CAIRO -- Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi swore in new members of his cabinet Thursday, appointing the former leader of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, as the next Minister of Defense. The move only adds to the fear of a prolonged military role in the government -- a situation that thousands of Egyptians had fought to stave off during the 2011 revolution.
The Revolution Youth Union, one of several youth groups formed after the revolution, condemned the president and Prime Minister Hisham Qandil Friday for their cabinet appointees, claiming that the decisions were based not on merit, but on favoritism.
It has been 18 months since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, and by many people’s standards the Egyptian revolution has ended. Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison and the country has taken the initial steps to forming a new government.
But the new government does not resemble what the revolutionaries had envisioned. Not only did Morsi choose to keep Tantawi in power, but he also appointed several other cabinet members who served under Mubarak, including two women. One of them, Nadia Zakhary, is the minister of scientific research and the only Christian in the cabinet.
Looking back on the past year, some would argue that the revolution failed. The military still holds a majority of the power and the liberals did not succeed in getting their candidate elected. Media outlets from across the world have been quick to point to the end of the revolution, or its failure.
But the youth who began the Egyptian revolution, who saw their friends die at its birth, and who saw a modern Pharaoh fall at its apex, all have one message: the revolution is not over.
Tarek El-Khouly is a member of the April 6th youth movement. He joined the group in 2010 after graduating from university. He rose quickly in the group and took the lead in coordinating what became the Revolution Youth Coalition -- the group responsible for leading the protests on July 25. El-Khouly is still actively involved in carrying out the revolutionary mission.
“The road is paved and there is still hope but people don’t understand, and a lot of revolutionaries who enjoy a great deal of revolutionary purity don’t understand that the revolution can last for 10 years. Not 10 to 15 years in the square, but back and forth discussions till we reach a democratic society,” he says. “The pressure on the street level can still influence events, when people come together, but the movement of protesting as the only form of revolution does not affect people that much anymore.”
The tear gas and fighting during the revolution is long gone. The streets are quiet. No one would know that 18 months ago Tahrir Square had transformed itself from a frequent place of political protest to one of the most historic landmarks in the world. But slashed across the walls encircling the square is the revolutionary war cry: al-thowra mustamira. “The revolution continues.”
It does, but in fragments.
After interviewing revolutionaries from different political factions, it became clear that it wasn’t that the revolution had ended, but that cooperation had disappeared. All the revolutionaries remember the extraordinary amount of compassion and solidarity that existed in the square during the first days of the revolution.
Everyone was helping everyone else. People were passing out food and water and offering medical services to those who needed it. Somehow, that solidarity has been lost in an increasing politicized atmosphere. And most of the revolutionaries know it. They know what they did wrong, and what they need to do to fix things. They are their own worst enemies.
“We have made mistakes as youth who belong to the revolution. These mistakes have to do with unity and even on a political level, in regards to offering an alternative during the parliamentary elections and in the presidential elections,” El-Khouly says. “We need to serve our revolution using political measures and political work because at the end that is the real gain for the revolution.”
While mistakes were also made by several different political parties, including the military council and the Muslim Brotherhood, many Egyptians who did not have an active role in the revolution last year seem quick to blame young people. They think the youth of the revolution focused too much on their battle and less on ridding the state of the old regime.
Still, many revolutionaries still fervently believe there has been change. Neda Hafez, who was in the square for the 18-day uprising, said the fear of speaking out against the military, against the government, is gone. The government now fears the consequences of continuing political protest throughout the country.
Revolutionaries are still fighting against military power, and for real democracy. They may have left the streets, but they are still committed to their cause.
“The military has brainwashed people into thinking the revolution is over,” Hafez says. “We are the only ones that should have the last word in saying whether the revolution is over or not.”
It is a possibile that by the next election the military council and the Muslim Brotherhood will have broken each other down, and a third option will arise, one that brings a truly revolutionary voice and spirit forward. But that would require effective communication and cooperation among often-splintered revolutionaries.
“It's time for them to take a step back and wake the hell up,” said Ramy Yaccoub, chief of staff of the Free Egyptians Party, a liberal party founded following the 2011 revolution. “You don’t understand how much bickering goes on with them. It’s the ‘holier than thou’ syndrome that is a disease that has infected these people and they can’t get over it. Everyone thinks that they are 100 percent right all the time. And they have already lost a lot of clout.”
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