On 11 February 2011, Egypt witnessed what for ages was considered impossible, when the Former Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s dictatorship symbol, had resigned his post as president. Just few months earlier, no one would have believed that such an ending is thinkable. After the revolution occurred in Tunisia, Egypt witnessed an extraordinary mobilization, from tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands; to finally over a million Egyptians protesting and claiming Mubarak’s removal. The internet and especially social media, enabled people over the global to witness these events in unparalleled detail and with an extraordinary speed.
Since then Egypt marks the growth of online political activism like never seen before, this activism that has sparkled a major debate among youth, the ones who see in the internet this new powerful weapon; to confront social injustice and reclaim for human rights and democracy. The motive behind the actions of the Egyptian activists was to oppose to the repressive regime of over 30 years; internet activism was no more than an instrument which activists used to get their messages across and their actions planned.
The technology provided the Egyptian activists the ability to get thousands of people to the streets, without online activism -that led to unpredictable demonstrations- Mubarak regime might have survived.
Five years of uproar and violence, Mubarak remains behind bars, as well does the first popularly elected president Morsi, in 2013 the military restated its power and set Abdel Fattah El Sisi in power.
However, the revolutions that symbolized a life-time of hope and a new beginning in Egypt soon turned to be far from that with the new regime.
The few Egyptian activists who speak out against the military regime actions are either in prison, tortured, arrest or fled the country.
In the other hand, civil society organizations are being threatened, the authorities have used different methods to detain their work, in contrast, CSO existed in Egypt with Moubarak and also Morsi regimes, but since 2013, the number of civil society in Egypt has declined drastically.
CSO’s have played an important role in the transition of democratic wave after the fall of Mubarak regime. However their role was oppressed by the new authorities, which adopted policies weakening their activities, targeting in first-hand the organizations working in the field of accountability, reform and human rights.
The new introduced law gives the authority to disprove foreign funding appeals without explanation, and limits national and local fundraising activities by requiring a state permit.
There is a big loss of development when government limits the activities of CSO and citizens to work together for a better country.
Last week we caught up with Radwa Othman Mohamed–“Political Researcher and Human Right Activist”- in Gaziantep, Turkey. She shared with us her views about the current situation in Egypt.
Did you take part of the revolution in 2011? If yes, how was your feeling?
Of course, I was part of the revolution since its first beginning, unforgettable moment for all Egyptians, today, if you ask Egyptians about it, they would say that was the moment that has set us free. What makes this revolution unique is that it gathered all people who had different opinions, visions, beliefs, religions… for one goal to shut down Mubarak regime, a moment that history will remember. Nonetheless, after the revolution, the people started to be divided through different political ideologies, then the political conflicts started to occur, which led to more division in the country, then the revolution took another road.
Can you tell about women’s involvements in the revolution of 2011?
Women have been an essential part of these revolutions; they organized and marched alongside men. Women were in the streets, women in the demonstrations, women in the media, for women’s activists the overthrow of long-standing dictatorships was perceived as an opportunity to bring democracy and social justice, but it was also a chance to make their voices heard in the public arena. Although, women activists had to deal with traditional and cultural consents, the fact that women were protesting all day in the street was perceived unusual by some conservative groups, this reflects the nature of society an Egyptian woman has to deal with on daily basis. At the same time, it was an excuse to use against women to decrease and prohibit their participation in the revolution. Many of them were subjected to sexual harassment, assault, violence and rape; all this was used as way to restrain their participation in the revolution.
The revolution of Egypt was melted by women’s presence, excluding them makes the revolution losing its greater values.
Is it hard today to be a woman in Egypt?
Well, today more than ever it is hard to live in Egypt not only for women. After the revolution, women become more aware about their rights, and they can finally say NO!
However, many Egyptian women and especially among the rural people, are oppressed, because of the current situation, the political regime is oppressing the citizens, the men are oppressing their wives, sisters, mothers … the women themselves oppress their daughters, the up-coming generation… which engenders series of political oppression heated by cultural-social oppression.
Can you tell more about the online activism in Egypt?
The online activism in Egypt symbolizes the power of people to say NO. It was first used to get thousands of people protesting in the street to shut down Mubarak’s regime. After the revolution, Egypt faced different wages of suppression; it became difficult to march in the streets, so the Egyptians use the internet to express themselves since they can no longer deliver their messages and claims through protests. Now Egyptians are online-active citizens, more than ever before, we are taking our offline dissent into the online world, and that’s our new revolution, online revolution.
Do you still have hope?
Yes, I do. The revolution breached many taboos we couldn’t talk about before, it changed many things in the society, for that it remains my hope for a better Egypt, this hope will survive although the struggles and the issues we are facing today in Egypt.
Can you give me one word to define Egypt?
Thank you for your time.
P.S: In this house, we don’t call it “Arab Spring”, we call it “Revolution of Dignity”!