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The situation is rapidly escalating in Egypt. Last Sunday, the Egyptians showed the world the biggest political demonstration mankind has ever seen, demanding current President Mohamed Morsi to step down. One day later, the military gave the President 48 hours to come up with a solution and answer people’s demands, otherwise they will step in and present their own roadmap until early elections can be scheduled.
The past two years and a half have been full of mixed feelings among the Egyptians: it started with a so-called revolution that became world-famous, and a president that stepped down. People were happy. Egyptians started to believe in a better future involving poverty reduction, more jobs, recognition of human rights and a better economy, but that was not the case.
The first year after Hosni Mubarak’s fall, the army was in charge, and the country faced a number of violations such as military trials and virginity tests, just to mention a few. Then presidential elections were held, and every school in my neighborhood could be identified by long, dead-straight, queues. Some with men and others with women, the voting percentage was surprisingly high.
By the end of June 2012, Mohamed Morsi named himself the first freely elected president of Egypt, voted into office by the Egyptian people themselves. However, the latest events might keep some of us wondering how such a big number of Egyptians returned to the streets to show their dissatisfaction with Morsi’s policies, and even celebrated after the military issued a 48 hours ultimatum in a press release last Monday.
To understand this current stance one needs to understand the circumstances the Egyptians have been facing since the uprising in 2011: prices are continuously rising as a consequence of the devaluation of the Egyptian pound (EGP), while salaries have remained the same. Instead of providing jobs, more people are loosing theirs, mostly as a consequence of the decline that has been witnessed in the tourism industry. The liberties and freedoms people hoped for are still to be seen. Also, being the president of all Egyptians, the new leader broke his promise of doing his best to seek national unity among the broad variety of different parties, and by the end of 2012, the Freedom and Justice party, which Morsi is a member of, was the only player who supported the new constitution.
Asking Egyptians today what they hope for and dream of for the country in the future, the answers are clear: a better economy, safety and more jobs. Judged by Sunday’s demonstration, a huge number of Egyptians do not believe that can be obtained under the rule of Mohamed Morsi and his supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood.
One Egyptian who shared this perspective with The Toonari Post is my cleaning lady, an educated lady in her 30’s. Due to the lack of jobs, she could not find a job related to her field, so she started cleaning apartments of expats living in Cairo. Until last week, that supported her family’s household with the little extra money that was necessary for them to get by. However, three of the families for whom she is used to clean, securing her 300 EGP per week, left the country last week. Thus she has a salary-decline of 1200 EGP, left with a monthly income of 400 EGP.
Her husband is a government employee, guaranteed a lifelong employment, however the compromise is the salary: he is paid 1500 EGP per month. Put in perspective she and her husband have two children, who both go to school for which they have to pay 500 EGP for each child per month starting next term, as the school raised their tuition fee. On top of that, the family uses two bottles of gas every two weeks. Each bottle costs 25 EGP, amounting to 100 EGP per month.
With Ramadan coming up, the yearly month during which people fast, the consumption of food and other goods increases significantly.
My cleaning lady’s budget is even more challenged: “Now we are not eating meet or chicken, we can’t afford it. We just eat Koshery and Foul, but in Ramadan… You have to have meet. And chicken!” Furthermore, neither her parents nor her brother are employed; the latter even has a bank loan which requires him to pay 1000 EGP per month, otherwise police will pick him up and send him to jail.
As her eyes filled with tears she says: “It is not that it was better during the time of Mubarak, but at least back then, we had jobs (…). Prices were still high, but as we had jobs we could pay for the things we needed. At least we could buy food.”
Unfortunately there are several such stories throughout Egypt, which makes it hard to see people questioning who should rule Egypt. In the midst of the struggle of different ideologies, it becomes more important to know who most likely will be able to improve the everyday life of my cleaning lady and the many other Egyptians that are in her shoes.
It seems obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood have lost their momentum. The army is not really a long-lasting desired alternative, as Hosni Mubarak was seen as affiliated with the military. Meanwhile, many Egyptians believe the liberals are not seen as a real option either, as they lack experience and thus are not strong enough to govern the country in a desired way.
Not even the grass root movement, Tamarod, which called for Sunday’s record-breaking demonstration seems to have the answer for who can solve the problems Egypt is currently facing; thus, one can wonder how the people of Egypt see the situation improved, if not even one candidate for leading the country in a better direction can be identified.
Other Egyptians we have been talking to have a totally different focus, arguing that a new president will not alone be the solution to the current crisis, but that a social revolution is required. These people believe that changing the ruling party does not improve the country’s current condition if people’s mind-sets do not change with it. Thus, the Egyptian people need to “free themselves of all the rotten enslaving ideas of culture and religion,” one Egyptian woman commented on a status update on her Facebook profile.
Whether Egyptians will get a better alternative than what they had is hard to say, but one thing is certain: they will be insisting on it!
Image credit: Egypt’s Protests 25-Jan-2011 via Facebook