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Maryam Elsayed
Camryn Pou
Daysia Ceballos

The Trajectory of the Egyptian Revolution

Phase 1: Economic and Political Frustration Under Autocratic Rule
The French Revolution and Egyptian Revolution were both triggered by economic and
political dissatisfaction, as citizens did not want to continue being ruled by a monarch. Before
the revolution, Egypt was ruled by Hosni Mubarak, and France was ruled by Louis XVI.
Mubarak was able to hold on to his power because he was continuously nominated by the
People‟s Assembly. It was said that the elections were free, however they were made up of
upper-class businessmen and landowners.1 Louis XVI was allowed to rule because he was
backed by the 1st and 2nd estates, which overruled the third.

Both rulers faced a largely enraged population who were protesting because they wanted
change. They were revolting due to the absence of political freedom and the disastrous economy
that they lived under, similar to France, whose economy went bankrupt after aiding the American
Revolution. The third estate, made primarily of the poor, suffered because of the increasing price
of bread due to bread shortages. Meanwhile, the bourgeoisie lobbied for the principles of the
Enlightenment. The third estate decided to create the National Assembly and promised to
continue meeting until they created a constitution. This event is remembered as the Tennis Court
Oath. Louis XVI reacted by sending soldiers to control and take over Paris. This caused the sans1

Evan Hill, “Explainer: The Role of the People‟s Assembly.” Al Jazeera, November 17, 2011.

culottes to attack the Bastille prison in search of weapons. Similarly in 2011, Egyptians became
fed up with the government‟s corruption, which led to the revolution.

Citizens were discontent with the economic conditions of the country and tyrannical style
that Mubarak ruled by. Egypt‟s debt multiplied and accumulated rapidly while internal and
external debt had increased. Egypt‟s unemployment rate was extremely high, and many were
alarmed about being left jobless in their damaged economy. Since the majority of unemployed
citizens were in their youth, they were pushed to protest for their rights in order to earn a better

Some Egyptians were also unhappy about the state of Egypt's foreign policy. They were
troubled by Egypt's relationship with Palestine and Israel. Mubarak‟s support for the Israeli
government angered many citizens. Many Egyptians also believed their government was a
puppet for the United States, and therefore it was de-legitimized. Egyptians were outraged about
Mubarak‟s breach of his promise to serve only two terms, but which ended up being six. People
also believed the elections were rigged. Insecurity became a heightened fear during Mubarak‟s
reign, because security authorities were immune from any discipline for human rights violations
and torture.2 The government‟s deception and Egypt‟s economical debt were key factors that
triggered the revolution.

Rana Muhammad Taha, Hend Kortam, and Nouran El-Behairy, “The Rise and fall of
Mubarak.” Daily News Egypt, February 11, 2013.

Phase 2: Absolutist Leader‟s Power is Limited

Many revolutions share a common path in which they go through a liberal phase. That
phase consists of the original leader‟s power being limited due to citizens‟ upscaled protests. At
the beginning of the French Revolution, the National Assembly was able to limit the king‟s
absolute power through different protests and events. The Women‟s March to Versailles was a
crucial event in which peasant women were able to force King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
to move from their compound in Versailles to Paris. Another accomplishment of the National
Assembly was the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which
insured the rights of the French people. Analogously, Mohamed Morsi signed a new constitution
into law approved by the majority of citizens.3 During this phase, moderates were able to
construct a constitution without eradicating the monarchy.

Similarly, Egypt underwent a pivotal liberal phase which included many stages. On
February 10, 2011, in a last attempt to save his presidency, Mubarak called for modifying five
articles in the constitution and cancelling one article. This would limit the amount of terms of a
president and ensure that future elections would be honest. However, the people were not
convinced and Mubarak was forced to step down on February 11 of 2011.4 Egyptians had
succeeded in toppling their autocrat, Hosni Mubarak. After this, politicians readied themselves to
run for office. Democratic elections took place for the first time in Egypt, and this was a
monumental achievement for its citizens. Mohamed Morsi, a U.S. trained engineer, defeated

Peter Beaumont, “Mohamed Morsi signs Egypt's new constitution into law.” The Guardian,
December 26, 2012.
Rana Muhammad Taha, Hend Kortam, and Nouran El-Behairy, “The Rise and fall of
Mubarak.” Daily News Egypt, February 11, 2011.

Ahmed Shafiq with 51.7 percent of the vote versus 48.3 percent. Many Egyptians were left in
doubt; some voted for Morsi instead of Shafiq, because Ahmed had been Mubarak‟s prime
minister and a former regime loyalist. Others decided that because there were not any valid
candidates, they would boycott the elections. However, Morsi was stripped of most of his major
powers as president by the military.5

Phase 3: Violence Between the Military and People

Both the Egyptian and French revolutions underwent a phase where violence prevailed.
The first step of the radical phase during the French Revolution was when King Louis XVI and
Marie Antoinette were beheaded by guillotine. Maximilien Robespierre, the head of the
Committee of Public Safety, passed the Law of Suspects which ordered the arrest of suspected
enemies of the Revolution. The Reign of Terror was caused by the passing of this law, and
during 1793 through 1794, approximately 40,000 people were killed.

