Egypt’s El Sisi offers upbeat memory of 2011 revolution on anniversary

The Egyptian president said the country has become ‘an oasis of stability’ since uprising nine years ago

epa08158621 General view of Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, 23 January 2020 (issued 24 January 2020). In the eve of the anniversary of the revolution that ended three decades of Hosni Mubarak's rule, the chants and demands of change are not heard anymore in the iconic Tahrir square of Cairo and instead there is now the sound of excavators and concrete mixers.  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Egypt on Saturday marked the ninth anniversary of the uprising that toppled ruler Hosni Mubarak, with President Abdel Fattah El Sissi saying the country has become an “oasis of stability” under his rule and activists taking to social media to reminisce about their participation in the revolt.

The Egyptian uprising was part of a series of revolts that swept the region in 2010 and 2011, starting in Tunisia before moving to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Similar protests that some have called a second wave of uprisings began last year in Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon and Iraq.

FILE - In this April 25, 2016 file photo, ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from his room at the Maadi Military Hospital, where he is hospitalized, in Cairo, Egypt.  Egypt's former autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to step down following 2011 mass protests, has undergone a surgery, his eldest son tweeted on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Alaa Mubarak tweeted that his 91-year-old father was operated on Thursday and that his condition was “stable”.  He did not provide any further details about the surgery. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

Egypt’s leaderless uprising led to the rise to power of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, with the group’s Mohammed Morsi elected president in June 2012. He was removed a year later by the military, then led by Mr El Sisi, after his rule proved to be divisive. Mr El Sisi was elected president a year later.

“The whole world has seen how Egypt has turned into an oasis of security and stability in only a few years,” Mr El Sissi said on Thursday.

His comments came as he addressed the nation during a televised ceremony marking “Police Day” which, like the start of the 2011 uprising, falls on January 25.

“The [Police] day coincides with the January 25 revolution with its noble demands to realize a dignified life for Egyptian citizens,” Mr El Sisi said.

The president has given his personal view on the 2011 uprising between January 25 and February 11 that left over 800 dead, once calling it “the wrong remedy for the wrong diagnosis.”

He has repeatedly said the uprising ushered in a period of instability that cost the country dearly, wrecking the economy and causing investors to stay away.

But his speech on Thursday gave by far his most positive comment on the uprising in years.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Mr El Sisi has overseen a thorough campaign to dismantle the Brotherhood and its supporters. Thousand have been detained along with some of the leaders of the 2011 uprising.

Media outlets close to the Egyptian authorities, however, consistently demonized the uprising and its proponents as a foreign plot carried out by local agents. They accuse its prominent activists of being on the payroll of Egypt’s enemies or sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, now a banned terrorist group.

In contrast, activists who participated in the uprising have, since the strike of midnight on Friday, unleashed a flood of social media posts declaring their pride and honour in having taken part in the revolution that centred on Tahrir Square in Cairo, arguing that the event changed their lives forever.

“There is nothing I am more proud of in my entire life than me spending days at Tahrir square mingling with the young and old who were united by one goal and wanted no personal gain,” rights lawyer Negad El Borai wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

Security forces have meanwhile deployed at downtown Cairo and Tahrir Square as a precaution against any attempt to stage demonstrations commemorating the anniversary.

Former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa El Deen wrote an unusually outspoken article over the weekend in Cairo’s independent Al Shorouk daily. “The state must stop the implicit and explicit enmity toward the January revolution,” he said.

“To deny the revolution and its expression of the Egyptian people’s desire to see change will only result in more societal divisions, as well as the withdrawal [from public life] of youth and the isolation of the state from a large segment of the population that participated in the revolution or supported it.”