Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Blog

This guest post is part of our ongoing national Arab American conversations about unfolding events in Egypt, Syria and Palestine. Learn more, and get involved.

By Ahmed Zidan

DC based digital journalist and translator

Twitter @zidanism

Post-Mubarak secular activists were scattered, chaotic and mostly inexperienced. Mass mobilization was the missing recipe that gave the Muslim Brotherhood a head start in 2012 parliamentarian and presidential elections.

Tamarrod (Rebel, or rebellion) succeeded to unlock this mystery by collecting +22 million signatures to withdraw confidence from the ex-president Mohamed Morsi and depose him, which “were reflected in 22 million protesters in the streets of Egypt”, said Mahmoud Badr, one of the cofounders, to an Egyptian satellite station.

Tamarrod cofounders are Badr, Hassan Shahin, Mohammed Aziz, Mai Wahba and Mohammed Heikal. They’re Muslims whose ages range between 22 to 30 years, and unfamiliar to the public. Badr and Shahin work for an opposition newspaper, while Aziz acts as the Youth Coordinator of Kefaya Movement, one of the earliest opposition movements against Mubarak that was established in 2004.

The cofounders apparently share a common political background, aside from their anti-Morsi and anti-MB sentiments – They are Nasserite, nonpartisan, oppose the US intervention in Egypt’s affairs, and stand against Israel.

Tamarrod, like many opposition groups, felt that Morsi and the MB were deviating from the revolution’s goals, and subjecting the country’s institutions to gradual “Brotherhoodization” under the name of renaissance. They were also dissatisfied with the deteriorating economy and the lack of essential services.

The movement called for mass protests against Morsi, and started collecting signatures in Tahrir Square on May 1st, Labor Day in Egypt. The response was so massive that the campaign was expanded by unknown volunteers outside of Cairo.

Although Jun. 30th, 2013, the day of the protests and the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration, was a business day in Egypt, rather than the Fridays of protests that the Egyptians mastered, Tamarrod’s calls were tremendously successful. But how did that happen in such a short time span? And how can Tamarrod progress from here?

First, Morsi’s fatal mistakes, from the decree that gave him sweeping powers and temporarily stripped the judicial review to his decisions; to the controversial constitution that placed religious minorities and civil rights at risk; the brutality of his supporters against protesters; the increase of unemployment and crime rates; the crackdown against activists, media personnel and NGOs; his confusing foreign relations; and adversarial internal relations with every institution in the country.

“Egyptians felt that Morsi’s allegiance is to the MB guidance office, and not to his country”, said Kareem Sadek, a physician who protested in 2011 and 2013.

 Second, Like any successful venture, Tamarrod identified the problem point blank. The peaceful and politically-neutral grassroots movement simply represented the aspirations of millions of Egyptians.

Third, the successful use of social media did the trick once again. The movement went viral, thanks in part to a Facebook page which has now more than half a million fans. The social network was heavily used for mobilization and sharing. “Print, copy, sign and collect” was inspired by April 6 Youth Movement tactics in 2008 general strike.

Fourth, Tamarrod demonstrated flawless organization and planning, as the movement had an office and/or representative in almost every major Egyptian city and across selected countries worldwide. The addresses and/or cellular numbers of these representatives were publicly posted on their Facebook page.

In some areas, like Almammar Square in Ismayilia, the volunteers used public spaces to meet and collect signatures. “The dream was so big, but the determination was even bigger”, said Ahmed Abdo, the Coordinator of Tamarrod Movement.

Fifth, the mass mobilization of the otherwise un-politicized citizens led to their outnumbering the supporters of MB, an establishment famous for its extensive ability to mobilize.

The message successfully propagated to teenagers and university students who enthusiastically volunteered to collect signatures. “It’s my first time to join a protest in my life” said Mahmoud Yehia, a 22-year old unemployed protester who volunteered with Tamarrod to collect signatures.

“When Tamarrod reached out to ordinary citizens in a deeply affected socio-economic environment, they were able to gain this unprecedented support”, said Nelly Corbel, the Civic Engagement Manager at Gerhart Center, the American University in Cairo.

Sixth, Tamarrod didn’t exclude any political faction from its mission, whether the armed forces, or the National Democratic Party members “who weren’t convicted of any crimes”, as long as they shared the same end-goal. This political pragmatism, or the “enemy of my enemy” approach, helped indeed in mobilizing millions of stakeholders.

Seventh, the relatively free opposition media, most notably the prime time “Albernameg” weekly show by the satirist Bassem Youssef, facilitated the protests by highlighting the missteps of Morsi and the MB, something that barely happened under any of Egypt’s previous presidents. “There was a strong campaign building up against Morsi in the last month (Jun) in the liberal media that helped mobilize people to join the Tamarrod movement protest”, said Naila Hamdy, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo.

On the other hand, the MB thinks that the success of Tamarrod was a part of big conspiracy, “the media misinformed and brainwashed the people, and the Church mobilized them with the help of the remnants (folool) of Mubarak’s regime”, said an FJP member who declined to identify himself.

Tamarrod took the regional grassroots movement to the next level of political engagement and mass mobilization, after they had taken advantage of the political regime’s mistakes, identified the problem timely, united with all the stakeholders on a focused goal, and eventually facilitated convergence of the masses into a single target.

And to sustain this success, “the movement needs to avoid the mistakes of April 6 Movement who were tricked to support the MB (in the presidential elections)”, said Nervana Mahmoud, a British-Egyptian commentator on Egypt and the Middle East affairs.

The future might not be entirely clear for the movement, mainly due to the lack of any ideological foundations, but their ability to stand their ground and take steps forward will be under a thorough scrutiny in the near future. “We didn’t decide yet on the prospects of founding a political party”, concluded Abdo.

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