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Egypt Unwrapped

Rebels with a Cause

An Egyptian man distributes a petition sheet for Tamarod's campaign on May 17, 2013. KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
An Egyptian man distributes a petition sheet for Tamarod’s campaign on May 17, 2013. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A lot can change in a year. Twelve months ago, Egypt was abuzz with excitement in the midst of its first-ever free and democratic presidential elections. Egyptians, for the first time in a long time, had reason to be hopeful for the country’s future.

Yet things have not panned out as Egyptians had hoped. The first round of elections not only failed to provide a winner, but managed to yield eighty million losers. The announcement that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi and Mubarak lackey Ahmed Shafiq would face each other in the runoff was described by one analyst as choosing between “cancer and heart disease.” Revolutionary Egypt fell by the wayside, and Egypt’s long-standing institutions, the Brotherhood and the former Mubarak regime, gave Egyptians a simple choice: choose the devil you know or the devil you don’t.

June 30 is around the corner. Not only does it mark the anniversary of Mursi—a man whose presidency and party have become increasingly unpopular with each passing week—officially assuming office, it also marks what many hope will signal the end of Mursi’s tenure.

The Tamarod (rebellion) campaign—the organizers of which have united under a petition calling for the removal of Mohamed Mursi from power—has been gathering steam over the past two months in response to the growing aversion Egyptians feel towards Mursi and Brotherhood rule. According to their spokesman, Mahmoud Badr, Tamarod’s petition, which is calling for an early end to Mursi’s tenure and the holding of new presidential elections, has now garnered fifteen million signatures. If accurate, this figure is astonishing. It would reveal that Mursi, who won elections last year with thirteen million votes, is reaching the end of his tenure. The Tamarod campaign is also much more than a petition. It is calling upon all those who have signed to come out on to the streets on June 30—and not leave until he leaves.

There have, of course, been stop-start movements like this over the past year, but certainly none have gathered as much momentum and coverage as Tamarod. Time will tell if the planned protests on June 30 will be the catalyst behind a second revolution and once again remove a president from office, or if it will die down as quickly as it gained momentum.

Tarek Abdelsalam, an Egyptian in his sixties who signed the Tamarod petition only a year after voting for Mursi in the second round of elections, explained:

I made a mistake last year in my mentality. I forgot this was a revolution, and like many others, I stuck with the choices that were given to me: Mursi or Shafiq. Some people boycotted, but they were wrong too. We all should have been thinking through a revolutionary mentality and realized that the people have the power and we should have come up with a fourth or even fifth option. We thought we could not interrupt the democratic process, while we all knew that both Mursi and Shafiq would be undemocratic leaders. We managed to remove a president who had his feet under the table for thirty years, yet we never thought about removing a leader before he had a chance to sit down. Tamarod is our chance to correct that.

Much like the January 2011 revolution, Tamarod does not appear to have a goal beyond removing the president from office, which begs many questions. If Tamarod’s planned protests succeeded, how long would it take to elect a new leader, who would oversee the elections, and what role would the army play? Yet the importance and popularity of this campaign on such a significant date unequivocally shows that Egyptians feel something has gone very wrong in their revolution. Asking Abdelsalam about the questions that would surface if Mursi were to be removed later this month, he shrugs his shoulders in apathy: “We’ll get it right once we correct our wrongs.”

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Ahmed Kadry
Ahmed Kadry is a PhD candidate at Imperial College London. He researches Egyptian socio-political feminist identity and discourse in the 1952 and 2011 Egyptian revolutions. He tweets @ahmedkadry.

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