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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 13, Issue 4, December 2011

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Partnership for Human Rights

Civil Society and National Human Rights Institutions
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Articles

Association and Assembly in the Digital Age
Douglas Rutzen and Jacob Zenn

Leadership and Collective Action in Egypt's Popular Committees: Emergence of Authentic Civic Activism in the Absence of the State
Jennifer Ann Bremer

NGOs in Azerbaijani Legislation as Institutions
Azay Guliyev

Book Review

Bob Rae, Exporting Democracy: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea
Reviewed by Edward T. Jackson

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Editorial Board

Leadership and Collective Action in Egypt's Popular Committees: Emergence of Authentic Civic Activism in the Absence of the State

Jennifer Ann Bremer1

The Mubarak regime actively repressed civil society and all forms of civic activism throughout its 30-year tenure. The dramatic events of the 2011 Tahrir Revolution created a new space within which local leaders were both required and enabled to challenge the regime’s previous monopoly on security operations, its mechanisms of state terrorism, and its prohibition on unsanctioned civil groups. This article, second in a series of working papers on local activism in Egypt, explores whether the local citizen watch brigades, typically called popular committees (PCs), established in late January 2011 to provide security have evolved into community-based organizations for local activism.

Building on findings from the first paper, which analyzed local responses to the withdrawal of security in the two-week period from the start of the revolution to the resignation of former President Mubarak on February 11, 2011, this paper analyzes the evolution of some of the PCs into authentic local organizations for civic activism in the absence of the state, as security has slowly and imperfectly returned to the country. It first profiles seven organizations that have emerged in Cairo and Alexandria at the city or neighborhood level or that were in place prior to the revolution but have adapted their strategy to the new openness and evolving community needs. It then presents a comparative analysis of the presence of popular committees and other youth groups at the national and local level, using information from Facebook. Finally, it assesses the implications for citizen leadership at the community level during the coming phases of the revolution and considers implications of this development for the course of future efforts at public mobilization in support of systemic change.

The two analyses demonstrate the differences between the evolution of the popular committees across different types of community in Egypt, emphasizing the emergence of new forms of activism in the new communities, whether these are well-to-do new suburbs in the desert or informal areas with a severe deficit in government services.

The analysis concludes that the popular committees have empowered citizens in ways that may have a lasting impact on collective action initiatives in the future, particularly during the coming period of revolutionary change, but, at the same time, recognizes that the leadership that emerged in a time of crisis will not necessarily be sufficient to sustain collective action and civic engagement post-crisis without further development of both the leadership structures and the organizational strategies used to affect the lives of those in their communities.

Introduction

On January 27, 2011, virtually none of Greater Cairo’s neighborhoods2 had an organized group for self-protection or, indeed, an organized civic group of any kind, barring religious organizations. Two days later, on January 29, not just every neighborhood but virtually every block had an organized group dedicated to protecting the lives, property, and safety of its residents. These groups operated on a continuous basis throughout the first two weeks leading up to the departure of former President Mubarak, substituting for the police who had been withdrawn from the streets.

Six months later, although security has not fully returned, nearly all of these thousands of block-level groups in Cairo have long disbanded. Some, however, have transformed themselves into ongoing grassroots organizations. Similar groups have arisen in Alexandria and other Egyptian cities. These groups represent Egypt’s first experience with organized civic activism emerging from the grassroots, rather than from the action of a religious organization, the state, or international actors. Although this experience is very much in its early days, these groups, known as lagaan shaabiyya orpopular committees (PCs), thus offer an important opportunity to document the emergence of genuine collective action organizations at the local level in Egypt.

Popular Committees in Egyptian communities: Emergence of grassroots civic activism

In the wake of the Tunisian Revolution of January 2011, Egypt’s Mubarak regime made the self-destructive decision to attack its own people by emptying the prisons and withdrawing the police from the streets. This cynical attempt to elicit a call for stability from a frightened citizenry resulted instead in the spontaneous formation of local “popular committees,” which established a near-universal coverage of residential neighborhoods throughout major urban centers quite literally in a matter of days. With neither precedent nor outside organizing support, the popular committees established effective structures, procedures, and an active cadre of participants sufficient to achieve their primary aim of maintaining neighborhood security.

