Essay On Egypt Between Military And Civilian Rule
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a. Definition of a revolution
The word revolution pertains to radical, transformative change. As a historical process, it refers to a movement, usually a violent one, to overthrow an old ruler or regime and impact a total change in the basic structures of society. Most revolutions are motivated by the people and group’s drive to bring about much needed change.
The political revolution aptly termed as “Arab Spring” is a political phenomenon in the Middle East. Originally, the term came from Marc Lynch, an American, political journalist from Foreign Policy who haphazardly used this term in his January 6, 2011 article as he described the uprisings happening in the Middle East. Hence, the Arab Spring is a collective term which describes the wave of revolution in the Middle East. It was made up of various types of demonstrations, protests, and wars that transpired in the Arab Region from December 18, 2010 onwards.
In such a type of a revolution, the Arab rulers have been forced out of their regimes in several Middle Eastern countries like in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. This civilian protest type of a revolt also transpired in Syria and Bahrain while large demonstrations also happened in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan. The term is also used to cover the minor wave of protests across Lebanon, Djibouti, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Western Sahara. However, the Arab Spring did not win over the stronger and more fortified monarchs in oil rich countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman. The Arab Spring also covers the wave of social protests in Palestine in September, 2012 wherein the Palestinians urged the resignation of their leader, Prime Minister Fayyad together with their demand for lowered oil prices.
b. Was it a Spring or a revolution in Egypt (and other Arab countries)?
The Arab Spring was a revolutionary moment in which a series of turmoil swept the Middle East. In Egypt, the series of massive, civilian protests in 2011 led to the toppling of its dictator of thirty years, Hosni Mubarak. However, if we qualify the term revolution to mean the total change towards modernization and civilian rule, this was not the reality in Egypt and in most Arab countries. This was because after the Arab Spring or revolution, the varied forces in the Egyptian society contested on the general aspects of social and political power in their country. As Dardir puts it, “the pattern of state building by the people was not inherent in the Arab world.” Instead of being established by the citizens, the states were virtually established by the colonial rulers.
As compared to the western world, the people engaged in revolutions to attain their statehood but in the case of Egypt and the rest of the Middle Eastern world, they revolted to win their sovereignty from their colonial rulers. In Egypt, a democratically elected government was ousted since it aimed to create a totalitarian state. Likewise, the civil society groups participated in the revolution to prioritize their civil and political freedoms. All these qualify in the context of a revolution.
Thus, the Egyptian revolt was called the Egyptian Revolution of 2011and it was known in Egypt as the January 25 Revolution (Arabic: ثورة 25 يناير; Thawret 25 yanāyir). It was also referred to as the “Days of Rage,” the “Papyrus Revolution” and the “Lotus Revolution.” It started on January 25, 2011 and was part of the Arab Spring, which was also known as the Arab Awakening Movement or Islamic Awakening Movement.
The Egyptian revolution was made up of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, riots, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience, and strikes. Millions of protesters came from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds and all of them demanded for the Egyptian President to step down from power. The revolution included Islamic, liberal, anti-capitalist, nationalist and feminist factions. While it was mainly non violent, there was also some violent clashes between security forces and protesters and this resulted in at least 846 casualties and more than 6,000 people were injured. The protesters also burned more than 90 police stations. These unrests mainly took place in Cairo, Alexandria and other big cities.
In retrospect, among the dictatorships in the Middle East which experienced uprisings, only Egypt and Tunisia did not have their dictators closely linked to their military troops by some form of group preference. In both instances, the Egyptian and the Tunisian militaries did not fight their civil mass protesters. Overall, the revolution that transpired in the Arab Spring may look externally similar in the sense that they articulated generally analogous anti-autocratic orientations and resulted in generally similar outcomes. Nonetheless, these were distinctly motivated by various social, economic and political factors.
c. Importance of this study
This study is very important as it points out the varied meanings of modernization, westernization, political development and other western political percepts in the nature and contexts of the Middle Eastern society and politics. Apparently, it will lead to a good analysis of why and how the shifts in military and civilian rules happen in Egypt and in other Arab countries, while they have already exhibited the similar processes and patterns towards political change and/or development.
In this comprehensive analysis, this paper is able to expound on the various political and economic policies pursued by incumbent states in the years preceding the unique revolutions and how the Arab world solicited different patterns of grievance and varied mobilizing structures. It also highlights important features of the Egyptian society such as their religious beliefs on politics and political goals and mandates, their fundamentalism, concept of civilian rule, militarization, among others. All these factors and ideas will shed light as to how to understand and look into their present situation.
This paper also brings out the finer truths and points by which we can qualify or disqualify Egypt and other Arab states taking the same path as Egypt’s to be democratized or not. There are various contentions and argumentations about the democratization of the Arab states and this paper best exemplifies the nuances and differences of an Arab state or country towards the general western notion of democracy and how it should be achieved. A major symbolism of the marked difference is the way Egypt has not yet attained its democratic directions and processes even when it has already been liberalized from a dictator.
