By: Mary Kate Patterson ’13
January 25th marked the one year anniversary of the Egyptian protest movement. For a while, the movement seemed destined for success but now, as the protests and violence continue, the situation is much more complex. After 18 days of protests at the beginning of 2011, Hosni Mubarak stepped down, handing power over to the military. To many this was assumed to be the end, however after almost a year, the Military is still in control, demands to hand over government to the newly elected parliament have gone unheeded. All across the Middle East, the Arab Spring has yielded democratic movements. According to several writers from The Guardian, the movement can be traced back to a single man in Tunisia. In December 2010, a man set himself on fire in response to ill treatment by police in the months that followed protests begun in Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. Some of these have been more successful than others, but all have a common goal: the desire of citizens to form and have a say in their government process. Egypt in particular has seen its share of the movement, and has, since the start of the transition, made significant progress. However, delays due to continued military control have prevented the formation of a true democracy.
On November 28th, 2011, the first round of the three part elections were held, marking the first true democratic election in Egypt since the 1920′s. Al Jazeera’s coverage of the election results show that the Freedom and Justice party, an Islamist party with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, won the majority of the seats, while the Al-Nour party came in second. Despite public displeasure, the military claims it will hold onto power until the election of a new president in June. Many would like a temporary president elected in order to draft a new constitution, one that would guarantee the basic freedoms lacking under the old regime. One of the new concerns, reported by the BBC and voiced by many original protesters, is that the Muslim Brotherhood will work in conjunction with the military and postpone the transfer of power indefinitely. This concern, in conjunction with the feeling that the Islamist party might go against the initial goals of the revolution, has caused protests in the capital to continue.
When compared with the efforts by revolutionaries in Syria, the Egyptian effort have been much more successful. For the Syrian rebels, the protests started much more simply than those in Egypt. In March of 2011, 15 school children were arrested for writing the slogan, “The people want the downfall of the regime,” on a wall. When locals demanded their release, as well as democracy, it marked the beginning of a wider democratic movement. Unlike Mubarak, President Assad has not given in to any of the demands made by the rebels, nor has he made any move to step down. As the conflict in Syria grows more deadly, the Arab League is working to get the United Nations involved in the drafting of a peace plan that would bring an end to the deadly conflict. Al Jazzera reports that the two main opponents to the plan are representatives from China and Russia. The Arab League hopes to pressure Assad into stepping down, before drafting a new constitution. They have made clear that any intervention will not be made militarily.
For more information on the protest movements of the Arab Spring check out The Guardians’ interactive “The Path of Protest” time line.