While some committees disbanded when order returned, others have drawn together to create new federations at the district, city, governorate, and national level. This development, arguably the first instance of broad-based, bottom-up organizational formation in Egypt’s history, holds tremendous promise for the emergence of genuine civil society activism in Egyptian localities. Before turning to an analysis of this more recent development, it will be useful to review very briefly the PCs experience during the early days of the revolution.

On the 28th and 29th of January 2011, following the second large-scale demonstration in Tahrir, the government and the ruling National Democratic Party mobilized a concerted attack on the demonstrators, withdrew the police from the streets, hired thugs to rob and terrorize on a wide scale, and opened several prisons. Their apparent aim in loosing the forces of chaos on their own citizens was to create fear and alarm, leading to a cry for the government to restore security and also forcing the demonstrators to return home to protect their families.

If these were the government’s intentions, they failed. The citizens reacted by arming themselves, taking to the streets, and imposing their own order. No central organization directed this massive if impromptu social movement. Each neighborhood organized in its own way, drawing on Egyptian society’s repertoire of cultural models and responding to the dynamic of the situation itself. These groups remained in place for two to four weeks, some disbanding when Mubarak resigned and some gradually scaling back operations as sufficient security returned for normal life to resume.

The first phase of the research reported here documented this early experience (Bremer 2011). Interviews with participants in PCs in 24 Cairo neighborhoods found that this experience was an empowering one for many. They learned in the most concrete way possible that they could not only stand up to the thugs but to the government as well. The PCs taught Egypt’s man on the street that he and his neighbors have the capability to govern themselves. This has been a transformative idea in a society that has historically looked always to the leaders at the top of the pyramid to solve their problems and been sharply punished whenever another approach was tried.

Two types of organizations grew out of this initial empowering experience. First, in some localities, neighborhood or area-wide organizations had been created during the first two weeks through a process of aggregation, with block PCs linking together and then upward to their neighborhoods, and neighborhood groups linking together to form city-wide organizations. According to one of the block leaders in Maadi, a middle-class neighborhood, this process, motivated by the urgency of the situation, took place in a matter of days, accelerated by the sense of urgency, the widespread use of mobiles, and Facebook. After the return of security, some of these groups decided to continue and to transform themselves into ongoing neighborhood or citywide organizations for local betterment. In the burst of enthusiasm that followed the departure of Mubarak, the highly publicized cleaning of Tahrir Square had its counterpart in local efforts all over the city.

Second, some of the individuals who had personal experience with the PCs (which means virtually all Egyptian men below the age of 30, at least in urban areas) were motivated to apply their new skills in collective action to the broader problems facing their localities and formed new groups.

Aim of the Research

Six months after Mubarak’s departure, development of both types of group is an ongoing experiment. This research aims, first, to document the current phase of this unique civil society experiment and, second, to explore the implications for the future of collective action at the community level in Egypt. Issues meriting consideration in the latter area include not only the nature of the programming that has emerged and whether it can be sustained, but also the emergence of different leadership styles, gender roles, decision-making, new second-tier or national organizations, and, inevitably in Egypt, relations with the state.

This article will not be able to draw firm conclusions in this second area, because the experience is still in its early days, but it will pose issues for the next stage in the research. As further discussed in the article itself, the PCs are still very much in formation and may evolve in any of several different directions, or, indeed, the experiment may fail. The coming election period will pose a new test for the PCs as they seek to define a role for themselves in Egypt’s first real election and inevitably must decide how to interact with the much more established and now newly empowered Islamist groups, and how to cooperate, if at all, with the newly formed (or reformed) parties that are also seeking the support of the citizens, be they Islamist, liberal, or the old regime in new clothes

On a broader level, the PCs offer a unique opportunity to track in real time the emergence of genuine grassroots civil society and collective action at the local level, a key component of a pluralistic democracy that has heretofore been lacking in Egypt and many developing countries. As a result of state repression, civil society, a key constituent of democratic governance, mechanism for local accountability, and nurturer of authentic national leadership, has developed only to a very rudimentary level in Egypt, as confirmed in the interviews conducted in the first phase of this research (Bremer, 2011). As Egypt embarks on the difficult journey toward democracy after decades of autocratic, even totalitarian rule, its success in building a sustainable democratic system will depend in part on whether it can develop local institutions that engage citizens in voicing and addressing their needs directly, in holding government accountable for its performance, and in meaningfully contributing to decision-making beyond the ballot box.