This study also allows for a critical review of theories of democratization and revolution that try to explain individual-level participation in mobilized regime-change, generating a series of hypotheses concerning participation in the Arab Spring to support this empirical exploration.
d. Thesis Statement
This paper contends that there has been no total transformation yet to the civilian rule in Egypt. While the rise and fall of their long time leader, Hosni Mubarak, can be attributed to the lost of support of the military, the country has not moved toward democracy. The present day Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which now governs Egypt, is very much militarized. While they have promised a “peaceful transition of authority within a free and democratic system that enables an elected civilian authority to take charge of governing the country," this is yet to be fulfilled in Egypt. The SCAF's attempts to control popular dissent and promote the democratic process have been doubtful. As it is, Egypt remains to be shifting on and off from military to civilian rule.
Suffice to say, the western world’s capacity to advance democratization in Egypt stays on the borderline. To say the least, the western world’s strategic interests could interfere with hopes for political reform. Even if the western world were to extensively promote democracy, it would still have limited power to shape events on the ground given the weakness of liberal democratic parties in Egypt, the reverence for the military in Egyptian society, and the popular distrust of western countries’ intentions.
a. A short brief about presidential succession in Egypt
After the 1952 Revolution staged by the Free Officers Movement, Egypt was passed on to military rule. The Egyptian Republic was born on June 18, 1953 and Gen. Muhammad Naguib became its first Republican President. Naguib was later forced to descend from power when the real revolutionary architect assumed post. This was Gamal Abdel Nasser and he became the official president in 1956. Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on that same year. Then, in the early 1960s, Nasser fully supported the North Yemen Civil War and this relationship was undermined. In the middle of 1967, Nasser also got involved in the Syrian War with the Soviet Union. He enacted a law which extended police powers and suspended constitutional rights and legalized censorship.
Nasser died in 1970 and he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. This president initiated a new alliance with the United States as he expelled the Soviet advisers in 1972. He administered the Infitah economic reform and silenced the religious and secular opposition. He also launched a war with Israel, through Syria’s support. He was after modernization and foreign investments but this did not materialize. In 1977, Sadat made a historic visit to Israel and this brought out the 1979 Peace Treaty in exchange for the Israelis’ withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative led to Egypt’s expulsion from the league of Arab nations and he was assassinated by an Islamic extremist shortly thereafter.
Then, the regime of Hosni Mubarak ensued. He came into power through a referendum following Sadat’s assassination. Hosni Mubarak strengthened both its relationships with Israel and with its Arab neighbors. He succeeded many domestic problems. Terrorists attacks fielded Egypt during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. It caused a serious damage to Egypt’s economy, especially in tourism.
Under Mubarak's regime, the political scene was led by the National Democratic Party which was a brainchild of Sadat in 1978. He also initiated many laws that curtailed various rights and freedoms. Hence, at the late 1990s, parliamentary politics had been monopolized while political outlets were also repressed. The 2007 constitutional changes barred parties from using religion as a basis for political activity. It also enabled the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law and gave broad police powers of arrest and surveillance. It provided Mubarak the power to dissolve parliament and end judicial election monitoring. It can be said that the real political power in the country rested on the military.
Like his predecessors, Mubarak deployed the resources of a high-capacity state to protect his regime. He handily took out all threats to his rule. He presided over economic reforms from a command model with the state as main stakeholder to a neoliberal model with the state as conduit for the transfer of public assets to his political cronies. He also initiated the handling down of power to a blood relative instead of the traditional military subordinate. He co-opted with his critics and coerced opposition in order to deal with this shift.
b. The 2011 Revolution in Egypt, The Main Events
On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, the protests started. This was inspired by the success of the revolt in Tunisia. Thousands of Egyptians fled to the streets and rallied against poverty, unemployment, government corruption, and autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak. This was the first grand protest since the 1970’s. The government responded by curtailing the social media which was the main medium for the protesters. This brought increased national attention to the uprising. In the next two days, the government blocked Facebook while the police rampaged the streets with their institutionalized forms of violence.
Protests occurred in Cairo and in Alexandria and Suez, three largest cities in the country. On Thursday, as protests reached its national heights, the former Egyptian head and Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Egypt from Vienna and led the protest. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood, also a strong opposition to Mubarak, supported the civilian protesters. The biggest protests were slated for Friday, January 28, at which point the Egyptian government closed down the Internet access all over the country. Protesters found new ways of sharing what was happening inside Egypt.
During the day, the military replaced the police. The international community was also alarmed and the United States readily withheld its economic support from Mubarak. After a long pause, President Mubarak announced on national television that he will dismiss the national government but he will not step down from power. Protestors pushed for their calls for Mubarak’s resignation. Shortly then, U.S. President Obama announced that he has already spoken with Mubarak and warned him that reforms should be made. The tumultuous Friday night quieted the city as they awaited the next day’s announcement of a new government.
On January 31, Mubarak swore in a new Cabinet. However, Mubarak’s new Cabinet did not fulfill the millions of protesters’ clamor across the Egyptian cities for their dictator’s ouster, including his whole regime. As national announcements were made, thousands of protesters trooped to the central Tahrir Square and broke into chants of "we want the fall of the regime.”
