Ten years after the Egyptian revolution, its icons live in exile and are in prison at a time when the pillars of the regime of the late President Hosni Mubarak have been released while some of them have returned to the fore. Revolutionaries are being detained in prisons and detention centres. They are systematically tortured in places of detention and are revolved in new cases to prevent them from seeing the light of the sun. Other January revolutionaries have forcibly emigrated to several Arab countries, Turkey, Europe, the USA, and other countries fearing arrest and imprisonment. As for the Mubarak regime’s symbols, they were acquitted, and some returned to hold important positions under the current regime after the 2013 coup.
Symbols of the revolution
The first president after the revolution, Mohamed Morsi, was one of the most prominent people to leave prison on January 29 to go to Tahrir Square. After the 2013 coup, he remained incarcerated in prison until his death. Morsi was the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political forces’ meetings against Mubarak before the revolution, and he was elected after the revolution as the first democratically elected civilian president, before his Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi turned against him in July 2013. The country’s first elected president was kept in solitary confinement and deprived of visits for six years until he died in the courtroom, during one of his court sessions in June 2019, after a heart attack at 68. His family and human rights organisations are calling for an independent investigation into the cause of death, accusing the Egyptian authorities of deliberately neglecting his health care.
As for Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leading advocates of the revolution, he is now outside the country. Although ElBaradei participated in the July 2013 coup statement and was appointed Vice-President of the Republic for Foreign Relations before he resigned in protest against the forceful dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda sit-ins and left the country, he later turned into an opponent of the regime. ElBaradei appears from time to time on his Twitter account, opposing the Sisi regime, and is being subjected to a continuous media smear campaign.
On the other hand, Wael Ghoneim, whose role emerged during the revolution as one of the advocates for demonstrations through the page “We are all Khaled Said” on Facebook, appeared crying over the revolution’s martyrs, opposing Morsi’s policy, and calling for demonstrations on June 30 via the same revolutionary page. But he left Egypt after the military coup was announced and the sit-ins were forcibly dispersed, justifying that the country “does not welcome people like him,” as he became the focus of a continuous attack by the regime’s media, to disappear from public life and even communication sites. However, he reappeared in conjunction with the demonstrations of September 20, 2019, called for by the actor and contractor Mohammad Ali, and continues to appear extensively on communication sites speaking about the revolution’s mistakes. Ghoneim presents himself as a mediating voice between the regime and the opposition, but he has lost his luster between both sides’ supporters.
As for Hamdeen Sabahi, he was one of the revolution’s faces, and he was fifth in the 2012 presidency, and participated in the call for the June 30 demonstrations. In 2014, he ran for the presidency as the only competitor against Sisi, to come out as a humiliating loss. He received fewer votes than the number of invalid ballots. He later disappeared from public view and political action. Sabahi appears through tweets on communication sites, criticising some of the Egyptian authorities’ decisions, and participating in the conference to establish a civil opposition front.
As for Alaa Abdelfattah, he is a political activist, and he was one of the young faces that emerged before and during the January revolution. He is known as a prisoner of conscience. Alaa was arrested in November 2013 in connection with a protest case, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison before his sentence was reduced to five years. In September 2019, the Egyptian authorities rearrested him in connection with popular demonstrations, and he remains in prison, on pretrial detention.
Other personalities were prominent faces in the revolution. Still, their opposition to the Sisi regime pushed them into prisons, led by the two Muslim Brotherhood leaders Muhammad al-Beltagy and Osama Yassin, the left-wing Ziyad al-Alimi and Shadi al-Ghazali Harb, and the prominent activist Muhammad al-Qassas. Other faces left the country after the military coup for fear of oppression, most notably Islam Lotfi, Muhammad Abbas, Khaled al-Sayed, and Abdel Rahman Fares.
On the other hand, Mubarak’s symbols reappeared on the scene, whether through official and public activities or military funerals. Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years and went to prison after pressure and demonstrations against the military council. As for his son Gamal, who reached the top of the ruling party in the country and was described as the heir to the ruling regime in Egypt and was one of the most important causes of the revolution against his father’s regime, he was acquitted of all the charges against him without any conviction. Gamal appears in public events, from time to time.
As for Safwat al-Sharif, who was known to be close to Mubarak and presided over many senior positions, he was also acquitted from several cases and returned to the fore for the last time after announcing his death a few days ago, after his health deteriorated. Another well-known leader, Muhammad Abu Al-Enein, a member of the dissolved National Party’s policy committee, returned to the square to be an agent of parliament. As for Zakaria Azmy, head of the Presidential Office during the Mubarak era, he obtained an acquittal judgment. He recently appeared during an election conference for his brother’s son in the recent parliamentary elections. Ahmed Ezz, secretary of the organisation and a member of the policies committee in Mubarak’s party, and Habib Al-Adly Mubarak’s interior minister, obtained acquittals and lived their lives without any threat.