All of these functions have been effectively denied to Egyptian communities by state-imposed restrictions on civil society and the state-controlled simulacrum of local governance that exercised a monopoly over local action. Now that the field is open to new entrants, however, there is no guarantee that genuinely representative, responsive, sustainable, or effective institutions will emerge simply because the repressive regime of the past 60 years has been overthrown (nor has it been entirely overthrown, by any means). The evolving PC experience therefore offers a valuable window into the process whereby diverse Egyptian communities react to the new opportunity before them, enabling the mining of this experience for insights into the future evolution of community leadership in Egypt and the Middle East more generally.

The state will not be a passive observer of this phenomenon. Contention between a state constantly on the defensive and a populace mobilized behind its own self-defense groups constitutes a muted but consistent leitmotif in Middle Eastern urban history. Beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing through to the present revolutionary period, forms of local mobilization have arisen periodically that have combined socially informed norms of behavior with collective action for self defense. As described in the earlier paper, these groups have typically arisen at times of urgent need but have not become the locus of sustained local action to demand better services from the state or to provide alternatives to these services. Since at least the 1952 revolution, the potential for such local action has been limited by the state’s repression of civil society. Ironically, only banned organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood have been able to experiment with these roles on a wide scale. Localized actions by individuals or neighborhood spokespersons have naturally occurred, but it has been sporadic and has not been sustained.

As in the first phase of this research, when in-depth interviews were conducted with PC participants in 24 neighborhoods in Cairo (and on a more limited basis in Alexandria), this research examines how groups are evolving in the four broad neighborhood types found in Egyptian cities:

Across these four neighborhood types, the earlier research found that the PC structure and operations displayed much the same pattern, varying only slightly. Regardless of location, groups developed systems for operating security checkpoints, scheduling shifts, identifying members, and communicating with other groups as well as with the military, which controlled the main streets. Once established, these structures continued with few changes until security was partially restored with the assumption of military control of the country, as described in some detail in the earlier paper.

Despite these similarities, there were important differences in how the residents viewed their experience, with residents of informal areas seeing it as less empowering than did those from other urban neighborhoods. These groups were also required to confront challenges coming from within their own neighborhoods, an experience not shared with those of other neighborhoods.

An important question to be asked here is whether this distinction between the informal areas and other urban groupings carries forward into the new phase of the PCs.

Structure of the article

This article proceeds in four steps. It first provides a brief summary of the emergence of the PCs in the first month of the revolution to introduce the organizations and their origin. A more detailed discussion of this experience and a review of historical and regional counterparts that puts this experience in context may be found in the first working paper in this series (Bremer, 2011).

Following this review, the article presents eight profiles of local civic activist organizations, including four local PCs (three in the Greater Cairo Region [GCR] and one in Alexandria), the national association of popular committees, and three Islamic organizations operating at the local level that have shifted their strategy to respond to new challenges in the post-revolutionary period.

It then explores the PC phenomenon on a national level, based on an analysis of Facebook pages established by the PCs, which examines the geographic distribution, extent of participation, and level of activity in selected groups. The article concludes with an assessment of the PCs seven months after their emergence and the potential that they hold to reshape civic activism in a truly indigenous, genuine, and more effective direction as the revolution moves into its next phase.

Case studies of grassroots civil society organizations and programs in post-revolutionary Egypt

This section draws on in-depth interviews in Cairo and Alexandria with representatives of six organizations having new, expanded, or restructured activities at the grassroots level following the Egyptian revolution and provides brief case studies of these organizations drawing on the interviews, press accounts, organizational websites, and other materials. A seventh organization is profiled based on the website and press accounts alone. The seven community-based groups include four secular groups and three with an Islamic orientation, as follows:

Secular organizations:

Religious organizations:

The first three groups are part of a network of organizations, the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (PCDR). At the six-month point following the resignation of former president on February 11, the PCDR remains a loose coalition of individual PCs, most of which have adopted the PCDR name and logo (the closed fist). It is broadly leftist in orientation, as shown by its use of the offices of the Egyptian Center for Socialist Studies as its regular meeting place. It is independent of this organization, however.

The PCDR seeks to promote and support the PCs in individual locations and to meld them into a coalition that can be effective on the national level. As its name implies, it has defined itself as a defender of the Egyptian Revolution against those who would undermine it from any direction, be it the previous regime, the Islamists, or others.