On 11 February 2011, Mubarak stepped down from power and left Cairo. People rejoiced in the streets of Cairo as the Egyptian military then rose to power. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, became the de facto interim head of state. After two days, the military dissolved the parliament and withheld the constitution. On March 19, 2011, a constitutional referendum was held and after eight months, the Egyptians held its first parliamentary election on November 28, 2011. There was a high turnout and there were no reports of major election frauds or violence. In June 2012, Mohamed Morsiwas was elected president and after two months, Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil declared 35 cabinet members who came from new power blocks. This included four members from the Muslim Brotherhood.
c. The coup
In November 2012, after the national protests against Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration, political oppositionists such as Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi plotted with Egyptian Army leaders to oust President Morsi. Thus, on July 3, 2013, a coalition led by the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over President Morsi through a coup d’ etat. They also suspended the constitution as a main response to the Egyptian protesters’ demand for Morsi’s ouster and the initiation of early presidential elections. This was administered after four days of expansive, nationwide protests against Morsi, by which the Egyptian military gave an ultimatum to the government to "resolve its differences" with opponents within 2 days or face the implementation of a military "road map" for reforms. The coalition empowered Chief Justice Adly Mansour of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt as the interim president of Egypt. Morsi was placed under house arrest (just like their previous president) and some Muslim Brotherhood leaders were also arrested. The coalition’s coup moves were supported by the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.
Indeed, the ouster of President Morsi from power by the army coalition was an outcome of a coup d’ etat following protests that were fuelled by the people’s frustration with Morsi's year-long rule wherein their nation was confronted by various serious national problems such as economic matters, lack of energy and security, and diplomatic crises. While the transition from Mubarak’s ills was understandable, many of the national problems were attributed to Morsi’s administration (even when these problems were due to the loyalists of the Mubarak regime who were still heads of many state organizations).
III. Literature Review
Kumar (2014) interpreted the Arab Spring, which is a series of peaceful revolts in the Arab world, as another process of rewesternization. The revolution allowed the Egyptian Muslims to embrace the western ideals of democracy. It also enabled the Islamist political parties to civilly come to power via the democratic paths. This was how Turkey regained its freedom before the Arab Spring. This re-emergence of Islamists and popular movements showed how the Muslims opted for a slow return to their ideological roots and they integrated these with the forces of the modern world which was very much influenced by democratic concepts.
Since the January 2011 revolution which toppled Egypt’s past regime, the dynamics between its politics and religion has spurred a lot of controversies not only in the Egyptian society but in other parts of the world as well. The subsequent transitional phase initiated a challenging direction toward democracy, rule of law, a citizenship-based state, and power devolution in the country. In their more tumultuous times, politics and religion have been leveraged toward varied goals by their own opposing parties and institutions. This resulted to the clamor that religion must be separated from the Egyptian institutions and its political conflicts.
a. The Role of Islam in Egyptian Politics
According to Johnson, the shari’a is a major part of the Egyptian legal system and it is also an integral part of its constitution. Hence, it is important to understand that Egypt is moving from a secular to a religious state and Egypt has never been secular. Egypt, just like the other Muslim states, has been mainly informed through its religious law. To cite, their constitution already indicated that “the shari’a is a main force of its legislation.” As such, political group such as the Muslim Brotherhood often argues in this line. They affirmed that they only wish to actualize the Egyptian Constitution’s Article 2 as their main agenda. Ultimately, this is based on the fact that the shari’a is the fundamental source of legislation.
According to Lynch, so as to assess the role of Islam in Egypt, various western misconceptions should be clarified. First, Egyptian Fundamentalism does not constitute an organized, interlinked or transparent movement. Actually, it is not the “monolithic” force that is often presented by Western media accounts and it is not also a “network of international Islamist groups, particularly that of Islamic militant groups.” It is a unified and arranged religious group as often depicted on media. In reality, the most important network between international Islamism or between Islamic groups is at an intellectual level.
It is also important to emphasize that Islamist groups in Egypt and even in other Arab states are involved in several social and economic activities aside from their highly visible political agenda. For instance, those who are believed to be hard core politicized Islamist groups are engaged with social services projects for the benefit of the Egyptian public.
Two other false western conceptions are that a democratic, liberal political regime and relatively good economic health push Egypt in the forefront of Arab world’s foreign affairs. While it is a common notion that the Egyptian political regime is repressive and non-democratic and that the country’s economic conditions are upsetting, this has to be dissected in relations to their Islamic beliefs and practices.
According to Lynch, the relationship between Egypt’s Islamist groups and its state is really complicated. The Egyptian government ostensibly guards all types of Islamist organizations. This is because of the terrorist threats and to likewise watch over dissident groups and their activities. This control extends to even non profit organizations. Non-profit organizations are also banned from engaging in political affairs. However, during the Mubarak regime it was not rigidly implemented.
During Mubarak’s time, many Islamist organizations flourished. They have the same disillusionment with the Egyptian government and society. The disillusioned Egyptians resorted to Islamic organizations to vent out their dissent and move towards possible action and reforms. Hence, the fundamentalist groups gathered wide support for replacing the government where it failed or where it was lacking, especially in terms of moral and religious leadership. Specifically, the pervasive economic depression in Egypt has also pushed towards the popularity of Islamist organizations. Taken together, they served as a social support network.
