The Inevitability of Egypt’s 2nd Revolution

On July 3rd 2013, the world watched history repeat itself as the Egyptian military rose up yet again and deposed Egypt’s sitting President. This second revolution was the result of months of growing animosity, and with the seed of the first revolution still present, this second revolution was, in fact, inevitable.

In January 2011, the Egyptian military sided with the people and ousted President Mubarak in show of determination to transform Egypt into a democracy.  This revolution was the result of years of growing animosity with the Egyptian government and the deterioration of conditions in Egypt. It sought to change the system, overthrowing the two systems of oppression: the state—by way of a highly centralized government, its suppression of Egyptians, and its silencing of its opponents, foresting a system of patrimony, corruption, and impunity; and religious extremism—the disjuncture in Islamic values created by the rise of Wahhabism, with Islamic teachers only teaching the formalities and rituals of Islam and not the concepts of freedom, justice, and equality which are at the heart of Islam.

When President Mohammed Morsi came to power on June 30th 2012, he was faced with an incredibly difficult task: balance the differences between the religious extremists and the liberal revolutionaries and slowing move the country away from dictatorship and towards democracy. To fast a movement and he faced opposition from the right; to slow a movement and he face outcry from the left. The entire process was like that of balancing on the edge of a knife. The revolution has created space. It had brought change from the time being, but what was done with that moment, how it was used, is the most critical component of creating lasting change. And it is in this way that Morsi truly failed.

Egypt’s pre-revolution society—the lack of political rights, police brutality, the implementation of emergency of laws, the rise of Wahhabism, the deterioration of the medical system, increased poverty, increased violation of human rights and violence against women, governmental hypocrisy, and the isolation of the President from the people—provided the spark fro revolution. In the 2 ½ years since the first revolution, and the year of President Mori’s rule, no significant ground has been covered. In fact, the economic situation in Egypt has worsened. The discontent of the masses has been evident for the past year, yet the government made little progress in address these grievances. Once again, the situation came to a boil and the world saw history repeat itself as Egypt underwent a second revolution.

This second revolution was inevitable. The first revolution caused a break in the system; a pause in which space was created for changes to be made. However, Morsi was not able to take advantage of this space. He was not able to bridge the gap between the two polarized groups, find a middle ground, and slowly initiate change. And are we surprised? Morsi was not the great Mandela type; the great unifying figure around which the country could assemble, with the capacity to mobilize Egyptians to create a better and brighter Egypt. From the beginning of his Presidency, Morsi was constantly hit from both the left and the right and it crippled him. He did not have the strength to stand up and unify them, and this, consequently, resulted in the creation of such discontent that revolution struck again.

Although Morsi was not the leader that Egypt needed him to be, this second revolution sets a dangerous precedent, one in which societal discontent becomes equivalent to the need for revolution. This leaves not room for the development of democratic processes and peaceful mechanisms of regime change; it only leaves room for violence. Egypt, right now, is at a critical point in its history. What happens next will determine Egypt’s future. Will Egypt now be able to seize the moment, use the space, start a dialogue between its polarized factions, and initiate real change? Or will it forever be plagued by cycle of violence?


Jolene Hansell is a Master’s Candidate of Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University. Her specific area of focus is transitional justice and rule of law. Currently she is in Arusha, Tanzania, working as a Legal Intern for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. You can email her at or follow her on twitter @joleneh340


8 thoughts on “The Inevitability of Egypt’s 2nd Revolution

  1. Not really a revolution but a military coup, no matter what the US Administration labels it. The question now is whether it will remain a military-run state, transform into something more democratic, or be ripe for a new revolution in the months ahead.

  2. True, it is a coup but this has been the Egyptian way for a number of decades now and I certainly expect them to again relinquish control to a civilian governing body that will acquiesce to a great deal of military influence – as usual.

    Due to Egypt’s myriad social and economic challenges I don’t believe any governing body will be able to bring enough stability and security to the fore soon enough to placate the increasingly restless and desperate citizenry and disparate competing groups. I don’t envision any group being capable of building a strong enough and diverse enough coalition to be able to help stabilize Egypt quickly enough from this point on.

    For this reason I would expect to see more coups and increasingly turbulent cycles of violence continue without relief. I don’t see a revolution per se just another civil war but this would be a really big one. As with the Syrian conflict, the longer this growing unrest continues in Egypt the more imperiled and volatile the entire region becomes.

    If true this means that the whole region will become more unsettled and violent than it has been in some time and with the current U.S. administration I don’t see much hope at all for the future. Then again I am certainly no expert but I am curious – how do other members see Egypts proposed future chances?

  3. Most democratic systems have safety valves (for lack of better term) , a vote of no confidence or impeachment. They too are parts of a democracy, was there any structure in the Egyptian constitution that allowed for the dissatisfaction of the citizens with their elected leaders? My Arabic is not up to that level of reading.

  4. It is somewhat disappointing to me that so many, not including Ms. Hansell, seem surprised that revolutions bring with them violent behavior. Repressed people are angry people. When the existing regime is overthrown the mechanisms of enforcement (yes, repression) go with it. Suddenly, the population sees an opportunity to settle old scores or just improve economically; the “bad old days” are over. No thought is given to replacing the old bureaucracy with a new, more representative government. Ms. Hansell makes the excellent point that Morsi is no Mandala. In a similar vein, Mubarek was no deKlerk, a sitting president willing to work for a peaceful transition. And to carry the South Africa analogy a little further, there is no Archbishop Tutu to advance a conciliatory model of religious behavior. The result is probably going to be, as Ms. Hansell notes, that Egypt is going to follow the trajectory of so many social revolutions (i.e., French, Russian, Chinese) with a period of anarchy followed by the establishment of an authoritarian regime. Perhaps strong external intervention might change this, but that appears unlikely.

  5. The whole area is passing through a turbulent vividly reflects hypocrisy of the super power.why a democratic super power has changed it’s stance & discreetly supporting a military coup ,destabilising the region which is already passing through worst times.its not second revolution in Egypt but a military coup de tat .

  6. Managing Egyptian conflict needs true commitment from all warring factions and without undermining any side,however small it may seem to be.

  7. Jolene,I have got interest in following your blogs on conflicts. As a student of Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation Studies,I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks.

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