On the streets of Tahrir Square standing amidst reporters, protesters, civilians, fruit and vegetable sellers, listening as questions pour in to find the golden answer: where does the revolution stand, two years later?
While the answers may vary, the cause of the lack of the progress of the revolution many agree is quite the same; the Muslim Brotherhood.
Seven months earlier the Brotherhood found themselves thrust in the political limelight, a very contrasting position to the one they have been in for the past eighty years.
The Muslim Brotherhood once an organisation, forbidden to roam openly across the Middle East is now occupying the political vacuum. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt still find themselves as outsiders that are not welcomed by many Egyptians.
21-year-old Randa Rashad, a Media Studies student, argues that Morsi may see the same fate as Sadat. “Morsi is taking the same steps and decisions as Sadat once did. Especially regarding the economy. In 1977, Sadat’s economic ‘reforms’ led to the Bread Riots, now Morsi is reigniting the Infitah policies and here we are not only amidst inflation but also on the brink of selling parts of Egypt, like the Suez Canal to Qatar.”
What about political participation, being in the opposition, I ask. “Morsi at the start was extremely welcoming to expanding political participation, just as Sadat once was but now he is slowly abandoning this effort, just as Sadat and Mubarak have done which will only push the people further away the country’s politics and against the President himself.”
Hunger and justice has driven this Arab Spring and it continues to be its nourishing cause. Yet after two years, freedom tastes quite bitter to some.
A 49-year-old Egyptian mother of one, who wishes not to be named, says if you reach that excruciating point in your life when you open your purse and find nothing, freedom seems a worthy cost to feed yourself and your son. “The taste of bread is better than freedom itself.”
Her only son, a graduate of Political Science, like many young Egyptians is unemployed. As she laments the days under Mubarak’s rule, where although there was a strong sense of corruption, they were able to live, pay their rent and feed themselves. Both her son and herself live off a $100 a month provided by her father’s pension, who recently passed away.
The danger of scepticism, slowly settling in Egypt’s post revolution era, is set aside by Abdel Ali Mehmi Salem, a 57-year-old retired soldier from Assiut. He travels four hours for every protest that is organised in the heart of Cairo. Unlike many Egyptians, Salem is not too concerned with Morsi and the Brotherhood, he is more apprehensive over Mubarak’s trial and the other dictators ‘that still roam around freely in the Middle East.’
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He and his wife, whom he persuades to come along to each protest, argue that the poor are the ones who have really paid the price for the freedom of this country, so he is determined to ensure that Mubarak pays the price too for the corruption that he has committed while president. Salem proudly pulls out a homemade map consisting of headshots of every dictator in the Middle East with a red cross on each of their foreheads.
Until then Morsi has this retired soldier’s blessing. His voice softens, as he mentions that he believes Morsi should be given more time and should not be judged too harshly.
For Hassan Osman, a 66-year-old retired shopkeeper, Morsi’s time is over. He compares the Egyptian revolution to the Argentine revolution of 1966 when three successive presidents were all ousted until the public were finally satisfied. “Why shouldn’t we do that, we can oust any president we think is not good for Egypt and Morsi is not good for this country, I have not fought during the 1973 war to see our state come to this, I would have rather died in Sinai,” he says. “
He’s had his chance and now”, Osman adds, “Morsi must leave. Seven months is quite enough.” But what Mr. Osman fails to mention is that it took just over seven years for Argentina to finally choose a President they saw fit to rule their country.
Osman points at his small back pack and says he will be staying in Tahrir for the next two days, so his grandchildren one day will not look back and see that he did not do everything he could to provide them with a better Egypt.
Politics in Egypt may be as old as the roots of its civilisation but politics for and by the Egyptians seems fairly new. As democracy is struggling to move forward, grassroots movements such as the April 6thYouth Movement play a role in maintaining the peoples determination to continue protesting.
29-year-old Alaa Omar and 21-year-old Ahmed Salah believe that the April 6th movement is not like the opposition, it works on the ground and spends its time speaking to the people face-to-face. They believe that the April 6th Youth Movement’s only role is to ensure that citizen’s rights are protected. Their goal is to achieve a secure social justice for all.
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While only a few have come to celebrate this historic day, many are determined and are holding off the celebrations to continue fighting for an Egypt that will one day witness a genuine democracy.
As hunger once paved the road to this revolution the question is will it also be the destruction of it – when the poor choose to quieten the loud growling noise of hunger over the chanting for freedom.
As I pack my notes away, Randa Rashad points out that the Muslim Brotherhood understand all too well the weakness of the people and by feeding the poor, demands may be forgotten. Hosni Mubarak once did the same.
Ayya Harraz is a freelance journailst based in Cairo.