National Police Day: Commemorating Egypt's fading 'revolution' six-years on

National Police Day: Commemorating Egypt's fading 'revolution' six-years on
Arguably living conditions and restrictions on civil liberties are even harsher in Egypt today than they were before Hosni Mubarak's ouster, says Jo Schietti
5 min read
25 Jan, 2017
Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square, posing for photos with Army tanks in February, 2011 [Getty]

Six years on, Egypt lives through its darkest counter-revolutionary days as not only have 25th January demands not been met but living conditions are getting worse, and civil liberties are curtailed even more rigorously than in pre-revolutionary days.

The days of Tahrir with millions rallying in the streets of Cairo, chanting "Bread, Freedom, Social Justice" are well and truly over under the current military dictatorship. No street celebrations or public events to commemorate the 2011 uprising are set to take place. Just a few small, isolated gatherings organised by some political parties or syndicates at their local headquarters. 

This year we should expect a largely silent anniversary commemoration on the 25th January. Either out of fear after witnessing police brutality in the last three and a half years. Or due to a growing sense of futility, disbelief or just apathy. Egyptians are not drawn to the streets these days. 

"It's a sad picture. The military rule is cementing itself, the regime is crushing the opposition, very hard economic policies are being implemented, and the media is completely monopolised by the state", sighed Hatim Talimah, member of the Revolutionary Socialist in Egypt, speaking recently. 

Today's atmosphere - in the run-up to the anniversary of the 2011 - appears anything but revolutionary. 

The same social demands for which the Egyptian people fought back then remain distant, a long way off from being realized. In fact, political, social and economic conditions in the country are getting progressively worse.

The 25th January should mark the sixth anniversary of the revolution. But instead it has become a National Police Day.

The mix of political repression, economic incompetence and social injustice defining Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rue has thrown the country into unprecedented lows as an oppressive counter-revolution in place since the July 2013 military ouster of President Morsi forces the masses into silence and obedience. 

Meanwhile, on the security front Egypt is fighting a war against terrorism in the Sinai and facing a rising tide of homegrown extremism as the Egyptian president declares to rule in the name of stability and national security. 

Most Egyptians, from the upper-middle class to the low-income households, are the direct victims of ineffective economic reform plans and harsh austerity measures. 

Annual inflation jumped to a record high 24.3% last December, the highest since 2008, prices of basic commodities are skyrocketing, the local currency has fallen to nearly 19 Egyptian guinea against the US dollar (less than one third of its value before January 2011) with inflation skyrocketing and Egypt reliant  on imports for over 50% of the country’s foodstuffs. But wages stay the same.

The average Egyptian is unhappy and upset as oft-repeated promises lead to little concrete reform or change. Large segments of the population see that 25th January has yielded no result, several blame the revolution for being the cause of their misery, and many others do not trust the counter-revolution's modus operandi which they say has failed to serve citizens’ interests.

In January 2011 Egyptians took to the streets en masse calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down from power [Getty]

Last year, ahead of the sixth anniversary of the revolution,
reports emerged of routine police raids on homes, and arrests conducted in apartments and cafes in downtown Cairo and nearby neighbourhoods, targeting suspected supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and youth who were active on social media, amongst others. The logic behind such state-sponsored actions is to instil fear and preempt any street actions by cracking down on attempts to mark the anniversary. 

At the start of this year, three people running 23 Facebook pages were arrested accused of incitement against state institutions. Last week, eight alleged Brotherhood leaders were arrested at a meeting of the group in Cairo under similar charges, with Egypt Party official Hossam El-Naggar also detained after being charged with membership to the Brotherhood and advocating for protests on 25th January.

Away from the streets, Egyptians are turning to Facebook and Twitter to voice their anger. 

The Revolutionary Socialists are launching a hashtag called #Lessonsof25January calling on fellow Egyptian citizens to share their experiences of the 2011 revolution, and relay how there lives have changed since. 

Click here to view The New Arab's interactive timeline of Egypt's 2011 revolution

The movement is also organising a series of events to be held from 26th January to 11th February (the days that led up to the overthrown of former President Mubarak). Other political groups are pursuing similar initiatives.

"We need to have a discussion and include the masses, promote a new kind of awareness and willingness to act after years of silence", Egyptian independent writer Tamer Wageeh said recently. 

Commenting on an Egyptian court’s recent ruling rejecting controversial government plans to transfer the sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia Wageeh said that such a ruling constituted a victory for the Egyptian people, and illustrated divisions within the state apparatus.

Wageeh suggested that dissent could build, and gather momentum based on a single issues or small causes then later develop into a wider opposition movement. However he admitted it remains hard to predict if, when and how Egyptians may voice their discontent next.

"The response may well be mixed, unexpected. Social dissent, resistance to austerity are things we cannot anticipate how  they will play out", he noted. 

State authorities recently shut-down labour protests by arresting workers and applying exceptional legal measures to punish those detained to quash any form of collective labour action.

For the time being all action, forms of civil resistance in Egypt remain dormant, even dead.

The 25th January should mark the sixth anniversary of the revolution. But instead it has become a National Police Day.