At present, the Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent Islamic organization, is made up of the biggest and the brightest organized Islamist group. It is the Islamic group that placed a strong opposition against Mubarak. According to its conventional ideology, there must be a non-violent establishment of a total Islamic political and social system. To reflect and realize this ideology, the Muslim Brotherhood integrated political, cultural, economic, and social agencies into a single group or cause.
As an outcome of its potential political power, the Egyptian government has repressed the activities of the Brotherhood. It was barred from joining the national elections as an official political party. In the 1980s, the Brotherhood allied with the New Wafd Party and then with the Labor Party. This resulted in some vital developments, while Mubarak’s New Democratic Party still dominated all the parties in the parliament. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood won major positions in different important trade, professional, and academic organizations. In the early 1990s, the Mubarak regime strongly regulated the elections of leadership positions. This led to the timely arrest of Muslim Brotherhood political candidates.
Apparently, under the Morsi administration, the laws, regulations, and policies leaned towards Islam as interpreted by the Salafist fundamentalists. It became the main strength of the Islamic Brotherhood which eventually endangered not just the considerable number of the Christian minority but also the more moderate Muslims, particularly those whose livelihood heavily depends on the revival of the foreign tourism. These groups began to complain, making the Egyptian government locked into polarizing between those whose idea of democracy seems to have been a Sunni version of Iran's Shiite "Islamic Republic" against those who affirm that democracy can only flourish where religious freedom equates to freedom from the domination of or even the influence of all types of religion.
As mentioned by Hamzawy, the relationship between the Islamic religion and politics has complicated the initiatives to develop a constitutional and legal framework for the post revolution Egyptian state. During the different phases of the transitional government, this led to the risky misalignment of the principles of democracy and citizenship.
Today, militant Islamist groups exist as part of the tradition, even the cycle, of violent conflict between Islamists and the Egyptian state as described above. The extremists and the general fundamentalist have a common goal of recreating a totally Islamic society. They only differ in the means they intend to apply their principles and intentions into practice. During the 1990’s, there was a resurgence of militant Islamic activity and a wider range of targets of militant aggression. Major developments led to tighter repression by the Egyptian government. Hence, the militant groups as identified with Islamic fundamentalism aggravated the social conditions as repression, including arrest without a charge of wrongdoing, imprisonment without trial, military trial, torture, and even execution. This heightened the Islamic militancy and attempts to quell these militant groups also resulted in the consolidation and new alliances between different Islamic groups like the al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya and Tanzim al-Jihad.
b. The Role of the Military in Egyptian Politics
According to Abul-Magd, the Egyptian military has been playing a decisive role in Egyptian politics since the 2011 revolution and even decades before. After the revolution, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) governed Egypt for several months during the transition period. It worked closely with the civilian President Morsi of the Muslim Brothers. The SCAF was also a main instigator in bringing down Morsi through a coup d’ etat. The future of the democratic transition in Egypt is heavily related to a military man - General Abd alFattah al-Sisi, the present Minister of Defence. He was instrumental in forming the present day transitional government. He also holds major roles in drafting the new constitution and organizing the next elections.
The militarised state that evolved under Mubarak’s thirty years reign experienced three varied phases. In the 1980s, the Egyptian military focused on economic activities. In the 1990s, Mubarak administered total economic liberalisation plan in accordance with the IMF and World Bank’s requirements, and the military enjoyed their production of civil goods and services. The military created new companies and factories; they got into different commercial enterprises. During the third phase, in the last decade of Mubarak’s regime, the army officers, specifically retired generals and colonels, maintained high administrative positions in the Egyptian government and the public sector. They also maintained their profitable military businesses. Mubarak gave the military more special influences since he intended for them to fully support his son, Gamal Mubarak, who had no military background. Also under Mubarak’s term, the military experienced special leverage in politics through its management of a close ties with the US and its military-industrial complex.
During the Egyptian revolution, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) instantly offered to lead the country for a short six month transitional period. The SCAF remained powerful for a full year and half until June 2012. In these tumultuous times, the SCAF stiffened its hold over crucial state institutions, including the media, the bureaucracy, the security apparatus, and the judiciary. It positioned many retired officers in government posts and expanded military businesses. SCAF also made close networks with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organisations. By these alliances, the Islamists won the majority in the parliamentary and presidential elections and the military sustained their much enjoyed economic and political privileges which they have been extended with since Mubarak’s time.
The close relations between the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood have extended in both political and economic institutions. The Brotherhood’s constitution provided the military a semi-autonomous status over its own affairs. The Constitution’s Article No. 197 kept the military budget, even the revenues from civilian businesses, above state supervision and public scrutiny. It put the authority to supervise the budget of the military in the hands of the National Defence Council, a governmental body which was principally militarized as well.
In business, President Morsi and the Brotherhood’s government provided the military great advantages that overstepped sound civil-military relations. The Muslim Brotherhoods’ legislature, the al-Shura Council, aided the military to widen its unaudited, untaxed business conglomerates. The Council’s Committee of Human Development also transferred the property rights of a state-owned car factory to the Ministry of Military Production. The military was also allowed to obtain more land to make new commercial enterprises and to build a medical school to staff its profitable hospitals which serve the Egyptian public. After Morsi was ousted, the Egyptian military has partly withdrawn from politics as compared to their full fledged involvements before. They have focused mainly on security matters.