The PCDR’s statement of purpose on its Facebook page emphasizes its commitment both to action and to independence. It defines its primary role as encouraging local collective action to provide services, whether directly or through pressure on the government, and to advocate for the realization of the essential principles of the revolution – dignity, freedom, and social justice. It eschews contributions except in the form of volunteer time and forswears any involvement with political parties. Its page also provides an extensive list of specific changes that it supports, from an increase in the minimum wage to the swift trial and punishment of the leadership of the previous regime.

Two of those active in PCDR-affiliated PCs are also actively involved in the PCDR. They confirmed that the organization, formed with considerable optimism in the days immediately after the revolution, has had some difficulty sustaining its momentum.

To date, the most publicly visible action of the PCDR has been to organize a demonstration in Tahrir to promote a national coalition of PCs. Attendance was variously estimated by the press as being in the hundreds or around 5,000, a thin turnout for Tahrir (Elmeshad, 2011; Gaber, 2011). Groups from ten governorates were represented, however, indicating that the grassroots of the movement are by no means illusory.

Although its Facebook page is itself a valuable resource for those engaged in local activism, the organization’s refusal to accept outside funding sharply limits its ability to provide other services to its members that would sustain their involvement. Whereas twenty or so groups had been making the journey to its meetings on a regular basis in the spring, participation had fallen off to about half that by July. It remains to be seen whether it will reorganize itself on a more sustainable basis.

Two important strategic challenge face the group, in the view of one leading activist, both relating to the nature of the activities it seeks to promote at the local level. First is the choice between a political, outward-oriented strategy vs. a service, inward-oriented one. Some groups have focused on political issues such as the installation of a civilian transitional government or the design of the elections, while others have placed their emphasis on mobilizing action at the local level to meet neighborhood needs. While these activities are by no means in conflict, they imply different organizational tactics and activities and are difficult to coordinate with each other.

Second, groups have taken different routes to service provision. Some groups, including the Alexandria PC described below and to some extent the Imbaba PC, have worked to replicate the service provision model of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. They have in effect sought to offer a secular alternative to the Brotherhood’s charitable activities, but, lacking the broad membership base and tithe-driven financing of these groups, they have not been able to achieve scale of operation. Other groups, such as that working in Mit Oqba, have taken the tack of putting pressure on the government to deliver services to which the neighborhoods are entitled, whether installation of gas lines or lighting, opening of a health clinic, or enforcement of regulations on pricing. This strategy may make more efficient use of scarce manpower and nearly nonexistent financial resources, but can also arouse the enmity of the old guard, as discussed below.

Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution in Alexandria

The Alexandria PC (more formally, the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution in Alexandria) ranks as one of the largest community-based organizations to arise from the revolution. It has a hybrid structure, with an organized board and committee structure at the center and twenty to thirty loosely structured committees that operate across Alexandria. Although it does not have a formal head (following the “we are all leaders” ideology of the revolution), one of the members generally represents the PC in the monthly meetings of the PCDR organizations in Cairo. This individual, an engineer employed by a large multinational joint venture in Alexandria, was interviewed by the researcher, along with several others active in the Alexandria PC. These interviews and review of the group’s Facebook page provide the basis for this description of their activities.

The Alexandria PC has about 2,000 members on its page, of which about 1,000 are active, in the estimation of one of the activists. Of the twenty to thirty subgroups, which may be neighborhood- or interest-based, about ten to fifteen were judged to be active and to meet weekly at the time interviews were conducted (in early July 2011). The programs of the PC respond to local felt needs and build on the earlier experience in providing security during the revolution.

Although the PC is not a political organization as such, it clearly leans toward a secular and leftist perspective. A reflection of this is the clear intention of its leaders to position the group as an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups. It has consequently modeled a number of activities on the programs of these groups, although it lacks their broad financial and organizational base. For example, it has organized delivery of butagas (a common cooking fuel of the poor in Egypt, delivered in canisters) at the official price, purchasing of vegetables at the farmgate for resale in town, collection and distribution of donated clothing, attempts to find work for the unemployed, and microcredit. The sale of butagas and vegetables is intended to put pressure on private sellers to limit price-gouging. Security activities also continue on an as-needed basis, such as during the referendum on constitutional reforms, school examinations, and major demonstrations. In one case, the police themselves actually requested protection by the PC.

