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Egyptians are known about their hostility towards foreign (mostly US) aid.  Various survey results show that somewhere between 55-85% percent of the Egyptian population is against US aid. Egyptians’ attitudes about U.S. economic aid – channeled in form of budgetary support or direct assistance to NGOs – became increasingly negative, while NGO employees faced charges of illegally accepting foreign funds and stirring unrest (Azeem 2013; Sabry 2014). Other foreign donors (Arab governments, international financial organizations) ‘perform’ better, still sentiments against them similarly increased from the first part of 2011 to the beginning of 2012 (Younis and Younis 2012). Assessing the positive and negative aspects of foreign funding provided (to civil society organizations) in Egypt, Mohammed Elagati collected countless arguments for and against aid mainly from various stakeholders within the Egyptian civil society (Elagati 2013).

As indicated by the Neighbourhood Barometer data (the survey was carried out by REACH Egypt), Egyptians are much less knowledgeable about the details of European involvement and development cooperation than people living in the neighbouring countries. Still, the high rate of ‘do not knows’ vis-à-vis the EU (50-70% depending on the question and date of NB survey) is even more interesting, since Egypt is seen as one of the key partners in the region. Looking at the extent to which Egyptian respondents agreed with various statements formulated on the EU’s involvement in Egypt, the rate of agreement (approval) is very low:

NB, Egypt, qAB8, 2012-2014

The deepest point (‘Spring 2013’ denotes the period between 6 June and 8 July 2013) may well be explained by a specific event, namely the military takeover (3 July 2013) and the preceding mass demonstrations demanding change, which was highly criticized and denounced by the Western powers and public opinion as well. Neither this, nor following steps taken by the EU (the West in general) were welcomed warmly in Egypt. But perhaps the Egyptian results lead to further questions on the reliability of public opinion in non-democratic countries. As long as public opinion is not truly ‘free’ in most countries in the region, one has to interpret ‘local voices’, results of public opinion polls included, cautiously.

Sources: Z. Azeem (2013) ‘NGO Workers Sentenced by Egyptian Court’ Al-Monitor, 10 June, 2013; M. Elagati, M. (2013) Foreign Funding in Egypt After the Revolution. FRIDE, Arab Forum for Alternatives & HIVOS; M. Younis and A. Younis (2012) Egyptian Opposition to US and other foreign aid increases. Gallup, 29 March 2012; M. Sabry (2014) ‘How Egypt’s protest law brought down the revolution’ Al-Monitor, 9 September, 2014; A. Taylor (2013) ‘Millions March in Egyptian Protests’, The Atlantic (In Focus), 1 July 2013; and Neighborhood Barometer analytical reports, wave 1-5 (2012-2014): http://euneighbourhood.eu/eu-neighbourhood-barometer-data/

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People living in the region – except for Egypt and Tunisia – were asked about their ‘demonstrating habits’ by Arab Barometer interviewers at the beginning of Arab Spring (the interviews were conducted at various times, between Autumn 2010 and Summer 2011, in the listed countries). Results show that the most rebellious people live in Sudan and Yemen, followed by Lebanon and Palestine. Yet, even in these countries ca. 75% of the adult population has not participated in any protest (between 2007-2010/2011).
arab barometer wave II, q5022

 

Mainstream literature dealing with the Arab Spring demonstrators’ motivations and contemporary history of the Arab Spring analyzes the ‘explaining factors’ from various perspectives, putting emphasis on the middle class and structural transformation, the socio-economic hardships such as increasing food prices and high unemployment and the desire for regime strange or the importance of internet-based technological development. Looking at the opinion polls, however, the Arab uprisings have been widely interpreted as uprisings against political tyranny over freedom and public participation as well as against the prevalence of human rights abuses.

Further reading: Brynen Beyond the Arab Spring; Mona Christophersen, ‘Protest and reform in Jordan. Popular demand and government response, 2011 to 2012’ Fafo-report 50 (Oslo: Fafo, 2013); Sobhi Samour, ‘The Promises and Limitations of Economic Protests in the West Bank’ in Kjetil Fossheim (ed), Arab Spring. Uprisings, Powers and Interventions (New York, Berghahn, 2014).