On-and-off revolution

On a Friday afternoon, taxi driver Ashraf Abbas drinks tea over the hood of his car with his colleagues. In the absence of customers, they decided to stop wasting precious gas and huddle around discussing politics instead.

Asked about his thoughts on calls for protests on June 30, Abbas declares, “I want the country to go up in flames on that day; let’s get it over with.”

Calls for protests on June 30 demanding the fall of President Mohamed Morsi as his first year in office winds to an end have attracted angry crowds from across the political spectrum, all united by their disapproval of Muslim Brotherhood’s rule of the nation and little else.

While some hope that Sunday will reignite the dormant revolution, others hope for the protests to reverse what this revolution has done to the country. In either case, no one seems to know what to expect after the big day, which has cast an almost apocalyptic shadow of expectation over the country as the countdown for the mass protests begins.

The taxi industry is one of the sectors most affected by political turbulence and instability, but Abbas says that betting on stability over the past years brought him nothing, and he is now willing to risk chaos in order to change the insufferable conditions he is now enduring.

“We are unable to secure a living for our kids, what else are we going to be scared of?” he asks.

Abbas never had anything against former President Hosni Mubarak, he says. He wishes the revolution never happened, and is participating in the June 30 protests in the hopes that, following the fall of the Brotherhood, the presidential palace will once again be occupied by a military man.

His colleague Abdel Naby Mohamed, who is also planning to join the protests on June 30, holds similarly bitter feelings towards the revolution.

“All revolutions have successes, except for ours — it only has disadvantages. Mubarak may have been stealing, but we never faced this gas crisis under his rule,” he says.

Their colleague Tarek Salama says that after a brief period of hope that followed the 2011 revolution, he has now lost faith — not only in the revolution, but in the compatibility of democracy and the Egyptian people altogether. Like his colleagues, all he wants now is a dictatorial rule that ensures that at least people get the needed basics of daily life.

“We thought we would try the civil life and democracy, but the Egyptian people need to be ruled with an iron fist. It turns out that we are indeed not ready for democracy,” he conjectures.

But this submission is precisely why many are skeptical of the protest, fearing a military takeover would eternally end any real prospects for a democratic process. While a shared opposition to Morsi’s rule is there, many activists see his uprooting and replacement by the military junta as a dangerous alternative.

That’s why some revolutionary groups taking to the streets on Sunday demand that, if early presidential elections are held, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court be named to hold power during the interim period.

The revolutionary groups that organized the protest call this moment “a new dawn for the revolution.”  In a statement filled with revolutionary vigor released last week, they announced that June 30 would be a historic day where the Egyptian people would retrieve their revolution and take it all the way to the presidential palace.

Aside from the skeptics, the military lovers and those who want to go down on June 30 but haven’t given up on democracy, there is also a group disheartened by the overall notion of street politics.

Some of those who have participated in the revolution since 2011 have grown tired of their many defeats and disappointments. Many of them are skeptical of the planned protests.

In the past two years, revolutionary waves have not lived up to the high hopes placed on them. After weeks of anticipation, much-hyped protests frequently resulted in violence and more losses than gains.

Sara Labib, a student who participated in the first wave of the revolution, says that she sees calls like June 30 as counterproductive measures that end up distracting revolutionaries from elections, where they are yet to make a single victory.

For her, the street stage of the revolution is over, and its terrain is now the ballot box. Labib suggests that revolutionaries put their efforts in forming strong parties, developing ideological platforms and focusing on elections.

Adopting a practical rather than idealistic approach towards the revolution, she says the hardships and failures of the last two years have left her disillusioned.

“Right now my thinking is based on reality. At first we thought we were going to create a new state, a new reality, but now there is a reality that we have to act within,” she says.


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