This is the fifth revolution in the history of modern Egypt since the 19th century.
The first revolution was the one that toppled Mohammed Ali. The second is of Ourabi in 1880. The third was in 1919. The fourth was in 1950. The fifth revolution is the present one of January 2011.
Of all the revolutions, four of them were a partnership between the people and the military.
All the people of Egypt agreed that these revolutions were effective, in the sense that they were rejecting a regime that governed them and were looking forward to adjusting the system.
We notice that the only revolution in which the army was not involved was the 1919 revolution. This is attributed to the fact that the army was absent; it was in Sudan, away from the political events in Egypt.
So in other words, the only successful Egyptian revolution is where there was no effect or influence of the army in participating in or protecting it – where the Egyptian army was away from the events in Egypt in Sudan. That is the 1919 revolution.
What we notice when we read the history of Egypt is the army was actually going along with the revolution in Egypt – and in this fifth revolution, which we are witnessing now, it came out to the streets after the withdrawal of the police on January 28.
The Egyptian army was actually supporting this movement and protecting public installations and buildings and protecting the movement of the people instead of resisting or oppressing it. And the army that came onto the streets was actually supporting the movement and no single bullet was shot at the time.
But there was a major and clear difference between the events of the July 23, 1952 revolution and the events of 2011. In the 1952 revolution, there was actually a coherency to the peoples’ movement. There, people shared a unified demand for the withdrawal of British forces from Egypt. At the time, the revolutionary force came from the army, and that decided the political battle against the regime of the time.
If we look at the events of the period between 1951 and 1952, we find that the popular movement – partisan and non-partisan – had an important force against the king and royal system. The momentum increased, but the popular movement to remove the royal system and there was the fire in Cairo at the time. The army came on July 23 to carry out this revolutionary act believing in its values and was supported by the people. So the main act supported by the people was carried out by the army in 1952, whilst the partner was the people in supporting that main action of the revolution.
On January 25, there was a major difference. The revolutionary action was by the popular youth movement, which suffered 150 deaths and more than 5,000 injured.
In the first three days of the revolution, before the police disappeared from the streets leaving a state of insecurity, and before the army took over the task of security, the army actually protected government buildings and responded to the movement with a great deal of understanding and coherence.
It would seem from this revolution that the main action was not by the army but the people. The great momentum they generated was surprising, along with the determination and resolve of the people, as well as the cumulative effect of toppling the regime.
The army was merely supporting; but the main actor was the people, and the army was the partner, facilitator and supporter of the people. It would seem from this that the popular movement had the precedence in toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, but did not have the leadership.