After the coup, the democratic transition in Egypt takes place with the general road map that General al-Sisi, along with the civilian political parties, youth groups, and Muslim and Christian religious leaders drafted in early July. This road map consisted of the making of a new constitution, to be succeeded by presidential and parliamentary elections after some months. To wit, as rumours began to spread about General al-Sisi’s presidential plans, he vehemently denied it and reinstated that his focus was only to maintain the country’s security.
IV. Causes that led to the Arab Revolution
a. Unethical practices and/or corruption in the system
Before the revolution in 2011, there was a wide and historic corruption in Egypt. The country was ruled as a private estate wherein Mubarak's close family members were a major part of the crony capitalist activities. They partnered with most of the businessmen who took advantage of the country’s corruption. These businessmen did not want to depart from their riches (i.e. palaces, beaches and resorts, and attractive businesses). These cronies and ruling elites have also sucked much of the nation’s capital to foreign banks. Nonetheless, Egypt has become a private estate which these beneficiaries did not want to leave.
The historic corruption was pervasive in Egypt. Among the many indicators of this is the government interference in the economy, nepotism, and weak public accounting. As studied, this was due to the poor wages of the Egyptian public officials, which makes them more vulnerable to corruption such as accepting bribes. Nepotism and favoritism were also major indications of corruption as public entities award stakes to their family members and friends.
Measures to counter corruption were said to be a prime aspect of Mubarak’s reform but it proved to be superficial. According to Ismail, there were around one thousand families who maintained control of the expansive areas of the Egyptian economy. This business class aimed to consolidate itself and protect its wealth through political influences. The National Democratic Party was their major vehicle of these elites. The network between finances and politics became flagrant in recent years as many businessmen held government ministers with portfolios that obviously overlapped with their private interests.
Hence, a principal part of the upheaval which led to the revolution is the public uproar against the special ties between Mubarak's government and an elite group of loyalist businessmen and military men who have grown rich under privatization and other economic reforms. About 70 to 80 percent businessmen were positioned in the national parliament as members or allies of Mubarak’s ruling party. Critics viewed this as conflict of interest since these elites can usually lobby for and pass legislation tailored to their vested interests.
Similarly, the CIPE & Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Egypt SME Survey Report in 2009 also stated that a majority of the SMEs they surveyed found their experience with Egyptian government agencies during their registration process as difficult. Many start up companies had to pay bribes in order to get their required licenses. The study also showed that the average time to establish a company differs from governorate to governorate.
Political analysts like Diaa Rashwan of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies believed that the presence of businessmen in government is evidence of conflict of interest. They considered it chaotic and evidential of Egypt’s corruption. The scholars acknowledged the importance of social rules and this basically includes the dividing line between business and politics.
Thus, the Egyptian citizens who marched against the Mubarak regime blamed the country’s businessmen and its national president for social ills like corruption and poverty. These businessmen went into a standstill after Mubarak has been overthrown as they were charged with graft and corruption along with labor and political disputes. The public wrath which exploded on January 25, 2011 was also brought about by the high inflation, poverty and unemployment, and the inept government measures. The Mubarak government has been convincing the masses that their economic reform was geared towards their benefits. However, the people cannot be tricked anymore and hence, their uprising.
b. Corruption and Cronyism after the Revolution
After the revolution, Egypt saw a new hope in the newly elected president, Mohamad Morsi as Mubarak was sentenced to a lifelong imprisonment. Morsi took up the challenge of fighting national corruption and he instituted various laws to fight the social problems. But then, the saga on national corruption continued. Morsi also failed to implement the anti-corruption laws. Two years after Egypt was swept by a revolution pursuing to change the corrupt system, nothing has changed much. Corruption remains high in the country. The corruption remains systematic and standardized. The coalition blames the Egyptian laws themselves, which are believed are leaning to serve a group of people from the Mubarak regime.
The global coalition Transparency International ranked Egypt 114th out of 177 in the Corruption Perceptions Index of 2013. This coalition surveys the corruption levels of countries around the world. The report rates a country’s perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 -100, where 0 indicates high corruption and 100 shows a very clean system. Egypt scored 32 as indicated by its report, a rank which did not change from its last year’s standing. According to the coalition’s deputy chairman, this ranking is “very dangerous.”
In a similar corruption index, “The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013,” it showed that 84% of the countries in the Middle East and Africa scored lower than 50. Egypt ranked 114th out of 177 in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013. Its rank in the 2012 report was 118, out of the 174 countries. (Its 2011 rank was 112.) This rank serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to be practiced in the Egyptian society.
Generally, Egypt still faces challenges in curbing corruption. These challenges include: 1.) the political climate even after the revolution shows instability, corruption and bribery still pervade the country; and 2.) local businesses tend to encounter corruption in meetings with public officials. Officials in various government departments are known for bribery, embezzlement, and tampering with official documents.