During the Egyptian Revolution, a bloody battle between the military and Morsi
supporters transpired. The democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by
the military after the people demanded his removal. Many Egyptians believed his year in office
was a disaster and therefore did not even allow him to rule until the end of his term. Morsi‟s
supporters decried the military‟s actions as an indubitable coup while his opponents celebrated.
Anti-coup protesters filled Rabaa Square demanding Morsi be released and their rights restored.

“Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidate Morsi wins Egyptian presidential election.” Fox News,

June 24, 2012.

Police however did not want any resistance and took action against protesters in atrocious ways.
The authority abused their power and inflicted torment and duress to intimidate, humiliate, or
extract forced confessions from suspects and prisoners. The military was responsible for torture,
murder, rape, and the disappearance of thousands of individuals.6

Radicals in France regarded as a form of repression and did not want to see it in a
revolutionized France. Priests and all higher church authorities were part of the nobility and
corruption of the Church was very present before the French Revolution. Therefore, religious
authority was not held in high esteem and that led to the event of De-Christianization. Anything
such as crosses, bells, statues, plates, etc. were destroyed. Religion was separated from the
monarchy so people could be granted freedom of religious beliefs. Church lands were
confiscated and all nonjuring priests were liable to death on sight. Today, France is one of the
most secular countries in the world.

Similarly, during the Egyptian Revolution, religion played an essential role. During
Morsi‟s reign, protesters had successfully called for Mohamed to be ousted for fear that he would
turn the country into a theocracy. Some people also believed the constitution that had been
drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafidt allies was undemocratic and too Islamist.
Egyptian citizens thought that with Morsi gone, their country had a shot at democracy and
religious freedom. However, the circumstances did not improve with the rule of Abdel Fattah ElSisi and religion and politics were still heavily interconnected together. The police chief in
Alexandria promised to arrest a group of atheists for publicising their beliefs on social media.
Thousands of citizens declared by the government to be too supportive of the Muslim

Ahmed Safwat, “Egypt‟s Bloody Coup D‟etat.” Open Democracy, October 30, 2013.

Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have been banned from working in state mosques.
Religion is also being used to promote subordination to the government. Preachers, the head of
Al-Azhar University, and Pope Theodorus II have all been in support of the government and
have justified their actions. Religion has been a recurrent criterion for Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's

Phase 4: Return to Tyranny

Both the Egyptian and French revolution ended in a return to an autocratic power.
Napoleon Bonaparte behaved like an absolute monarch, instead of a partner to the revolution
France had previously undergone. He held a coronation for himself, where he was crowned
supreme ruler. At the end of the ceremony, Napoleon swore his constitutional oath, which ended
with the words, “Napoleon emperor by the grace of God and the Constitution.”8 Mentioning God
as the reason he rules symbolizes divine right, a concept that should have ended after the death of
King Louis XVI. Even though Napoleon passed the Napoleonic Code, which included many
Enlightenment ideas, it neglected rights for women. He made decisions without consulting the
people and did not attempt to enforce a constitutional monarchy. On St. Helena, Napoleon
started referring to a parliamentary monarchy, but by then it was too late.9 He turned a blind eye
to what the revolutionaries had wanted and protested for in France. In Egypt, President AbdelFattah el-Sisi did the same when he betrayed the revolution.

Patrick Kingsley, “Religion still leads the way in post-Morsi Egypt.” The Guardian, September
14, 2014.
Hicks Peter, “Napoleon's Consecration and Coronation.” NAPOLEON.ORG
Tulard, Jean, “The Empire. Dictatorship? Monarchy?” NAPOLEON.ORG

While, Sisi is not ruling by divine right like Napoleon, he is still a sovereign in
many ways. Citizens fear that Sisi will lead Egypt back into autocracy. Hopes of democracy
were quickly diminished when he announced that national security was more important than
political freedom. A brutal crackdown on Morsi‟s supporters killed 1,400 people and jailed
thousands. Sisi‟s repression of opponents is inciting unease and concern in many. Also, secularleaning activists were jailed for organizing unlicensed protests.10 Revolutionaries fought for
religious freedom, that they felt was threatened under Morsi‟s reign. However, the situation did
not improve under Sisi. Religion and politics remained intricately interwoven. Atheists were
arrested following their publishing of their beliefs. Also, homosexuality is still seen as a social
taboo. Eight men were jailed after appearing in a video described as Egypt‟s first gay marriage.
Homosexuals are still being arrested on charges of immorality.11 Freedom of any kind is still not
granted easily. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi sees himself as a “morally superior father figure
responsible for directing and correcting the nation, with a firm hand if needed.”12 This is the
exact definition of an absolute monarch, which is who Sisi is.
Excellent analysis. Your explication of events is compelling and cohesive. I would hang
on to this as a study guide for the regents. If you are given conflict, revolution, political systems,
or even individuals (Mubarak/Morsi/Sisi/Louis XVI), you will be able to write a beautiful
thematic essay on the spot. Great work.

“Egypt‟s Sisi: an autocrat in the making?” Middle East Eye, May, 21, 2014
Patrick Kingsley, “Egypt jails eight men after „gay marriage‟ ceremony on Nile.” The
Guardian, November 3, 2014


DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, “Egypt‟s New Strongman, Sisi Knows Best.” NY Times, May
24, 2014