May 29, 2013 | Policy Brief

Egypt’s “Rebellion” Movement

May 29, 2013 | Policy Brief

Egypt’s “Rebellion” Movement

A new protest movement in Egypt is gaining steam. Driven primarily by Egyptian youth, the Tamarod [Rebellion] Movement seeks to impeach Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. Their plan is to gather fifteen million signatures – two million more than the thirteen million who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood figure last year – to call upon Morsi to resign.

The movement formed less than two months ago. Its three founders were members of the Kefaya [Enough] movement, which galvanized the public against then-president Hosni Mubarak in the mid-2000s. Using the same grassroots tactics, Tamarod has experienced meteoric growth. Tamarod’s national campaign now includes the support of the National Salvation Front, the April 6 Movement, the Dostour Party and others. When Tamarod releases new figures in a few weeks, signatures are expected to exceed three million.

Tamarod supporters hail from different backgrounds, but they are united by the belief that the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to respond to the needs of Egyptian society. The activists contend that the Brotherhood is ruthlessly weakening crucial state institutions, including the judiciary, the media, and even religious institutions such as al-Azhar. It also decries the increasing human rights violations and the detention of the youth of the revolution, the very people who organized the 2010 uprising that toppled Mubarak.

The Brotherhood's political and economic failures have also prompted new groups and political parties from to join Tamarod.  This is not hard to understand, given the collapse of the economy, the deterioration of services such as electricity shortages, and the general climate of physical insecurity.

Tamarod may be a new movement, but its principles are deeply rooted in Egypt.  In 1919, the British authorities refused to acknowledge Egyptian nationalist leader Saad Zaghlul Pasha, insisting that he did not represent Egypt. In a matter of weeks, millions of Egyptians signed a document giving Zaghlul Pasha the right to represent them. When the British ignored Egyptian demands for independence, civil disobedience evolved into a nationwide uprising known as the 1919 revolution. The unrest ultimately led to the end of the British protectorate and Egypt's independence in 1921. Zaghlul Pasha inspired others in the British Empire, including Ghandi.

Nearly a century later, Tamarod continues this tradition with a new petition targeting the Muslim Brotherhood. Tamarod's activities will not be limited to collecting signatures, however. On June 30, the one year anniversary of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, they will deliver their petition to the Supreme Constitutional Court, calling for Morsi’s impeachment. From there, the movement is expected to engage in mass protests and civil disobedience.  

Depending upon the strength and number of Tamarod supporters and the Brotherhood's response to their protests, this “rebellion” could mark the next phase in Egypt's revolution.

Khairi Abaza is a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies