The Square: A Movie Review on the Status of Egyptian Civil-Military

Tahrir Square

     The Square examines the Egyptian popular revolution in 2011 and its aftermath through the perspectives of Cairo’s Tahir Square protestors. The film follows these individuals through the three stages of the revolution beginning with the removal of Mubarak from power and the subsequent unrest and violence, then the Islamic Brotherhood’s victory in the popular election that was again followed by protests and violence, and finally the removal of Morsi from power in 2011. The main characters of the film represent the different religious, social, and political backgrounds of Egyptians, and the film examines how these differences shaped their experiences throughout the revolution. The film also identifies and examines the different roles the military, the Islamic Brotherhood, and protestors all played as the revolution unfolds. The Square highlights the determination as well as the trauma and suffering of the Egyptian people throughout this revolution.

The changing role of the military in this film highlights the complex state of civil-military relations in Egypt in the 2011 revolution. In this case, civil-military relations played a vital roll in the outcome of the revolution, and raises the issue of what civil-military relations can look like when the civilian institutions collapse in the absence of a coup. The film highlights the unpredictable nature of the military’s relationship with the people in such a situation as the military seeks to uphold order and protect military institutions. Understanding the position of the military in relation to the unrest and revolution in Egypt is important to understanding the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but it also provides an example of what an unchecked military can do to its citizens. The Egyptian military initial served in the interest of the people before deciding that protests now undermined stability causing them to turn violent against citizen; finally, the military stages a coup against the religious extremist president that had been elected after the fall of Mubarak. The film presents a unique personal perspective on how the civil-military relations in the aftermath of a revolution can effects the lives of a everyday people.

This film broadened my understanding of the how democratic transition can occur from authoritarian regimes. The transition as outlined in the course follow 4 steps from solid authoritarianism to fragile authoritarianism, then fragile democracy to democracy. The film follows Egypt from 2011 to 2013 as the nation goes through this transition. While I understood the first two steps of the process, the film particularly broadened by understanding of the theory’s description of an election made by an elite pact that then transitions the government from authoritarian to democratic. On paper, this idea of elites controlling a populist uprising is hard to understand, but in the film you see exactly that happen. After Mubarak steps down, the elites of the military and the Islamic Brotherhood work to “highjack” the revolution from the people making their own deal where either the military’s candidate will win the presidency or that of the Islamic Brotherhood; either way the Islamic Brotherhood will control the parliament. The film ends after the military coup that removes this elitist president from power and pushes Egypt toward a stronger democracy which once again follows the pattern this theory of democratization presents. The documentary style of the film allows the viewer to better understand the transformation from authoritarian to democratic.

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