Days after the Egyptian president stepped down amid mounting violence and agitation among protesters, University of Wisconsin professors offered their perspectives Monday on what lies ahead as the government prepares to rebuild.
The three professors weighed the social and cultural causes of the conflict, the latest developments in the country and possible measures for citizens after the demonstrations have ended.
Adel Talaat, an Egyptian professor of pathobiology at UW, said opposition groups sprung up as early as 2004 against former President Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic regime, and the country’s economic woes and political corruption within the party have underlined his time in office.
Talaat said the uprising in Tunisia one week before the Egyptian protests began Jan. 25 provided a model for Egyptians looking to oust the president, an act many had believed to be impossible.
“Suddenly the authority of the president could be questioned,” Talaat said. “It was like the emperor suddenly had no clothes.”
After the Egyptian people received assurance Mubarak could be overthrown through peaceful and organized efforts, they needed a way to relay their message to the greater population, Talaat added.
Nevine El-Nossery, an Egyptian professor of French and Italian at UW, said the broadcast company Al Jazeera had been broadcasting footage of protesters throughout Egypt, but the government-run broadcasting network depicted the independent networks’ coverage as treasonous.
El-Nossery said Facebook and other social media sites became hubs of communication for citizens seeking an honest portrayal of events.
“The Internet provided a safe platform for initiating people into the movement,” El-Nossery said. “It was out of the government’s reach.”
El-Nossery also said men and women alike played an active role in organizing protests and rallies in Cairo and Alexandria. At prayer services during the rallies, women were seen praying next to men instead of traditionally behind them.
She added while many may see the series of events in Egypt as a Muslim uprising because of the active role of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Muslim opposition party, Christians have been represented equally throughout the protests.
“It has really given Egyptians a sense of solidarity,” El-Nossery said.
UW political science professor Nadav Shelef said the Mubarak regime began to regard the protests as a serious threat when demonstrations grew to include a large and diverse sector of the population.
While Shelef acknowledged the collective victory for the Egyptian people, he said he hoped the events in Egypt would not be prematurely crowned as a victory for democracy.
He said the military’s takeover of the government could just as likely lead to a takeover as it could a newly written democratic constitution and free elections within the next six months.
“We don’t know if this is the fall of the Berlin wall and democratization in Germany or Putin taking over Russia,” Shalef said, “We just don’t know.”