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Egypt Unwrapped

Young and Disillusioned

Egyptian protesters hold an effigy depicting President Mohamed Mursi while shouting slogans during an anti-government demonstration in the canal city of Port Said on February 22, 2013. STR/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian protesters hold an effigy depicting President Mohamed Mursi while shouting slogans during an anti-government demonstration in the canal city of Port Said on February 22, 2013. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bottled water shortages, daily street battles and citizen militias: this is part of the reality in which Egyptians must conduct their daily affairs, two short years after a sweeping revolution vowed to clean out the old order and pave a path to a more promising future. Yet, power grabs, political deadlock and a president daily losing popular support and becoming what some perceive to be a poor man’s Mubarak are now the status quo, and not what the revolutionaries set out to achieve.

It is easy to understand how a climate of fear and general dread has gripped the country, with whispers of impending civil war, or at best a stagnating society spiraling further away from positive change. Between strikes from among the professorship, gas shortages leading to clogged roadways and ever-shrinking foreign reserves, perhaps never before has this country faced such a bleak outlook, and it is in this climate that the country’s youth must forge their own paths in life.

Many have grown disillusioned with the revolution, with a few even harking back to the Mubarak days as a time of stability and safety. Others insist the current state of affairs is merely a type of political growing pains, necessary and natural in a nascent democracy, and that to give up now would be treason to the country. After all, this is Egypt, the Om Al Dunya, Mother of the World, and surely kol haga momkin feha, anything is possible here. They still believe that, in spite of some domestic and foreign analysts forecasting increasing turmoil and social division, in the end a vibrant, Arab democracy will emerge triumphant.

However, a large segment of the youthful population watches in horror as the Mursi administration fumbles its way through its first term, with incidences of police brutality reminiscent of pre-revolution times. Asking themselves why they struggled and risked so much, only for the goals of the revolution to become marginalized and ignored in favor of a one-party administration, interested less in the welfare of its constituents and more in the propagation of its aims, a deep sense of mistrust and suspicion has turned into outright hate for Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood. What once was seen as the only credible, or least organized, opposition group to the previous administration is now regarded in hostile and profane terms, with graffiti expressions of hatred towards the Brotherhood now ubiquitous in almost all cities and town centers.

In the past, the Muslim Brotherhood and other like-minded Islamist political parties were able to garner a wide range of support from student unions, but it now seems as if that popular affinity has become far less widespread. In fact, to be considered as having favorable leanings toward the Brotherhood is now akin to an outright insult on one’s character. Facebook groups lampooning the Mursi administration now abound, as do a myriad of jokes targeting their perceived political ineptitude.

Some here predict an impending military coup against the incumbent president, with military officials seemingly biding their time, allowing Mursi enough rope with which to hang himself and thus swing popular support against him. Many Egyptians of all ages now regard the military as the only institution both respected and organized enough to be able to replace the current administration. It is evident that many of Egypt’s youth have become disgusted by the idea of unipolar Islamic rule. When and to what extent those grievances will come boiling back to the surface is unknown, but perhaps this truly will be the Brotherhood’s fifteen minutes of fame.

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Cade Roberts
Cade Roberts has been living in Egypt on an Arabic language scholarship for the past year. He has traveled extensively throughout the region, and witnessed the uprising in Yemen in 2011. He is interested in the post-revolutionary youth movements in Egypt.

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