Monday, 4 July 2011

Egypt: Facebook, football and the Moslem Brotherhood

The January-February 2011 revolution in which President Hosni Mubarak was deposed was one of a long succession of periods of civil unrest in Egypt since the Nationlist government first came to power in 1952.  In fact periods of insurrection go back to 1798, when Napolean occupied the country.

The one preceding the 2011 revolution was in 2008, involving strikes, demonstrations and food riots. It was then that Facebook usage started as football fans sought to support Egypt in the finals of the African Cup of Nations. The Facebook network helped a textile workers’ strike gain widespread support and brought many young people into conflict with Mubarak’s security forces. Since then the Facebook usage has, presumably, grown rapidly as it has in other parts of the world.

Egypt has a a median age of only 24, which means there as many people under 24 as above it; while Mubarak is 82 and his asscociates are mainly of similar age. 

The Nationlist regime had a progressive health and education policies which means Egypt now has a demographic bulge of young educated people with little prospect of fulfilment through a career. 700,000 graduates leave university each year and have to compete for only 200,000 jobs. Also, food prices are rising fast, as in most parts of the world.

So the conditions were ripe for revolution. Large masses of educated but discontent young people coordinated and mutually encouraged by use of Facebook. The successful Tunisian revolt beginning in December 2010 would also have urged them on.

But there was another factor at play. At least 1 in 4 of the population (i.e. over 20 million out of 80 million) support the Moslem Brotherhood and this long established radical Islamic movement was able to get its supporters onto the same streets as the secular demonstrators. Although the MB claims to have moderated in recent years it has a long history of violence and persecution of minorities.

So the question now is can the new holders of power (the Military Council) set up a democractic regime with minorities at least as protected as they were under the old regime and with a similarly progressive education system? Any help the West can give them would be in most people's interest.

Feedback welcome

author 2077 AD