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Three Years After Tahrir, Has Egypt Changed?

  • Elizabeth Arrott

On January 25, Egyptians mark the third anniversary of the revolution that ended decades of a repressive regime -- and that many heralded as the beginning of a transition to democracy.

But three years after millions of Egyptians rose up and overthrew Hosni Mubarak, a general-turned- president, the country seems set to back another general, Abdel Fatah el Sissi, as his successor.

That leaves many asking how much, if anything, has changed?

There is more violence, including a series of bombings in Cairo, one day before the anniversary - which makes General Sissi all the more popular with many Egyptians, who long for stability after all the turmoil.

Supporters, like taxi driver Said Ali Yaseen, feel the general - who toppled Egypt's first civilian and democratically-elected president in July - brings a new perspective on moving the country forward.

“It's very different. No - Sissi has a different mind, he's still young,” said Yaseen.

Adopting the “revolutionary” mantle appears key. Sissi, and the military-backed interim government, are among many forces laying claim to the legacy of Tahrir.

Officials argue that Morsi's ouster and the crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood stemmed in part because they deviated from the revolutionary path.

But then, so, too, authorities say, have some of the original revolutionaries. Dozens of activists, liberal figures, have faced arrest in recent weeks.

Gamal Eid, an activist with the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, says the young revolutionaries have demands that have not been met, and are now being attacked.

Even an Academy Award-nominated Netflix documentary on Tahrir and the more recent upheavals raises the government's concerns.

"We did all of this in order just to remove him and put someone exactly like him in his place," Eid said.

Egypt's censorship board is holding up its release.

But Tahrir was not just about politics. It was a cry against poverty, injustice, and stagnation under the old regime. Ahmed Kamal Abou El Magd, a constitutional lawyer and Islamic scholar, warns that basic needs must be met.

“If they feel grievances are not met seriously and very little improvement is taking place, God knows how they are going to rebel," he said. "They are going to rebel."

But with the hope of the Arab Spring long since faded, some, like taxi driver Ali Yaseen, put Egypt's situation in a broader context.

“Look at this whole world in Arab area. See what's wrong with them now? Libya, nothing [good]. Iraq nothing," said Yaseen. "You start with Yemen and then now with Syria.”

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