Events generate different meaningful memories to different people. Associated with unique and powerful memories for individual Egyptian citizens, 25 January is a significant date for our society. It is a notable reminder for all citizens of the many patriotic police martyrs killed on 25 January 1952. It is also the start date of the 2011 revolution led by our youth – and it obviously brings bad memories to people who had been in power for many years and who suddenly found themselves subject to prosecution.
Egypt’s National Police Day (25 January) commemorates the 1952 massacre of fifty Egyptian police officers at the hands of the British occupation army when they refused to put down anti-British protestors, handover their weapons and evacuate the Ismailia City Police Station. The patriotic action of the police martyrs was highly valued by the entire Egyptian society at that time, and it paved the way for the 1952 revolution six months later.
Ironically, on 25 January 2011 an uprising was initiated, one that prompted millions of Egyptians to demonstrate against former President Mubarak and his regime and that eventually led many Egyptians, attempting to exact revenge on the police apparatus, to attack and burn down police stations in several Egyptian cities. Additionally, the same date marked the clear defeat of former President Mubarak and his regime, ending almost three decades of their absolute rule over Egypt.
Since 25 January 2011, Egyptian society has been clearly polarized! Not only do Egyptians engage in heated debates on social media, many of them have committed terrorist acts, killing hundreds of innocent fellow citizens. Surprisingly, Egyptians have been enjoying this kind of polarization, which clearly empowers citizens affiliated to the current ruling regime at the expense of their critics. Nevertheless, in my opinion politics is like a “roller coaster”; no political triumph is permanent.
The sociopolitical development of Egyptians over the roughly six decades separating the events of 25 January 1952, when Egyptian police and civilians were united against the British occupier, and those of 25 January 2011, when millions of Egyptians engaged in a clear battle against our police apparatus, may be summed up thus: a comprehensive, widespread and intense degradation of Egyptian social norms, national economy and moral values.
The British occupiers left Egypt in 1956, but our country’s subsequent engagement in a number of regional wars and many internal conflicts has certainly affected Egyptian society. Today, the most important question is, will Egyptians revolt again? In my view, the present clear polarization may lead not only to another uprising, but to even more widespread civil conflict – which will not benefit any of the polarized segments of society and will leave our country in a much worse position than its present state of deterioration.
On a number of occasions, I have personally been deceived by a given, triumphant, political force’s domination of social media posts. Eventually, I understood that social media reflect our “conqueror’s culture” that only makes room for winners’ opinions and leaves no window for losers to express a different perspective. What is happening in social media is certainly occurring in real life: only citizens affiliated to the ruling regime are given a breathing space and all critics are marginalized.
Egyptians affiliated to the current ruling regime tend to deny any possibility of future internal conflict, claiming that Egypt is ruled by an iron-fist that precludes such an occurrence. These citizens believe that the State only needs to use its power to put an end to any nascent internal uprising. Nevertheless, I often wonder whether over-pressuring opponents leads to neutering them permanently or to recharging them eventually. January 25 is a historic date that probably won’t witness new events, but different political developments may occur – on different dates.