Revolution is something that Egyptians are rumored to be against. This is because they have spent millennia inhabiting the banks of the eternal Nile, drinking and cultivating in its water, and traversing its land in a temperate climate. They are also typically thought to accept what comes from nature, be it the crop’s harvest or the demands of the rulers.
For three thousand years after the Pharaonic era ended, invaders and conquerors succeeded one another. Most of them relied on Egyptian peasant’s prowess in calculating the months, seasons, and weather conditions. In this way, the Roman caesars could ensure that the imperial silos across the Roman Empire were stocked, and Saladin could ensure that his forces were fed while fighting the Crusaders.
Omar Makram led a revolution at the turn of the nineteenth century to install Muhammad Ali as a ruler, but Ali was just another in a long line of foreign rulers. The Urabi uprising was more intricate than its forerunner. It was proof that Egypt had been reborn as a nation, with modernity bringing with it the emergence of social classes, the creation of a divide between Egyptians and foreigners, and the emergence of a multifaceted political, economic, and social elite, as articulated by intellectuals such as Abdullah Al-Nadim and others.
The 1919 revolution marked the birth of the Egyptian state as it exists today, despite the fact that it began as a “kingdom” and later became a “republic”. In both cases, the twentieth century brought greater complexity to the world, making Egypt the most advanced nation in a part of the world that was otherwise mired in ancient eras.
The 1952 Revolution was not, strictly speaking, a revolution. The military initiated this “blessed movement” in order to secure the British ousting from Egypt. The movement evolved into a revolution, gaining a foothold in the Arab region and beyond and pursuing industrialization and modern agriculture at home.
The notion of revolution waned, and only protest movements persisted, the first of which I witnessed immediately following the Six-Day War in 1967, when university students repeatedly demanded war against Israel. Between 18 and 19 January 1977, there were bread riots, which led to the Brotherhood assassinating President Al-Sadat after he signed a peace agreement to liberate Egyptian territory.
Consequently, the history of revolutions in Egypt is not lacking, but when compared to Egypt’s millennia-long history, the rarity of significant grassroots uprisings has given the impression that stability is an eternal law. At least, this was the case up until the “tsunami-like” revolutionary wave of 25 January 2011, which radically altered everything. The shock was severe, and remains so, but it was enough to force Egypt to focus on its future rather than its past. The Muslim Brotherhood appropriated the uprising, and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo to set up shop, evoking the moment Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini arrived in Tehran.
Nothing about the Brotherhood Guidance Bureau, which is akin to the “politburo” in communist parties and its counterpart in fascist parties and is known for its culture of blind hearing and obedience merits close attention or analysis, except for a flashback to the Brotherhood’s platform of 2007, which advocated for an Iranian-style revolution in Egypt. There is not enough space to go into detail about what followed, but suffice it to say that the general situation did not satisfy either the Egyptian people or the Egyptian armed forces, by virtue of their organic connection to the Egyptians and their genuine identity.
Exciting times characterized the Brotherhood’s year in power after their disastrous course and extreme lack of leadership skills became public knowledge. And when the Tamarod [rebellion] movement emerged and began collecting signatures from Egyptians, as their ancestors did collecting powers of attorney for Saad Zaghloul Pasha a century earlier, calling for the holding of early presidential elections, a new spirit was born. At the time, I was having dinner with the then-Secretary-General of the Presidency, Ambassador Muhammad Rifa’a Al-Tahtawi, and I asked him whether the Brotherhood would respond to the popular demand. He stated that they listen to no one.
On 19 June, I received a phone call from Ambassador Omar Amer, who was acting as the official Presidential Spokesman. He requested that I meet him at the Republican Palace. When I got there, he introduced me to the head of the Foreign Relations Office, Ayman Yasser, and then inquired about my thoughts regarding the current predicament. I stated that the president, in my opinion at the time, had three options: the “golden” option was to call for early elections, the “silver” option was to reorganize the government into a more representative “national front”, and the “wooden” option was to do nothing, which would inevitably lead to a revolution.
On 23 June, I spoke about the threats to Egyptian national security at the fifth annual educational symposium hosted by the Egyptian Armed Forces. Following the event, a participant approached me to complain that my gloomy illustration of the dangers facing the country, especially from the Brotherhood, had ruined his day. That day, I had my first encounter with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. He also gave a speech at the symposium, making a promise that the army would never permit anyone to touch a single hair on an Egyptian’s head.
The specifics of what transpired after are countless, but the marches of the 30 June Revolution, the gathering of national political forces on 3 July and their roadmap, and the Egyptian people’s directive to the defense minister and armed forces to put an end to the chaos and disperse the Rabaa Adawiya sit-in were the turning points. Egypt embarked on a new course, one in which the revolutionary movement was supported by a massive plan for the country’s long-term growth and prosperity. Egypt did not proceed alone. Similar to how they had been during the October 1973 War, which the Egyptians and Arabs fought together with the aid of weapons, oil, and assistance from one another, our Arab siblings were with us on the same path.