This Foreign Policy article says it best–the fifth anniversary of the great popular uprising that ousted the hated regime of dictator Hosni Mubarak passed just the way the current regime wanted–in silence. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
A long, wide and deep crackdown by the regime of ex-army commander Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has thousands in prison–Muslim Brotherhood members and liberal protesters–and whatever opposition still exists in Egypt is lying low.
Where this article falls down, though, is the same way that Western coverage of Egypt almost always falls down–interviewing only the protester side. As early as 2012, just a year after the popular revolution, I found it easy to get negative comments about the turmoil from downtown Cairo merchants, who were suffering from the lack of tourists and the general economic malaise made worse by the unrest. There’s no sign of them in this article, or in most others. No one is going out to find the battered majority, and they’re not coming to us–they’re just trying to survive.
If millions of people wanted to protest against the el-Sisi regime–they would, just as
they protested against the Muslim Brotherhood regime of President Mohammed Morsi, clearing the way for el-Sisi to depose him in 2013. Certainly many people are afraid to demonstrate, and many of their leaders are in prison–but millions more Egyptians are tired of the turmoil, and many others are judging el-Sisi by his economic record, which is still being written.
If el-Sisi’s government can bring about economic improvement of the type the trickles down to the common person, raising standards of living and providing jobs–then the average Egyptian will happily support the military dictatorship. Democracy is for the elite, for the West. Egyptians have more important issues on their plate–if they have a plate at all. The main fact to remember is–40 percent of Egypt’s 82+ million people live near or below the international poverty line. That’s $2 a day per person. That’s all that really matters in Egypt today, pushing even the vital issue of oppression of women into the background.
For most Egyptians, democracy and protest aren’t even in the Top Ten these days.