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Failure to see ‘real Egypt’ was cause of revolt

03 Aug 2011

The failure of the Egyptian elite - and the West - to see and accept the suffering of the country’s poor and repressed majority led to the inevitable fall of the Mubarak regime in January, according to research to be published in the autumn.

Dr Ibrahim

Dr Solava Ibrahim, from The University of Manchester’s Brooks World Poverty Institute, used fieldwork to uniquely contrast the experiences of poor Egyptians with what she says are misleading statistics reported by the state and accepted by the West.

Dr Ibrahim said: “ A gap between 'two Egypts' has existed and grown for decades, but my research is about why  it has evoked such widespread public dissent now.

“While previous pro-democracy demonstrations failed to mobilize the public, it was the combination of economic and political demands that led to the popular uprising, as it united the middle and lower classes alike.

"For the first time, 'bread and butter issues' have been combined with the calls for political reforms".

She added: “This research shows how the lives of ordinary Egyptians bear no relation to the misleading picture of a prosperous, growing Egypt that has been propagated by the regime and by the West for decades.

“For decades, the West has been pointing out the need for democratisation and political reforms in the Middle East and many Western governments were aware of the growing public discontent in the region, especially in Egypt.

“But they chose not to recognize - at least publically - the fragility of the Egyptian regime or its failure to provide for its people.

“This fact - alongside the involvement – or non involvement - of the military, led directly to the fall of Mubarak.”

In her paper, to be published in Third World Quarterly, she lists the claims of the Egyptian Government alongside the grim reality on growth, education, employment, health and democracy as revealed by her research.

Her analysis reveals that official statistics were almost never reflected in poor people's lives.

She said: “The state was able to provide Egyptians with growth without equity, education without inspiration, employment without security, health services without care and voting without any real impact on political processes.

“The real Egypt, can be revealed through the lives of ordinary people, who felt the state failure in all spheres of their lives, thus leading to the inevitable and unsurprising collapse of the regime.”