Participation in programs is open to individuals only after they have been vetted, following a significant effort to filter out undesirable elements who had been involved in the PCs during the revolution, work that had to be done district by district.

The PC is also involved in political and social justice issues. It has launched a campaign to improve the lot of an informal community whose children must cross the Desert Road (the Cairo-Alexandria Highway) in order to get to school. It plans to support candidates in the fall elections and is active in the national federation.

Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution in Imbaba and PC in Mit Okba

The large, informal communities of Imbaba and Mit Oqba are located near to each other in Giza. Both organizations are part of the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution network, although the Imbaba group is larger and somewhat more formalized.

The Imbaba community PC follows a similar pattern to that described above for the Alexandria PC, also a PCDR affiliate. It has organized subgroups in seven areas, including Ard al-Gamaiyya, where the leader interviewed is most active. Overall, the group has 800 to 1,000 area residents active at some level. Like the Alexandria group, it has established subgroups, although these are more structured than their equivalents in Alexandria. In Ard al-Gamaiyya, for example, the organizational structure includes a volunteer board made up of the heads of various committees and a coordinator (not a director). The board meets weekly. Committees in the PC work on such issues as public security, health, awareness, political issues, women’s affairs, and media. Specific initiatives have worked to bring natural gas lines to the area, to clean the streets by removing dust and garbage piles, and to press bakers to sell bread at the approved prices. The group has a leadership base of fifteen to forty residents, most of whom are themselves lower-working-class in origin.

The group has been successful in pressuring the government to install natural gas lines, an important improvement over the cumbersome and potentially dangerous gas canisters used by many residents of low-income areas. Their strategy to achieve this rested on meeting with the government and then working systematically to remove every constraint put forward by the authorities, whether the lack of a place to put the pipes during the installation, the lack of an apartment as a base of operations, missing data on the area, etc.

A similar success was achieved by the Mit Oqba PC, but their experience, as reported by the Associated Press in Al-Arabia (2011), demonstrates that the supporters of the old regime recognize that these activities threaten their monopoly on relations with the ministries, an important source of their power. As the Mit Oqba program went forward, youth leaders’ families began to receive threats, for example. Local leaders of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party also sought to take credit for the new installations by posing for pictures in front of them. As Egypt enters the election period, this tension is likely to increase. The activist interviewed stated that Mit Oqba, a comparatively small neighborhood, has historically provided 73 percent of the votes registered for the large Doqqi-Agouza district of which it is a part.

Despite its successes, the reliance on volunteers is straining the organization as the enthusiasm of the post-revolution period inevitably thins and the realities of pressing recalcitrant Egyptian government agencies sinks in. From a height of around 200 activists immediately after the revolution, the group is now down to perhaps thirty to fifty active members.

Zamalek Guardians

Although the groups formed by the bawabs disbanded in the wake of the revolution as order was restored, one PC group by residents has transformed itself into an ongoing organization, the Zamalek Guardians. Launched by a group of six men in the first days of the revolution, it had 980 members registered on its website on the reference date. Unusually, it operates a regular website rather than a Facebook page, parts of which are password protected. It has moved beyond its original mandate of protecting the residents to take on an agenda very similar to those adopted by other PCs. As stated on the website, its objectives are to:

serve as a model to our neighboring areas and our beloved country; protect our families, neighbors and friends; to make Zamalek a better place to live and work; join hands to fight corruption, pollution, illiteracy, crime, and any thing that would threaten our peaceful life; get organized to better serve our community; ensure a decent and a democratic life style; [and] beautify our area and our behaviors.

The Zamalek Guardians have formed committees, although the structure adopted is more reminiscent of a corporation than the service- or location-oriented structure of other PCs, with committees outlined for event management, accounting and finance, website management, and legal affairs, as opposed to butagas distribution, donated clothing, and microcredit. Committees common to both reflect the core concerns of the PCs for security and police relations, media, education, and service delivery. As security issues have continued to rise as a priority for residents of all income levels, the Guardians have begun exploring the hiring of a private patrol to increase protection for Zamalek residents.

Three features of the Zamalek Guardians evidenced by their website and an account of their activities in the press (Itameri, Kirsti, 2011) are noteworthy as examples of PCs’ rhetoric. First, the agenda and rhetoric demonstrate the strong vein of local pride that has long been a feature of Egyptian culture, but that has heretofore not found expression in collective action.

