Five years ago, 26-year-old Tunisian vegetable cart owner Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest of the corrupt Tunisian government. This act sent a shockwave throughout the Middle East and helped to spur a movement that would become known as the Arab Spring.
One of the culminating moments of the Arab Spring took place in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters assembled in the square, calling for Hosni Mubarak to end his 30-year rule as president. After 18 days they succeeded and Mubarak stepped down. His resignation was seen as a great achievement for the Egyptian people and an opportunity for democracy to finally reign in Egypt.
Five years and two presidents later, Egypt still hasn’t found the democratic government they have been looking for, Charlie Sennott of the Groundtruth Project says. Sennott was at Tahrir Square in 2011 covering the protests for a Frontline documentary. He called into Boston Public Radio Monday from in Tahrir Square to talk about the anniversary and impact of Arab Spring.
"It was really one of the most exciting moments I ever covered in my 25 years in the Middle East. The people were speaking, their voice was loud, they toppled Mubarak. You really felt back then, that you were on the edge of something big. A time of change and hope," Sennott said.
After Mubarak left office, Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was voted into power in one of the first “really free and fair elections in Egypt's history,” Sennott said.
In June 2013 protesters once again took the streets calling for Moris to step down. This time, the military took over and instated Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.Today, Military crackdown is as tough as ever, Sennott says.
“They have arrested hundreds of people, they have raided something like 5000 homes, they have shut down blogs, they have shut down facebook pages that have even hinted at opposition. There has been a real crackdown in the last couple of weeks.” Sennott said. “Things haven’t changed much, the tyranny is still there. The police state is still there. The brutality is still there.”
Sennott says that despite the past tumultuous five years, Egyptians are still hungry for democracy, but are tired of the violence.
“This yearning for democracy hasn’t changed. They just don’t want to deal with all the street violence. They just want to get back to their normal lives,” Sennott said.
Click here to watch the Frontline documentary Egypt in Crisis
Click here to watch the Frontline documentary Revolution in Cairo
Charlie Sennott is the head of the GroundTurth Project. Listen to his interview with Boston Public Radio above.