Why Washington Was Blindsided by Egypt’s Cry for Freedom

Nadia Oweidat and Cynthia P. Schneider
Cynthia P. Schneider Former Brookings Expert, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy - Georgetown University

February 11, 2011

The only surprise about the Egyptian revolution is that it took so long.

Demonstrations have been increasing in the past few years, despite the brutality of the regime, and with them deep distrust and hatred for President Hosni Mubarak and his government.

The Egyptian regime, as well as Washington, underestimated the impact of events such as the murder of the young businessman Khaled Sa’id, who was pulled out of a café in Alexandria in June 2010, beaten by the police, and then left dead on the street. If they had visited the Arabic Facebook page started by Wael Ghonim, “We Are All Kaled Sa’id,” they might have realized that it was only a matter of when, and not if, the uprising would begin.

The profound discontent, frustration and humiliation of the Egyptian people also resonates in recent literature and films, such as “The Yacoubian Building” by Alaa al Aswany. Chronicling the corruption, unemployment and poverty that plagues Egyptian society, the film was a candidate for an Academy Award in 2008. For years blogs — in English and in Arabic — have decried the abuses of the government, and the hopelessness of life in Egypt for even well educated youth.

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