The umbrella concept in the inefficiencies and distortions in the system is the special version of “crony capitalism” in Egypt. This is characterized by the stifled competition and the advancements of the businessmen and entrepreneurs with close links to the Egyptian government. Hence, these cronies are reported to secure most of the major business contracts and they are also able to circumvent or break laws and other legal constraints as it suits their businesses. In return, they get a great deal of bullying from the government itself, which showed no hesitation in forcing each leading businessmen to invest in its favored business or welfare project as a quid pro quo.
The 2013 European Bank report stated that the procurement process in Egypt is heavily laden with bureaucracy, a lack of transparency, and ineffective monitoring and review mechanisms. Mixed with unethical public procurement officials, the report also mentioned that companies do face a high risk in the procurement sector in Egypt. The procurement legislation accords favor domestic companies which give domestic products and services, with a price preference of up to 15%.
Another factor contributing to this inefficiency and severe corruption is the low rates of follow-up from supervisory bodies. The sanctions and the penalties that the head of the supervisory bodies receives are very low as compared to the volume of corruption that may exist and hence, follow up rates is low. There is also no additional power for the heads of the supervisory bodies to rigidly pursue corruption cases. Sadly, the bodies themselves are not independent from the national administrative bodies.
V. Reaction of the Regime
President Mubarak's regime launched a coordinated attempt to wrest back control of the city streets, suppress the popular uprising, and reaffirmed its authority. Instantly at the start of the revolution, the Egyptian police shut off access to Facebook and the Internet. They also shut off cellular text messages and finally cell phones themselves. However, these attempts even backfired as mass indignation sparked even wider protests. The revolt turned violent as bursts of heavy gunfire rained into Tahir Square just before dawn. Many people had been killed and wounded. Clashes between the police forces and the protesters continued. There were also gas explosions and the pro administration supporters had been pushed back to the edge of the Square. There were rough scenes between the protesters and the organized cohorts of Mubarak supporters. There were also exchanges of blows with iron bars, sticks and rocks.
The Egyptian Army also tried to disperse the crowds in Tahrir Square. The army's move marked a change in tactics from the early revolution days when it remained peaceful. They declined to intervene and they considered the protests as legitimate. The troops were feted by protesters. The scene changed when the pro administration groups also gathered. They also arrived in troops and according to some, these people were bussed in from the countryside by the Mubarak regime.
The opposing groups of protesters instantly turned into running battles. Then, a violent encounter happened in the Tahrir Square on the Nile Corniche. This was not broadcasted on local television. The media saw the battles that turned the square into a warzone as anti-Mubarak protesters tried desperately to hold their ground and both sides tore up paving stones to use as weapons. Other journalists were also beaten and hurt as they were taken as spies.
The tanks did not try to stop the escalating clashes. Some narrated that at one instance, Egyptian soldiers even cleared the way so that pro-Mubarak protesters can reach the anti government protesters. The Army also hurled missiles on the protesters some few hundred miles away from the demonstration center. They also fired automatic weapons during the night. Some pro-Mubarak forces appeared to be on civilian clothing. Others were engaged in the assault in Tahrir Square.
In other Egyptian cities, the regime powerfully fought back. In Alexandria, Mubarak supporters staged a furious counter protest in a square that has seen protests for nine days. They initiated violent arguments and altercations between opposing groups. The international community denounced the instigated violence and warned that if this was from the regime, this was very unacceptable.
In hindsight, it can also be said that the Egyptian armed forces protected the revolution and the people as a whole from many dangers which Mubarak and his cohorts could instigate, given their thirst for power and their ingrained authority and practice of violence. As Williamson & Abadeer put it, the armed forces protected Egypt from internal fighting and destruction. They said that the Army’s decisions and actions attested to their patriotism and love for the people. It also reflected their determination to safeguard the public utilities and wealth of Egypt. Hence, despite the regime's best efforts, however, the revolution flowed on as relentlessly as if it were following a projected political outcome.
VI. Success of the Revolution
The demands of the revolution were mainly political. People wanted dignity and social justice, freedom, participation, among others. They were also limited to the domestic front. The revolutionaries did not dupe the people into matters of international significance but their main target was to reform their nation. It was also very secular in most aspects. Hence, it can e considered a sweet success.
One of the achievements of this revolution is that it was able to topple a very powerful dictator in the person of President Mubarak. The revolution really exposed the regime’s ills, including his cronies and military supporters. The revolution also depicted to the international community and to the online world that there is an alternative and change can take place. However, in the more serious note, the Egyptian revolution did not lead to the expected paths towards democratization, western style. While the old leaders and traditional politicians were dismantled from their posts, the underlying political, social and economic upheavals stay the same. Hence, this cannot be compared to the achievements of the Berlin Wall or the fall of the Russian Empire where real political structures and institutions were dismantled and changed into the more liberal ones.
Generally, the Egyptian revolution can be considered a success. It has ousted a dictator, for one. However, the eradication of the militarized Egyptian state has yet to be achieved. There was also no apparent sign that the electoral reforms will lead into a democratic transitions all the way. To say the least, Egypt is still a work in progress.
