30 June has registered itself in the book of Egyptian history as a turning point or landmark and even the beginning of a new era. The day deserves to be referred to as “Liberation day,” for this is what it was in liberating Egypt and Egyptians in many aspects and areas.
The 2011 uprising that was started by Egyptians who wanted a better life, more freedom, and social justice and dignity was hijacked by Islamist groups that installed a theocratic state after the later presidential elections. They won these elections by means of fraud and the exploitation of poverty.
In order to buy votes, they exploited ignorance to convince some voters that it is “the will of God that Islam rules.” Their motto was “our platform is the Sharia of Allah and the Quran,” and many people believed them. Who could argue with that, after all? They got the votes, but they failed to run the country.
Human rights were violated. With the exception of “the Brothers,” all Egyptians were discriminated against. Women became objects not human beings; Christian were considered infidels; and Jews were called “monkeys.” There was no rule of law and no security. The prisons were broken and criminals released. Convicted criminals were pardoned, including those who had assassinated former president Anwar Al-Sadat.
It was natural that many people would have resented this situation and risen up to end it, which they did in the 30 June Revolution. We had a revolution we are proud of. It was a peaceful revolution, a “people’s coup,” demanding the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood rule and calling for a democratic and secular state.
The people called on the army to protect their revolution, and the army, aware of its responsibility, stepped in to ensure security. The head of the Constitutional Court was sworn in as interim president and a government of experts was formed including women and Christians. A new era had begun. Egypt was liberated.
30 June also liberated Egypt from the plots of powers seeking to divide it and the Egyptian people along the lines of what they had done in neighbouring countries. It liberated Egypt from plans to control and divide the Egyptian people by the Muslim Brotherhood. Happily, those plans failed.
Some 30 million Egyptians took to the streets to protest against Brotherhood rule. They were from all sectors of society – men, women, young, old, rich, poor, educated and uneducated. They were from all political schools and religious beliefs.
All of them came together spontaneously without a long process of planning, taking to the streets of Cairo and elsewhere to liberate their country. The scene was moving and genuine. Many people with special needs joined the crowds in wheelchairs, even as these crowds were exposed to the guns of fanatical Islamist militant groups.
30 June eclipsed fanatical religious feelings and planted the seeds of a culture of accepting and respecting others. It liberated Egypt from the supposedly inevitable clash of religions and endorsed Christian and Muslim feelings and attitudes.
We have moved from a situation in which churches were burned to one in which a law has been issued to facilitate their building, with the government subsequently building the largest cathedral in the country in the New Administrative Capital.
During Ramadan, a period of fasting in the Muslim religion, Egyptians of different religions decided to fast together and pray jointly for peace. At the time of breaking the fast, they ate together in harmony. Calls of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) were heard from the minarets of mosques, and at the same time church bells were ringing. This was best symphony Egypt has ever heard, announcing loud and clear that what brings people together and unites them is stronger than what divides them.
30 June may not have put an end to fanatical thinking and reactionary plots, but it no doubt planted the seeds for more positive interfaith relations that should be encouraged to continue. It also liberated Egypt from sexual chauvinism, as women regained their status and their pride. Their effective participation in the revolution proved their genuine love for the country and their ability to bring about change and correct social ills.
They were rewarded by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s decision to restore to women their full rights as citizens. There used to be one woman in the cabinet. When there were two, this was considered quite an achievement. Today, we have eight women ministers, all of whom are doing outstandingly. There are also women governors for the first time and deputy governors. There used to be just a handful of women MPs, and now there are more than one hundred.
President Al-Sisi has gone beyond simply “liberating” or “empowering” women to launch an initiative aimed at “respecting women,” a concept which includes rights and dignity. Respecting women means they should not be deprived of any rights or positions just because they are women. Respecting women does not allow children to marry at the age of nine or be subjected to physical mutilation. Respecting women means a reduction in harassment and domestic violence.
30 June is a day we must remember and celebrate every year in order to grasp and support what it offers. We must continue the process that started on this “Liberation day” for Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: 30 June: A turning point