Whether or not the Egyptian Revolution can be deemed successful is not clear, but the demands of the revolution were clear from the beginning: A’ash, Horeya weh A’adala Egtema’aya, meaning “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice” — a three word mission reminiscent of the French Revolution’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.
Many would say that Egypt’s only achievement since January 25, 2011 was the removal of former-President Hosni Mubarak. Still, Egypt is not the same Egypt that existed before January 2011. I am not simply writing about the intermittent violence in the streets, but about those genuinely participating, still calling for the basic rights they deserve.
Take the example of Bassem Youssef, a former cardiothoracic surgeon. He found his calling in the most provocative occupation one could take on in the Middle East — a political satire comedian in the style of Jon Stewart, the first ever in the region. Before this, Egyptian state television and newspapers were routinely censored out of fear of the government’s reaction to controversial media statements. There was always a tacit line that could never be crossed, and many newscasters and journalists were imprisoned and made an example of for speaking out against the regime.
Youssef’s show “El Bernameg” (literally translating as “The Show”) is representative of the dam of oppression that broke with the fall of Mubarak’s administration. His humor and satirical responses to the political contradictions of the current government under President Mohammed Morsi educates people on the recent constitutional referendums and other national issues. Always pushing the boundaries, he goes all out in making fun of the president and other major politicians. His empowered viewers believe that the program speaks to the government on their behalf.
Social and political criticism is still not accepted easily in Egypt, even as so many have fought for the right to dish it out. Even prominent interview host, Emad Adeeb, found cause to sue “El Bernameg” for comparing his pre-revolution and post-revolution political stances, calling it “insult and defamation” — and in the process highlighting that no one, no matter one’s title or status, is above being targeted on the show. Youssef drew up a contract with the channel’s owner to make sure that no topic would be off limits for him, and despite all the controversy it sparks. His YouTube channel continues to be the most subscribed-to channel in Egypt.
Egyptians know that they have not attained the complete democracy they have been fighting for these past two years, but at least now, Egyptians can speak their mind without fear; they know that for every inadmissible move the new President or government makes, they can grab their openly-furious signs and chant in the streets for change. Youssef’s “El Bernameg” represents the charged spirit of the country and its people. But, of course, this newborn freedom of speech, press and general expression is only one step in the direction of fulfilling the three demands of el thawra (the revolution).