As Haass puts it, “Egypt was ripe for revolution; dramatic change would have come at some point in the next few years, even absent the spark of Tunisia or the existence of social media.” The revolution integrated various political dimensions of all the uprisings in the Arab Spring such as corruption, dictatorship, regime change, military power, censorship, human rights abuses, religious stress, and political oppression. These factors led to the downfall of Mubarak. However, when the violence that transpired in the country is to be evaluated, it has another interpretation in the greater, more global percept.
As Joya pointed out, the uprisings in the Middle East showed a significant challenge to the way scholars have explained the dynamics of change in these societies. Egypt’s revolution is specifically compelling because of its relative success and the success of the action mainly attained by non-violence means.
VII. Seeds of the Coup and Behaviour of the Senior Officials of the Old (or Deep) State
The military used the problems of the transition of Egypt from the old regime into a civilian state as a pretext for ending discussion of any revolutionary transition. Scholars explained that the decision by the senior official to support the coup against Morsi will tremendously cost the country its golden opportunity to revolutionary changes, especially for the short term. The progressive factions naively assumed that once the military was able to overthrow the influences of the Muslim Brotherhood, it would somehow cease and allow for the resumption of some democratic form of state. However, as history has repeated, this is not true in Egypt’s case. Hence, the seeds of the coup shall ultimately lead to the return of the old party politics of the Mubarak era.
Some senior leaders and other who were within the ranks of the old political elite attempted to reinvent themselves within a revolutionary context by engaging in democratic politics. However, when the situation proves difficult for them to resurface in the circles of power, they simply reverted to their authoritarian political manoeuvres. These people invite the military to come in and do their dirty work for them. Likewise, when they could not be legitimized through the electoral process, they urged to rise once again into powers by the power of the military tanks, so to speak.
People that are described by these tactics include the following; Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa, and other failed senior political officer which made up the past regime. To their eternal shame, these personalities will be remembered for the fact that they supported a military coup that overturned whatever possibility existed for any revolutionary change in Egypt. It can also be said that these people aided in legitimizing the disproportionate state violence that took place in the aftermath of the Egyptian coup.
At the same time, after the Arab Spring, radical groups like the Jihad and the Gamaa Islamiya, which once revolted against the Mubarak regime, instantly snatched the opening long steered from them. They rushed to give media interviews, make political parties and contest elections. Many perceived that the Muslim Brotherhood model of gradual non-violent change was now the way to success. Hence, the members of the Gamaa Islamiya promoted a million-man march in Cairo in February, 2012 entitled “No to Violence” while Gamaa Islamiya leader Tarek al-Zumor showed himself on a children’s talk show to teach youngsters how to be good citizens. Meanwhile, his older cousin, Abboud al-Zumor, penned a newspaper column wherein he casually opined about forgiveness and re-building the country.
At present, the Egyptian security forces are strengthened to sustain their clampdown. They have been supported by the rich, ruling families in nearby Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Abroad, they have political cover from the United States and Israel as well. They are also spooked by the spectre of the hangman in case the coup eventually fails. This is because the military overthrow of government is penalized by death under all of Egypt’s different constitutions.
VIII. Ongoing Muslim brotherhood confrontations.
Presently, the Muslim Brotherhood is composed of the biggest and the brightest organized Islamist group. Since it has a promising political clout, the Egyptian government is usually wary of the activities of the Brotherhood, particularly of their political moves.
In the 1980s, the Brotherhood allied with the New Wafd Party and then with the Labor Party. This resulted in some vital developments, although Mubarak’s New Democratic Party still led as the overall party in the parliament. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood won major positions in various significant trade, professional, and academic organizations. During the early 1990s, the Mubarak regime strongly regulated the elections of leadership positions. This led to the timely arrest of Muslim Brotherhood political candidates. Even when curtailed, the Brotherhood still enjoyed added political seats in Mubarak’s last parliamentary elections.
The Brotherhood emerged as a dominant political force in Egypt following Mubarak's removal from office in February 2011. This was due in part of its unmatched organizational capacity. After the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring protests of 2011, the group's political arm won parliamentary elections, and its candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected president. However, its electoral victories were tarnished by power struggles with the judiciary and the military. The Brotherhood often battles over the drafting of a new constitution. With the appointment of their 17 members as provincial governors, the opposition to Morsi’s leadership began. However, Morsi's tenure was cut short by a coup and this has also affected much of the Brotherhood's leadership. At the end of 2013, the military-backed government again banned the Brotherhood from mainstream political outlets.
The Brotherhood announced that it would not participate in any action with power usurpers. Hence, they called for an uprising against those who would "steal their revolt with tanks and massacres." The Brotherhood also staged massive sit-ins to protest the transitional government. Security services responded with mass arrests and violent crackdowns. Many scholars consider the Brotherhood's political ascendance as a test of whether it remained ideologically committed to its founders' Islamist principles or it would be moderated by the exigencies of governance.
The government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, attributing to it a car bomb which exploded in late December 2013 at a headquarters of the security services in the Nile Delta. The group's future trajectory will rely on its self-evaluation following the Morsi presidency as it will on whether the Egyptian state pursues a strategy of containment or eradication.