Second, the rhetoric displays a desire to reassert the role of morality in public life and a commitment to taking an active role in bringing this about. Corruption and pollution are linked to each other and contrasted with cleanliness and morality. The need to “beautify” the inner self is seen as an element of national reform to be carried forward in parallel to neighborhood cleanup, the fight against corruption, and the spread of democracy. Although the Guardians are not a religious group, these beliefs express mainstream Muslim beliefs regarding the need to safeguard the morality of the umma (community of Muslims) through righteous behavior.

Finally, the Guardians’ rhetoric displays, perhaps unintentionally, the belief that the educated elite, typified by Zamalek residents, need to set the standard and show the way for others less fortunate. Thus the website speaks of the group as being “unique due to the fact that we are all neighbors and friends who simply CARE about each other and about the rest of our beloved country,” although in fact the group is very similar to other groups described in this article. It goes on to state that the Guardians “have showed our neighboring areas the way to protect themselves, their families and friends,” whereas all of the PC participants interviewed describe a process of formation essentially identical to that of the Guardians and some of them, such as the Imbaba and Mit Oqba PCs, have been more proactive in confronting local problems (which are considerably more pressing in their low-income and under-served neighborhood than in prosperous Zamalek).

Muslim-centered Community Organizations

By comparison to the organizations discussed above, all of which have been newly launched since the revolution, the community activities of long-established faith-based organizations operating in the community were affected by the revolution in different ways. The impact was nonetheless significant, as they responded to the increased opportunities for programming open to them in the newly permissive environment for collective action and attempted to respond to the needs of their constituents, both preexisting and arising from the disruption of the revolutionary period. Although the organizations discussed here all existed prior to the revolution and were active on the local level, the impact of the revolution on their activities was significant.

Three different experiences are discussed, based on in-depth interview with representatives of these groups in Alexandria and Cairo, supplemented with press accounts. The best-known of the groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, was formed in Egypt in 1928, but has operated since 1954 as a banned organization. Despite its illegal status, it has functioned openly on a nationwide basis, controlled the largest opposition bloc in the parliament (elected as “independents”), reportedly funds estimated in the tens of millions of dollars annually through its semi-mandatory tithing system, and provided social services, such as clinics, in many communities across the country.

The second organization, the Salafi movement, had received little attention prior to the revolution. Its sudden emergence onto the national scene came as something of a surprise to many observers and its origins remain somewhat mysterious, although ideologically it can be traced to the influence of Saudi Wahhabist ideology and its spread through Egyptian employment in the Gulf and Saudi support.

The third organization is a local religious cooperative operating in one of Egypt’s largest informal communities, the al-Nur al-Mashriq (Eastern Light) cooperative of Ezat al-Haggana (further described below).

These organizations share a key difference that distinguishes them from the secular PC groups described above, in that they were present, organized, and active prior to the revolution. At a more detailed level, they differ, however. While the Brotherhood has a formalized and generally well-known leadership structure, it remains unclear even now whether the Salafis are a movement, an organization, or a collection of localized groups loosely acting in concert. (The cooperative, by contrast, was formally registered in 2008 with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which oversees Egypt’s civil society.)

Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Movement

What is evident from the interviews conducted in Alexandria is that, after the revolution, both of these organizations’ groups have been able to operate much more openly than previously, even though there has been no formal change in the civil society laws. Indeed, like the secular PCs, the Brotherhood and the Salafis coordinated openly and a very widespread basis with the military during the period prior to the departure of President Mubarak. These issues were discussed more fully with the representative of the Salafi movement interviewed than with the Brotherhood representatives. This reflected the knowledge base of the subjects interviewed: the Brotherhood representatives were women actively engaged in the ongoing community social programming, but had not been involved in the earlier security operations. The Salafi representative had been engaged in both sides of the operation.

Community residents interviewed had earlier told the team that the Brotherhood and the Salafi movement had been heavily involved in organizing PCs in Alexandria, and this was confirmed by an Alexandrian representative of a major national newspaper, who estimated that 80 percent of the PCs were organized by Islamic groups. The Salafi movement representative interviewed also described their collaboration with the military in detail, not only during the revolution but continuing up until the time of the interview in early July. The overall nature of this coordination was very similar to that of the secular PCs, but conducted on a larger and more organized scale. Whereas the secular PCs had only a loose, hastily assembled structure or, more often, no real structure at all for joint operations, the Salafis had a previously established network of neighborhood connections, anchored in mosques. This network naturally became the mechanism for coordinating with the army for the whole neighborhood.

Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement painted very similar pictures of their organization’s activities in the wake of the revolution. For them, the experience of providing security during the first three weeks of the revolution was not so much a transformative experience as a distraction from their regular programming, which has now not only resumed but expanded in the more open environment post-revolution. They also seek to respond to increased need resulting from the economic downturn and disruption of government services as well as continuing to deal with security affairs, as further discussed below. Because the two organizations are broadly similar in terms of their post-revolution activities and the impact on the organizations themselves, they will be discussed together.

The two organizations carry out a wide range of social programs, such as micro-credit, assistance to poor people in gaining access to the government support to which they are entitled, after-school tutoring for low-income residents (a necessity in Egypt’s shambolic education system but beyond the reach of many poor families), and so forth. They have expanded sale of vegetables by creating weekly markets outside their mosques and instituted butagas distribution programs, reflecting market disruptions post-revolution.

The Salafi group has continued to be active in security issues, particularly in seeking to resolve a serious continuing dispute between the police and the residents of Raml, an Alexandria neighborhood where some seventeen people were killed by police firing from the roof of their station in the early days of the revolution. The combination of intense neighborhood anger over this incident and the increased availability of firearms in private hands has caused the police to refuse to return to the area. The Salafis are working to negotiate blood money payments with the families to reach a resolution, but at the time of the interview had been able to get only some of the families to accept the offer.

This activity is an outgrowth of the close relationship developed between the armed forces and the Salafis, who were assigned the task of coordinating in at least one major Alexandria neighborhood, overseeing not only the groups formed in their thirty-three mosques in the area but also the Muslim Brotherhood and secular PCs. Similar to the occurrences reported in Cairo’s Bulaq and Bulaq al-Dakrur neighborhoods (reported in an earlier paper resulting from this research; Bremer, 2011), the Salafis organized the recovery and return of stolen goods. The Salafis have also provided protection to police stations at the time of major protests and negotiated the return of family members kidnapped for ransom.

Other cooperation with the military at the local and national level has included organization of community dialogues among the army, police, and neighborhood residents to promote a return of order as well as participation in national dialogues with the supreme command.

Both the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are able to draw on large pools of resources that come from the obligation on members to tithe five to ten percent of their income if they are able to do so.

 A final change in the activities of the two organizations since the revolution is the increased involvement of women, particularly in the charitable work of the organizations. Although women were involved before the revolution, the ability to operate more openly and the close relations with the government have encouraged women to get more fully involved than previously.

Al-Nur al-Mashriq Cooperative

Ezbat al-Haggana , one of Cairo’s largest informal areas, offers a different model of institutionalized local collective action in the newly permissive atmosphere post-revolution. Although the Ezba had its own PCs (and was regularly accused of being the source of thugs and criminals terrorizing other neighborhoods), the activity described here is being undertaken by preexisting Muslim charitable areas, al-Nur al-Mashriq (Eastern Light), founded by area residents in 2008.

Their initiative began as a response to the upsurge in sectarian conflict that included conflict between groups armed with sticks and Molotov cocktails and the burning of churches in Imbaba and Manshiet Nasr (both informal areas) and cities in Upper Egypt where sectarian strife has arisen in the past. (It remains unclear how much of this conflict was genuine and how much was orchestrated by remnants of the regime eager to sow disruption and discord.)

Fearing that similar incidents could arise in the Ezba, the cooperative leaders reached out to local church leaders to convene a meeting of some 200 respected community members. This group ratified the selection of a ten-person Committee for Dispute Resolution, including several of the cooperative board members.

Their selection reflects the status of these board members as highly experienced practitioners in Egypt’s informal and customary dispute resolution system, part of the customary (“orfy”) legal system that exists in parallel to the official system to serve as a substitute for the courts and, to some extent, for the police, serving low-income residents and informal businesses that do not have access to the formal system. Under the customary system, an experienced arbiter is called in by one of the parties to a dispute, although both sides must accept arbitration. They then meet with the individuals involved, generally in the presence of their families. After hearing both sides, they arbitrate the dispute and impose a solution. This may involve award of a monetary judgment or other actions by the parties.

