Recapping the Egypt Situation After Eighteen Riotous Days

By Tori Mirsadjadi ‘12Editor-in-Chief

It’s been hard to ignore news of the recent protests in Egypt. Particularly following the resignation of the country’s president. But can an Egypt-news-saturated-mind really absorb any of the key information? So here’s a quick summary—courtesy largely of CNN and the LA Times—of what’s been going on.

Protesters in Egypt drew inspiration from recent events in Tunisia, where a popular uprising ended the 23-year reign of military-man-turned-autocratic-ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Protests in Egypt were based on similar frustrations under their president Hosni Mubarak: people were fed up with corruption, injustice and rampant un-employment.

Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing in the Middle East and North Africa, played a large part in organizing the 18-day period of peaceful protests. Anti-Mubarak rallying relied heavily on social media sites. Ghonim cited the significance of anonymous contributions amassing, Wikipedia-like, to galvanize a revolution. “I call this Revolution 2.0,” Ghonim said in an interview with “60 Minutes.”

About midway through the 18 days of protests, armed supporters of Mubarak attacked anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Conflict escalated when demonstrators fought back, but subsided after the army intervened on behalf of the protesters. According to a CNN report, Egypt’s military has historically been held in high regard by the Egyptian populace. Protesters who mounted anti-Mubarak rallies welcomed its intervention and praised its refusal to fire on peaceful demonstrations.

Egypt’s military, among the largest in the Middle East, is the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid (after Israel). Egypt has long been a leader of the Arab world.

Mubarak became president in 1981. He continued predecessor Anwar el-Sadat’s policy of maintaining ties with Israel, winning continued financial support from the United States. Mubarak also suppressed Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. American officials said that Mubarak has been invaluable for his historical perspective and the importance he placed on the relationship with the United States and peace with Israel.

But Mubarak’s leadership was not as good for Egypt as it was for the United States. Egypt’s government has been financially corrupt, with Mubarak indulging nepotism and placing international interests above those of his country. Egyptians have long suffered from rising food prices and unemployment rates, coupled with low wages. The government under Mubarak has accumulated a large budget deficit. Egyptian people were faced with a government robbing them of individual as well as financial security. A telling rallying point for this corruption was the man allegedly beaten to death by police officers who have yet to be held accountable.

Mubarak’s tenure was the longest of any since the 1952 military overthrow of Egypt’s monarchy. He survived six assassination attempts, and was present at the assassination of Sadat. Mubarak’s term would have expired in 2012.

Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s vice-president, announced that the president was “waiving” his office on Feb. 11. Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, called Feb. 11 the “greatest day of my life” in comments to the Associated Press. Mubarak’s resignation concluded 18 days of protests. Egypt is now under military rule.

Unless a parliamentary or presidential election gets held, Egypt’s army will govern for the next six months. Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi is in control. Tantawi, who has served as defense minister since 1991, was called “aged and change-resistant” in a March 2008 document made public through WikiLeaks.