Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s attack on the January 2011 revolution, while attending the activities of the 32nd Armed Forces Educational Symposium, was not the first of its kind. During the past years, al-Sisi’s rhetoric has steadily escalated against the Egyptian revolution that toppled the late President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
The revolution in Egypt is linked to constitutional recognition in 2014 and an official speech with two faces, one glorifying it, and the other warning against it. Regime supporters believe that the coup against the first elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi, and the accompanying popular movements in 2013, saved the country from deviation. Al-Sisi’s attack on the revolution came despite the fact that the constitution mentioned in its preamble that January 25, in two places, is a “great revolution.”
Al-Sisi’s name became famous after the revolution, and his name became frequent in the dialogues of the symbols of the revolution and the political forces, after the series of meetings that brought them together at the time, as the representative of the Military Council for dialogue with symbols of political forces. At that time, the youngest military council members turned into an icon, as he is the man who supports the revolution, meets its symbols, and listens to them for long hours, without boredom or boycott.
The most prominent picture of these meetings, in which he gathered with the youth of the revolution in February 2011 on the stairs leading to a military building, al-Sisi stood, accompanied by his brother-in-law, a member of the Military Council, Mahmoud Hegazy, smiling at the camera. Some of them were raising the sign of victory, as an expression of their gains from the series of meetings with leaders of the Military Council.
Deviation from path
By mid-2013, and during the coup against Morsi, both former President Adly Mansour and his successor, al-Sisi, upon assuming the Ministry of Defence, repeated the phrase “January Revolution.” Still, they always said that it deviated from its course during the era of Morsi. Al-Sisi added that he intervened (for the coup), based on popular protests against Morsi’s policies, and he did not want to rule, but rather to save Egypt.
In the first year of his accession to power following the coup that he led against Morsi, al-Sisi repeated that the January revolution is “a national necessity that was delayed.” He said in an interview with young media professionals at the Presidential Palace in December 2014 when he addressed the audience: “The January 25 revolution was 15 years late … and it was supposed to take place much earlier.” On its fourth anniversary, in early 2015, al-Sisi said, “The January 25 revolution was a revolution for change, in which the Egyptians moved and wanted change and succeeded in their revolution, and when they wanted again on June 30 to change or correct change, they succeeded again in change.”
On the following anniversary (2016), he addressed the Egyptians, saying, “Any humanitarian action is subject to evaluation … and the deviation that took place in that revolution from the path the people wanted for it was not by its loyal sons.” Al-Sisi continued, “But the people who revolted for their freedom and dignity towards the path and corrected the march, so the June 30 Revolution came … to restore the free will of the people and continue to realise their legitimate hopes and deserved ambitions.” On the sixth anniversary (2017), al-Sisi said: “The January revolution will remain a turning point in the history of Egypt (…) and when the revolution deviated from its course and was seized by narrow interests and non-national purposes, so the people’s revolution was again in June 2013 to correct the course.”
At the beginning of 2018, al-Sisi started a new phase in his speech on the January revolution, despite his speech on the seventh anniversary (2018), in which he said: “Today, I cannot fail to greet our great Egyptian people on the occasion of the anniversary of the January 25 revolution, which was that its demands are noble, seeking freedom and human dignity, and achieving decent livelihoods for the Egyptian citizen.”
However, days later, specifically on January 31, 2018, al-Sisi reacted during a speech after opening a project, saying that “Egypt will not return to seven or eight years ago,” warning that he might request a (popular) mandate to confront those he called “abusers of security,” and the stability of the country.” And in October 2018, it was considered that “what happened in 2011 is the wrong treatment for a wrong diagnosis. Some people presented an image that change could happen in this way and that there is a magic wand that will solve problems.”
Last year, during the Eighth Youth Conference, al-Sisi held the January Revolution responsible for building the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam currently under construction on the Blue Nile, threatening Egypt’s water security. He said: “I said 2011 only, why? Because you say oh al-Sisi, give us the water… You (the Egyptians) are the ones who did that.” At the same conference, al-Sisi said that the “conspiracy” in 2011 in Egypt was against the armed forces and the interior because they are the centres of gravity that protect the state from falling. Last month, al-Sisi held the revolution responsible for stopping development projects for the January revolution, saying: “There are projects that have stopped due to the events of 2011 and the instability.”
During the educational seminar for the Armed Forces Educational Symposium on Sunday, al-Sisi renewed his attack on the revolution, saying that its goal was “to destroy the state, not change it.” He referred to the theft of railways such as the al-Wahat Line (west) in 2011, asking: “Why do I threaten the state and move the people and turn them into a tool to destroy it?” He revealed that he had held a meeting with those he called intellectuals in 2011, where he told them that “The issue was not the change but rather destruction. All countries have challenges, and as long as the people stand with their leadership, they can be overcome.” It is noteworthy that during the al-Sisi era, severe accusations are raging against the January revolution and its supporters, and many of them are currently in prison, such as activists: Ahmed Douma, Alaa Abdel Fattah, and politician Mohamed el-Beltagy.