The eve of 31 December 2011 brought much promise to Egypt. People were marking the day in Tahrir. Christians sung hymns on a stage in the middle of the square as a Muslim couple got married in the presence of sheikhs and priests. The atmosphere was exhilaratingly hopeful.
However, the year 2012 has not been very kind to Egyptians.
The first anniversary of the 25 January revolution witnessed scuffles as Islamists were forced out of Tahrir square, after trying to force a celebration while hundreds of thousands of protesters flocked to the square to mourn the dead and reaffirm the goals of the “ongoing revolution.”
The first day of February witnessed the massacre of at least 74 people, mostly young men, in Port Said after (supposed) fans of Masry football team stormed the stands of Al-Ahly. People were in shock. It was only a match, how could parents cope with burying the 15-year old- sons who went to cheer their team? Activists accused state security of foul play.
What should have been a celebration of democracy turned sour as people prepared for historic presidential elections that would bring Egypt its first civilian president. The Muslim Brotherhood turned back on its promise not to put forward a candidate, first nominating Khairat El-Shater, whose papers fell through, thus forcing them to offer up Mohamed Morsy instead. Secular and moderate parties were in a shambles with Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahy refusing to unite, splitting the votes of the liberals and moderates and giving Morsy the edge. In the second round of the election, frustration was evident. Egyptians were back to the never-ending Mubarak-era choice; you either choose an Ikhwan—Morsy—or a military figure—Ahmed Shafiq.
Morsy won, and so began five months of governmental floundering.
After promising a government of political inclusion, Morsy appointed Islamists and recycled Mubarak ministers. After vowing that Egypt’s constitution will only pass with unanimous votes, the Constituent Assembly passed a constitution with only Islamist representation after non-Islamist and the Coptic Church representatives withdrew in protest. Continuing his path to dictatorship, Morsy immunised his decisions from judicial scrutiny causing mass protests. Clashes ensued throughout the governorates. Several Brotherhood headquarters were set on fire. A peaceful sit-in began by the presidential palace only to be violently broken up by Brotherhood supporters leaving several dead and injured.
Still, a referendum with a monumental number of violations was held, with a low turn-out of 32 per cent of eligible voters. A constitution that does not mention women in any article, allows military trials of civilians and does not forthrightly prohibit child labour was passed.
Meanwhile economic conditions have worsened in the last four months. After Morsy and the Brotherhood promised during his campaign to boost the Egyptian economy with EGP 200 billion, he turned to the IMF for a loan of $4.8 billion causing a hike in food and petrol-based prices, in anticipation of austerity measures. An already burdened Egyptian populace is now reeling from the inability to make ends meet. This is making even the most docile individual quite angry.
So what is the silver lining of this year?
With all the economic thrashing, the governmental decisions taken in the morning and retracted in the evening, the street clashes and the pseudo-Sheikhs spewing their hate on TV, Egyptians are getting a glimpse of what it is like to be ruled by the ‘pretense’ of religion. Islamists can no longer lay claim to the street; the millions protesting against Morsy and the Brotherhood at the presidential palace is proof enough, no longer calling them Islamists, but by their true description “the extreme right.”
Women are one of the finest silver linings of 2012; vocal and persistent they have taken to the street protesting violations against female protesters, first challenging SCAF and later Morsy and the Brotherhood in Cairo; as their sisters in rural areas took the law into their own hands by beating up Salafis who tried to force a way of life on them. Women will be the spark to bring down the autocratic rule of the Islamists.
The best thing about 2012 is the new young generation of protesters. Twelve and 13 year olds are now carrying the role of the revolutionaries putting those in their 40s to shame; staging sit-ins against unjust school administrations, protests in support of fellow students and, unfortunately, many times taking up positions at the front lines of clashes.
A generation that refuses autocracy under any pretense has finally been born in Egypt.
All eyes are now on 25 January 2013, for hope still exists.