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August 03, 2010

Egyptians are Getting Angry
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Last time I reported from Cairo, in May, I quoted the Islamist writer Ibrahim el-Houdaiby saying: "There's a moment of real change this time." Maybe now is still too soon. Certainly, Egypt's fractious opposition has a long way to go. But it's starting to get its act together. In particular, the cooperation between former IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei and the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to pay dividends. 

I have a new piece in The National that looks at these developments and asks what they might mean for Egypt's future course. I pay particular attention to the interesting interplay between economic growth, rising expectations, and political discontent. You can read it here. Here's a teaser:

According to a Solidarity Centre report published earlier this year, from 2004 to 2008, more than 1.7 million Egyptian workers participated in over 1,900 labour-related protests. The riots, the strikes and the sit-ins have gone largely unnoticed by the West, in part because they do not appear to be explicitly political – at least not yet.

It is interesting, then, that observers so often fault Egyptians for their apparent passivity. This, conveniently, allows western policy makers to persuade themselves that Egypt will not become another Iran or another, well, Egypt, circa 1952. Egyptians might want change, so the thinking goes, but they don’t seem particularly interested in actually doing anything.

But, again, the numbers belie such claims. The short-lived “Arab spring” in the first half of 2005, after all, saw Egypt’s first ever mass-mobilisation in support of democracy, with over 150,000 participating in protests, demonstrations and campaign rallies. Presumably that counts (and, presumably, suggests that American pressure does, in fact, matter). 

As they say, read the whole thing.

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