Three years since the Mubarak dictatorship fell, the great hopes of the revolutionary moment have been dashed. What was seen as the first step toward democracy in the Arab world's largest country has instead led toward military coup, political chaos, and extreme polarization. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which won all the elections after 2011, has been outlawed. The military is running the country and army chief Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has emerged as the front runner to be Egypt's next president. Reporters, political activists and human rights activists have been jailed. Economic free fall has left millions much worse off. Perhaps most important, the broadly expressed sentiment that it was time for democratic institutions to blossom has completely fractured.
Louisa Loveluck sat down in Cairo with five Egyptians who supported the uprising against Mubarak and now have sharply different views about how to set the country to rights. Their opinions on what's needed now make clear the depth of the challenge facing Egypt. The other four interviews are linked at the left of this page.
THE NEO MILITARY SUPPORTER
In January 2011, Mohamed Mohsen placed a bet with his father on whether calls for a revolution in Egypt would succeed. Three years later, he concedes the wager is unresolved. Mr. Mohsen, who works in marketting, joined the throngs in Tahrir Square. After Mubarak stepped down, he joined a campaign to clean up the mess in downtown Cairo left by 18 days of protest.
But his passion for political change, and optimism that something better is around the corner, has dimmed considerably.
"Every time we celebrate or are happy with something, something bad happens," he says. "When Mubarak stepped down, the [junta] came to power. When they left, we were happy. But then Morsi arrived and things got worse."
Although two of Mohsen's uncles hold senior positions within the Muslim Brotherhood, he says the group's recent designation as a terrorist organization is fair, recalling flurries of incitement to violence by senior Brotherhood figures over the summer.
He has some sympathy for Morsi, believing that the former president had enemies within Egypt's rigid bureaucracy who stymied his ability to govern. But he also thinks the Islamist leader should have done more. "Morsi had a historic chance, the chance to be a revolutionary hero," says Mohsen. "He could have taken historical decisions. He could have removed people who put obstacles in his way."
By the time people started rallying for Morsi's ouster on June 30, 2013, Mohsen had shifted 180 degrees: A man who had demanded an end to military-backed rule in 2011 was now demanding its return. "June 30 was a coup, and I am very pleased it was a coup."
To be sure, he doesn't want indefinite military rule and says he won't back Sisi for president. For now, he acknowledges that Egypt is still waiting for its revolution.
"The bet with my father continues," he laughs. "The revolution will have succeeded when we get an elected civilian president who does good for the country."