THU 25 - 4 - 2024
Date: Apr 19, 2011
Author: Imad Siyam
Source: the network
The January 25th Revolution: Its Antecedents, Strengths, and Challenges
A briefing paper

Part One: Steps leading to the revolution


The revolution was not surprising, in that there has been field training and an accumulation of awareness and knowledge connected with peaceful democratic struggle for a period of five years now. Its most important manifestations over this recent past period have been:


— Rising number of strike movements, sit-ins, and protests which nearly all societal forces participated in, including masses from the lower classes

— Emergence of protest movements with a political character that continued their activities (Kefaya in 2004 and all of the groups emerging from it, the National Association for Change, the 6 April youth movement, “I Want My Rights,” and so on)

— Rise in professional movements from the middle class demanding change, and the growth in forms of organizing, independent of the traditional and official structures (Doctors without Borders, Union of Pensioners, Right to Health, the 9 March movement, Lawyers Against Corruption, Teachers Without a Union, and so forth)

— Growth in the influence of blogs, and an increase in their number, and the emergence of the citizen journalist, in the type of blog like “Egyptian Consciousness” and its role in publishing films documenting the abuses of the police

— Increasingly salient role of Facebook as a tool of communication among the youth and its successful transformation from a means of communication in the virtual world to a means of mobilization, protest, and solidarity among different segments of society in the field (such as the strikes of 6 April 2008, the campaign embodied in the page “We are all Khalid Said,” organization of the reception for ElBaradei, mobilization for the crowds accompanying ElBaradei and collection of signatures for his Change document through a campaign of door knocking)

— The unintended increase in influence for private satellite channels’ talk shows, which addressed dozens of issues, most prominently those connected with corruption, torture, and the protests. These shows—such as 10 PM, Our Country in Egyptian, The Truth, and 48 Hours—indirectly raised the low ceiling of consciousness and showcased discontent

— The growing influence of independent newspapers—such as Al-Badeel, Al-Dustour, al-Sharouq, al-Masri al-Youm)—which presented a message largely different from that present in the nationalized press, in occasionally exposing one side to the other with respect to issues of structural corruption

Part Two: Strengths of the revolution and its maturity on the ground in Tahrir Square


— The lack of ideology: Not entirely, but the absence of ideological entrenchment about issues of defining political programs, identifying urgent tasks, debating the political nature of the system or political referents in general, all helped make consensus possible between the left and the broader masses. This could be seen in the public slogans, avoiding disagreement or polarization among the groups: “Freedom… Freedom… Social justice”; “The people want the fall of the regime”; Freedom… Freedom… Enough… Enough”; “Leave!”; “Null and void!”; all of which reflect the solidarity among the youth movement and the masses, a departure from traditional political forces

— The absence of a united leadership, that is, a leadership seeking to impose control. Instead, there were small hotbeds of leadership working in coordination, on the basis of consensus rather than difference. This is what paralyzed the hands of the regime in its early attempts to eradicate the movement

— The presence of the movement beyond Cairo and Alexandria, spreading throughout all of Egypt’s provinces, which contributed to exhausting the security forces of the regime and encouraging greater participation

— The solidarity among the youth in the countryside, both literate and unlettered, often stricken by unemployment, most of whom were an effective force in the field and one that was also participating in public political action for the first time
— The interaction and collapse of sectarian stereotypes among the youth connected to different political ideologies

— Transformation of a peaceful struggle into a daily carnival celebration (singing, dancing, selling sweets, sleeping tents, family visits, children protesting, balloons, media, all creating a public space with safety for all, across social classes)

— Escalating mistakes from a regime in a conflict of anger: from firing live ammunition, lawmakers and businessmen renting out supporters with the intention of fomenting violence and intimidation, terrorization through the use of hardened criminals after releasing them from prison, the smugness of Mubarak in his final speech, to the official media’s derogatory treatment of the masses of protestors in Tahrir Square

Part Three: The future and the challenges confronting the revolution


— Absence of a united leadership/vision to direct the process of transformation or transitional period in the field, particularly related to the bundle of laws that govern the political system, public life, and political freedom (such as the constitution, laws related to political parties and elections, etc.)

— Growing role of political Islam (the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists, and Jihadi trends) which the media celebrated prematurely, since these parties in fact have hidden ties to the governing military council

— Administering the relationship between the state (the transitional government) and the military (the military council)

— Administering relations among the other, more traditional political forces, as there has been a total disintegration of leftist and liberal forces (though the situation of the liberals has been better than that of the leftists)

— Transforming the forces of the young people, in particular, from a protest movement to an organized political movement

— Organizing across broad sections of the masses (from laborers and professionals to the farmers and peasants)


A briefing paper first presented to the ANSD meeting held in Beirut on April 08, 2011

Translated by Jeff Reger

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