egypt have delivered their country and the wider Arab world to a critical milestone. What happens now will depend on the role adopted by two groups of Egyptians – the opposition and the army.

When it brought one of the most enduring dictatorships the world has known to an end, the Egyptian opposition achieved a great but temporal victory. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak marked a pivotal turning point but must not in the emotion of the occasion be mistaken for an ultimate end goal; for while Mubarak was a dictator he was not the main obstacle hindering democratic reform in Egypt.

The head of the repressive regime may have fallen, but those who served as the tools of that regime are still around. They are now scrambling to align themselves with the revolution in the hope of consigning their misdeeds to the pages of history or, worse still, propelling themselves back into positions of power.
It is therefore of critical importance that the opposition does not leave Tahrir Square or abandon their uprising until all of their demands are met and the symbols of the regime have been disbanded. They must now guide Egypt back onto the right path and nominate those they trust to lead their country. If they do not, their efforts and sacrifices may have been in vain.

It is the army that now poses the biggest potential threat to the ambitions of the opposition as they wait to see whether it will exploit the current situation and abandon its promise to supervise the implementation of reforms and the peaceful transition of power.

Many still remember the revolutions that took place in the Arab world during the 1950s and what they ultimately led to. These started in Egypt in 1952 when a group of young army officers led a coup – abolishing the monarchy and establishing a republic. Inspired by the Egyptian example, military men in other Arab countries also rose up against their monarchs.

But the military republics that followed were in some cases worse than the monarchies they replaced. The armies behind the coups rewarded themselves with the fruits of their efforts and have in most cases enjoyed the privileges of political and economic power ever since. Handing this power over to a civil government elected by the people may now prove testing for the Egyptian military.

The military will likely only submit to the will of the people if the youth of the country maintain their presence in Tahrir Square until Egypt becomes a fully-fledged democracy. If they achieve this, it will be the first time in history that an Arab people have been able to dismantle military rule.

Even putting aside any doubts about whether the military is sincere in its promise to meet the demands of the Egyptian people, concerns remain about whether it will be able to do so. The Egyptian army has little recent experience of governing the country and it is unclear how it intends to supervise the implementation of reforms and the transition of power.

The Egyptian people must keep in mind that the rule of the military can only be temporary and that the fundamental steps towards democracy must begin with the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament. Constitutional reforms must be non-negotiable and only when those reforms are achieved will Egypt have witnessed a real revolution not merely the ousting of a dictator.

Arabs support the Egyptian people because we are aware that the extraordinary change taking place in Egypt does not only affect 80 million Egyptians. The Arab people share the same social problems – inequality, corruption, autocracy and repression by unresponsive and unaccountable governments – and we may share the same destiny. The winds of change blowing throw Egypt will reach all of the Arab world’s authoritarian regimes. They may now be trying to disguise their autocracies with false promises of reform and wage rises, but just as Egypt changed the political scene of the Arab world in the 1950s, so it will now. From Jordan and Syria to Algeria and Yemen – the winds are picking up momentum.

Murad Alazzany is a professor in the department of English Studies at Sana’a University, Yemen. His main research areas are ‘the representation of Islam and Muslims in the Western media’ and ‘the political discourse of Islamic movements in the media’.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


More than 300 people were killed in a treacherous, 18-day journey toward ending Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year autocratic rule.

12 Feb 2011
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