An estimated 100,000 protesters demanding to “Save the Revolution” demonstrated in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, according to Ahram. The protesters have called for another rally next Friday.
Tahrir Square on Friday
There had been no large scale demonstrations ever since the armed forces emptied the square on March 9, and it had been widely assumed that the revolution had fizzled out, but Friday’s huge crowds proved that assumption wrong.
The reborn revolution fervor was triggered by a return to some of the abuses that had been common during the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, whom the January uprising forced to resign.
Several people have come forward to say that they were detained and tortured by the military that had assumed power when Mubarak resigned, according to Global Post. Even Mubarak’s own National Democratic Party (NDP), widely criticized for corruption, is regrouping for a return to political prominence.
Of greater concern to some young people is the potential rise in power of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political parties.
The median age of Egyptians is 24, so most Egyptians are young, and have grown up in a secular Egypt with a Muslim Brotherhood that gave up violence decades ago. Young Egyptians wish to retain their secular freedoms, and to continue to coexist with Coptic Christians and other religious groups.
The result has been a serious generational rift within the Muslim Brotherhood. On Saturday, two key leaders of the Brotherhood resigned, with the intention of joining a new political party, the Hahda Party, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm. This party will be conservative, but it will uphold the freedom of its members, and will represent a strong competitor to the Brotherhood, because it will draw large numbers of Brotherhood youth.
In fact, the Brotherhood has been facing a rift since the Revolution began in January, according to an analysis by Ahram.
Within a few days of the overthrow of Mubarak, a Facebook event called “Brotherhood Youth Revolution” was established, calling on the Muslim Brotherhood Youth to overthrow it leaders and senior members.
The rift grew when Mubarak’s police and thugs were attacking the protesters in Tahrir Square. The leaders and senior members of the Brotherhood sided with the military, but the decision to back down was rejected by the Brotherhood youth. The result was a deadly battle of Tahrir Square that killed several dozen demonstrators.
Young Egyptians are sick of the corruption and abuse of the Mubarak regime, and they want to see it replaced. But they’ve lived their entire lives enjoying a secular society, at peace with Israel and the West. (See “14-Feb-11 News — Reader question about the Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood.”) My expectation is that there will be no significant changes to these policies.
Youth groups have listed five demands for the military and the interim government, according to Bikya Masr:
- urgent and speedy trial for corrupt former leaders
- urgent and speedy procedures to return our stolen money
- tough sentences for those who participated in killing our martyrs
- liberation of national television and newspapers from former regime
- liberating our institutions from the remains of NDP [Mubarak’s National Democratic Party] and State Security Agents
Even older Islamists are realizing that the young people in Egypt have completely different attitudes, according to a man quoted by the LA Times:
“Today’s young grew up freer than we did. They did not develop the same rage that inspired us. Even the Islamic movement is seeing things differently. It’s trying to speak to our current times. Before, we thought you could remove the infidel ruler only through force. Today, we see we can do it through peaceful protest and the ballot box.”
Young Egyptians today have as little desire to return to the harsh practices and attitudes of the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1950s and 1960s, any more than today’s young Americans or Europeans would like to return to the attitudes and behaviors of the 1950s.
However, Egyptian society, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, is going through a kind of societal identity crisis along generational lines. The young people always win these generational battles since, after all, the old people die off. We should begin to see the early resolutions to some of these disputes when elections are held later this year.