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The Impetus behind the Uprising

The Egyptian uprising was motivated by chronic grievances that came to a boiling point on January 25, 2011. Mounting mass discontent arising from extreme wealth disparities, rising unemployment, unchecked systemic corruption, a deteriorating infrastructure, and a political system that left little room for citizens to determine their political fate all contributed to the mass uprisings that deposed President Mubarak. Few Egyptians expected a quick fix to the vast array of problems facing the country. Instead, demonstrators fought for a regime that would guarantee basic human and civil rights and empower them to create a more accountable, less corrupt government. Motivated by economic grievances as much as political ones, Egyptians sought more equitable wealth redistribution, equal opportunities for employment (especially among educated youth), and wage increases after decades of stagnation.

Long-standing prohibitions on public protests facilitated the proliferation of the use of social media and the internet for airing grievances and organizing opposition to the status quo. Digital activism would transform, rather than replace, collective resistance to the regime as well as create avenues for organizing resistance that authorities were ill prepared to suppress. The resistance to Mubarak crossed class lines, as middle-class youth mobilization dovetailed with working- class labor unrest. In outright defiance of laws prohibiting labor strikes, workers refused to work until they received desperately needed pay increases. These developments coincided with increasing discontent among the military elite, who has been pushed further down the power hierarchy by Mubarak’s latest round of elite reshuffling aimed at grooming his civilian son to succeed him.

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