A few months ago I went to check out a pro-Morsi demonstration. I have seen almost every pro-Brotherhood demonstration since 2011, this one had something different: a lot of youth participants. I saw young men who appeared to be university students and “ultras looking” teens marching in the demonstration while beating drums and flashing the Rabaa sign. While the majority of the demonstrators looked “Islamist”, I don’t recall seeing that number of young people in the Brotherhood demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 who were mostly middle aged men and women shipped in buses from the Delta and Upper Egypt.
It is unclear what caused the increase in youth participation in pro-Morsi demonstrations but one of the very possible reasons could be the number of young people who were either killed by the police or unjustly sent to jail since the army ousted Mohamed Morsi following the massive anti-Brotherhood protests on June 30, 2013. Four Cairo University students were killed on campus so far; that never happened since the day Princess Fatma Ismael decided to donate her jewelry pieces to fund the foundation of Cairo University around 100 years ago. Three other students were killed in Al Azhar University, also on campus. These eight students are just a fraction of the number of young people who were killed during demonstrations; a few of them were not even supporters of the Brotherhood. Sayed Weza, 19, a member of the Tamarod movement that was pivotal in ousting Morsi from power, chose to demonstrate against the current regime during the third anniversary of the January 25th revolution. He was gunned down by a police officer in downtown Cairo. Kill or imprison a young person, and his/her Facebook friends will take to the streets against you.
While the number of youth in the pro-Morsi demonstration is an interesting development worth of analysis, I’m not claiming that Egypt’s youth have shifted to the pro-Morsi or the pro-Brotherhood camp. In spite of the Brotherhood’s popularity loss due to their dreadful year in power, pro-Morsi are still violently doing things like preventing other students from taking exams, storming exam classrooms and instigating clashes with the police forcing them to enter the university campuses. The majority of youth are not becoming pro-Morsi, they’re becoming pro-apathy. That was evident in the latest referendum that a considerable portion of youth – especially in the urban areas – have boycotted.
It seems that Egypt’s urban youth -the ones who triggered the revolution – are mostly becoming politically apathetic; a smaller minority is joining the pro-Morsi camp. What could such a development yield in the future, let’s say after three or four years?
If the coming president, no matter who he might turn out to be, continues the current repression and police brutality, there will most probably be another generation of young revolutionaries who might be willing to join the Brotherhood in its demonstrations and clashes with the state. I am talking about 18 and 19 year olds who will not remember the Brotherhood’s betrayal of the January 2011 revolution. These young revolutionaries will not be Brotherhood members or even Islamists, they will be like Sayed Weza, young independent activists who will not mind joining forces with the Brotherhood, the only opposition till now, to fight the existing regime. However, the activists and the Brotherhood will still not be sufficient to tilt the balance; they will need another force with them, namely the poor. If the next president did not fix the economy, if he did not meet today’s high expentations, the poor might join whatever the new revolutionaries and the Brotherhood will trigger and we might end up with the third mass revolt in Egypt in 6 or 7 years. However, if that scenario happened, Egypt will officially become a failed state and decent into a far darker abyss. The country cannot withstand another revolution. Only fixing the economy and keeping the poor away from the streets can save the next president from the fate of his two predecessors.