Eye on the Revolution: Abdel-Moneim Imam, a workers' rights angle

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 31 Mar 2013

In this ten-part series, Ahram Online asks those who took part in January 25 Revolution what they make of Egypt's current political situation two years after Mubarak's ouster

Abdel-Moneim Imam
Abdel-Moneim Imam

Growing up in the industrial city of Mahalla in Egypt's Nile Delta, Abdel-Moneim Imam quickly took up the cause of workers' rights, forgoing his middle-class links in the process. According to Imam, it was labourers' demands – for fair pay and dignified working conditions – that constituted "the engine" of Egypt's 25 January 2011 revolution, and which will also drive the country's next revolution if those demands remain unfulfilled.


  • It has been over two years since the January 25 Revolution forced Hosni Mubarak to step down, and we are still so far away from acknowledging – much less realising – some very basic labourers' rights, including the legal stipulation of minimum wages.
  • The fact that Egypt's new rulers are acting to pursue an economic reform plan that is bound, whatever they say, to cause a serious increase in prices means that the already low income of workers will be further stripped of its purchasing power. Today, we find ourselves face to face with a new regime that is basically proceeding with the economic plan that the ousted regime had wanted to implement, but failed to.
  • At the beginning of Morsi's rule, one was hopeful about indications of an end to persecution and the targeting of political opposition. Today, one is worried, very worried, about the rights record. I think it is very important for all concerned to remember that one of the things that people were rejoicing over when Mubarak stepped down was the anticipation of the end of human rights violations and police aggression and the harassment of activists.
  • The problem that Morsi fails to see is that people are not judging him by the same criteria by which they used to judge Hosni Mubarak, simply because he was not Mubarak's vice president who ascended to power through the system, but a president who was freely elected after a revolution that forced Mubarak to step down.
  • Morsi fails to realise the magnitude of the aspirations of Egyptians, those who participated and those who did not participate in the revolution alike. He is not acting as a revolution-made president, and this is a big part of his problem. People are entitled to have big dreams and it is the job, maybe even the challenge, of the president to live up to these dreams rather than attempt to downplay the people's aspirations.
  • Another problem that Morsi seems to be having is that he is acting only as a president nominated and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and not, as he should, as a Muslim Brotherhood candidate elected by the people, including those opposed to political Islam, to avert the attempt of his adversary – Ahmed Shafiq [Mubarak’s last prime minister] – to reintroduce the Mubarak regime that the revolution aimed to oust.
  • Morsi is adopting the Mubarak style of rule: paying very little attention to what people say or complain about and making limited appearances when the country is going through hard times and then offering little vision, if any at all, for the future.
  • The opposition, as represented by the National Salvation Front (NSF), does not really have a joint scheme that could offer a coherent alternative to the frustrated public. But this is expected, given that the NSF is in fact a very loose gathering of those who oppose Morsi rather than a gathering of like-minded political groupings. As such, citizens stand in endless anticipation of a vision from either the rulers or the opposition. My perception is that people are getting really frustrated on both sides.
  • I think we have to admit that the core problem is not about Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood or the NSF. The real problem is elderly politicians' control of the scene on both sides. Once a chance is given to the younger generation, we could see radical change that could take us forward. But for now, we remain hijacked by outmoded views adopted by older men who are unlikely to change their views.
  • I am not sure what Morsi can do and what he cannot do, but I know one thing for sure: we are starting a democratic process that might be hard at times, but we have to stick to this process. Because if we suffer a setback, we might have a very hard time before we are able to recapture the thread of democracy. I don't really want to see Morsi step down, but I want to see him listen to the youth, to the workers and to the farmers. This is his best bet.
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