If the Egyptian government selects a strategy of containment, the Brotherhood could return to its roots in preaching and welfare and spin off the FJP as an independent political party in the mold of Turkey's Justice and Development Party. But then, this option seems to have been ruled out for the foreseeable future. If instead the government continues with a strategy of eradication, the Brotherhood's insularity and ideological cohesion will increase and violent confrontation with the state security apparatus will be most likely. While some scholars stated that the Brotherhood may retreat from politics altogether, others fear that without legitimate channels for it to contest the emergent order, they may resort to terrorist acts.
IX. Will the coup succeed?
Given the conditions of a state or nation with various political, social and economic problems, this paper affirms the success of another coup, following the coup staged for Morsi. The remarkable ouster of Egypt’s first ever civilian ruler, president Morsi, stalled the path towards democratization and also ended the Egyptian revolution. It reasserted military dominance and this dominance can only be subverted by an equally or more powerful dominance of the armed type of a political organization.
The coup symbolizes the culmination of military efforts to undo the successes of the 2011 uprising. The military can always stage a toppling of a government, as Egyptian experiences tell us. They can also undermine the efforts and initiatives of a new leader. The military’s assumed stand as “guardian” against government injustice would turn out to be a dress rehearsal for the coup proper. It can readily draw up contingency plans to regain power if street protests against the new government spiralled out of control.
They have also institutionalized their roles as guardians of the revolution. Indeed the slogan “the people and the army are one hand” had become a popular refrain during the 2011 revolution. Similarly, the Brotherhood also attempts to safeguard the government’s transition from military to civilian rule. It has been a long held tradition.
The Egyptian army had perfectly manipulated the country’s deep political divisions to turn the new government into a lightning rod for popular discontent. It will not be very easy for a new government to be successful and their success will also rely or depend on the support of the military. Sixty years of military rule had transformed Egyptian economic and political life into a bog of corruption and patronage. The bureaucracy was led by army leaders and cronies who owed their livelihoods and wealth to military control. To get them to stage a coup or do anything for a government they mistrusted and ideologically despised was a non starter. Replacing them was even less of an option.
The army’s reach over Egyptian society is pervasive and runs deep. By some estimates it controls as much as 40 percent of the economy, with interests in everything from real estate, tourism, healthcare and education. The Ministry of Military Production manages at least 14 companies producing merchandise varying from tank shells and ammunition to fertilizers, sports equipment, cement, pasta and cars. With many more civilians indirectly being benefitted by its projects and a total of 450,000 men under its foil, the military is one of Egypt’s largest employers, followed by the equally bloated and self-concerned police force.
The January 2011 revolution is a salient form of democracy which transpired in a militarized and exploited Egyptian society. Aside from toppling a dictatorship in 18 days and placing their leader on trial within months, the Egyptian revolution has attained significant success in terms of political, economic and social development. Likewise, the “domino effect” of the Arab Spring uprisings forced former allies of the volatile Arab states to break ties with their regional allegiances. Egypt’s international relations showed how intricate the relationship is between their country’s domestic and international affairs. Fairly seen, the economic stability of Egypt is a matter of concern for the international community, particularly of the United States.
In the local fronts, it is suffice to say that Egypt’s road towards democratization and the establishment of a civil government is still a work in progress. While the courageous nation made a significant progress in staging a revolution which toppled its long term dictator, Hosni Mubarak, the remnants of crony capitalism and the systems of corruption remain the same. In the political processes, Egypt still carries out different mechanisms in controlling its politics even when it has become a pluralist state. This hijacks their democratic processes.
Moreover, the presence and the special influence of the military and its special forces and the use of violence and militarized instruments still haunt the Egyptian society and its way to statehood. There is an apparent switching between leaders of various kinds yet, the military could plan or help plan to ouster them in an instant. It leads to an unstable democracy and inconsistent democratization. The revolution and the succeeding coup which ouster Morsi showed how brittle is their governance and how very powerful are the military men backing up the transitioning government.
Other challenges in the political, social and economic spheres are also present. In the political side, the state’s emergency law gives their government the authority to arrest anybody, prevent assemblies, etc. It also authorizes the Egyptian president to issue decrees which have the power of law. This does not strengthen the power of the people to act since they are barred from making public outcries and they are threatened to initiate political action. This is not the way to democratization and is certainly not a form of secularization leading to modernity.
The corruption index is still remarkably high. It did not change even when the government initiated reforms already. Their economic progress is also slow. Social institutions are also characterized by Islamic fundamentalists groups, which in one way or other, aids or hinder their political development. This is because religious groups portray the more political character in carrying out their programs.
Thus, the Egyptian state or government must address the widespread unrest, the perceived threats of its parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood, its biggest political group, the growing repression of secular movements, the drafting of their constitution which provide more military than civilian powers, and the drafting of the constitution which generally excluded Islamists, among others. This is a difficult feat since the country had a long history of civil repression. Egypt cannot also totally disregard their religious laws since most other Islamic states either have Islam in some form of words enshrined in their constitutions or they claim that Islam itself is their constitution.
In hindsight, the processes and the institutions and the special road the country is taking to reform is far different from the western experiences. It is also understandable that certain processes and means cannot just be applied in the Arab country which experienced a history of repression and militarization. It is best to hope that in the long run, the country will administer its own institutions and work towards making a stable, just and peaceful society.
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