The New Protest Movements in Egypt: Has the Country Lost Patience?

The declaration by the Egyptian Movement for Change “Kifaya”, which held its foundation conference on September 22, 2004 and its first demonstration on December 12 of that same year, ushered-in the era of widespread public protests in Egypt, a phenomenon in Egyptian society, by all accounts. The main belief that gave rise to Kifaya was, to begin with, the realisation of the abject failure of the “national” or “post colonial” state’s” performance in the Arab world, in general, and in Egypt, in particular, and its inability to face up to the looming challenges and dangers, both internal and external. It was also the lack of human rights, snatched from citizens by force, and the multi-levelled tyranny that exhausted the region’s population and rendered it incapable of fighting the complex heaped upon it internally, or standing-up to the colonial hatched against it from every direction. It was also the fact that this state has allowed the population to wallow in backwardness and dependence despite its considerable resources and latent potential. It is interesting to follow this movement’s path and the role it played in breaking the bonds of fear from the regime, and from its despotism and haughtiness. It is also interesting to witness the ensuing willingness to protest, that moved from members of the middle classes, among which Kifaya has evolved and to whose aspirations it gave voice, to those of the poorer classes, like the peasants and labourers. These are the very classes whose conditions underwent intense deterioration in recent years, when the state withdrew its social services and left them to their unfortunate fate and ultimate collapse, and when free economic policies, privatisation and the narrowing of the public sector became the norm, coupled with the state reneging on agrarian reform measures. Is Egypt now able to catch its breath once again?

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.