The system depends fundamentally on the status of the arbiters. Recognition as an arbiter is gained after years of experience and apprenticeship to practitioners, who are often religious leaders. The practice is sometimes passed on from father to son. Arbiters do not receive formal payment, but may receive informal payment in the form of a donation. The leading practitioners on the al-Nur board are highly regarded for their expertise in this area and are regularly brought in to resolve disputes not only in the Ezba but throughout Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt.

The dispute resolution committee is currently seeking funding to establish a center where disputes will be held and to bring together a group of seven young men and women to be trained in customary dispute resolution while staffing the center.

The findings from the profiles may be summarized in five main points. First, although only a small minority of the original PCs have continued, there has been a new flowering of organizations that are building directly or indirectly on the PC experience. While many have chosen to work at the national level, diverse, experimental organizations have also arisen at the local level and are working to address community needs in new ways.

Second, while these organizations are adopting diverse strategies, two of the most important approaches are adoption of direct service provision and exerting collective pressure on governments to deliver social services and infrastructure. The former strategy constitutes a leftist alternative to longstanding Islamist models, in some cases adopted explicitly to challenge the Islamists for community leadership. The latter strategy is new to Egypt, however, as civil society groups were essentially barred from confronting the government on behalf of citizens. Some groups have adopted a third strategy of political rhetoric, but the impact of this approach will depend on how events unfold during the coming election period.

Third, the revolution has clearly empowered the Islamists, whose local organizations are freed from the constraints under which they previously operated. They have been able to capitalize on their strong financial base to expand their service, to operate completely in the open, and to collaborate with the army in ways that were previously unthinkable. To date, their strategy has remained focused on charitable work and service provision, rather than grassroots mobilization. It, too, is poised to move to another stage in support of Islamist parties and candidates.

Fourth, both the local programs of the established Islamist groups and the secular and the new local and generally leftist organizations have tapped into new human and technological resources. Most importantly, women can be seen in leadership and managerial positions in all of these organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s local structures. Educated professionals and local activists inspired by the revolution have stepped forward to lead groups in their own areas and to assist groups working to transform informal and working-class areas. See, for example, press accounts and blogging by a young Egyptian doctoral researcher working with PCs in Imbaba (Mossallam, 2011). All of these organizations have made innovative use of new technological tools, such as Facebook, to reach new partners and to communicate their perspectives to broader audiences. This latter phenomenon is the subject of the following section.

Finally, the two groups differ markedly in their financial and organizational infrastructure. The Islamists have a strong financial base in mandatory tithing by their members and an established management system. The new, locally based, generally leftist organizations have not yet evolved a model that can meet their managerial and financial needs and enable them to become sustainable. It is still in the very early days for these groups, however, and several of them have strong and committed volunteer leaders as well as a core of dedicated supporting players. They have come a very long way in only six months, and the coming election period offers them numerous opportunities to expand and refine their roles in the community.

Evidence from Facebook on the evolution of the popular committees into grassroots civil society

Along with other social media, Facebook has emerged as a key organizing tool for the Arab Spring. The PCs have been among the groups making the most use of this new mechanism for mobilization at both the grassroots and national levels.

After the first days of the PCs, when mobile communications and the internet were blocked by the regime, the groups made use of technology to communicate with each other and with the army, as group members used mobiles to coordinate the PC and leaders exchanged mobiles with army officers in the areas they were covering.

Within days, indeed, as soon as internet and mobile access were restored, technologically savvy residents in middle- and upper-class areas mobilized social networking to organize beyond individual PCs, first into neighborhood and then into city-wide structures. Facebook groups, already very widely used in Egypt, became the organizing mechanism of choice, whether to communicate within a neighborhood, on a city-wide or national basis, or even across national borders. A Muslim Brotherhood activist interviewed pointed to social networking links between the Tunisian and Egyptian Brotherhood organizations as a channel through which tactics developed by Tunisian PCs then spread to Egyptian PCs organizing a few weeks after them.

Although, as discussed above, most PCs disbanded in mid- to late February, following the resignation of President Mubarak, some groups continued to operate. The PC experience also inspired young activists committed to the revolution’s aims at the national or local level to work toward a broader mobilization to foster and defend the revolution’s aims.

Methodology of the Facebook study. The Facebook pages used by these PCs and other youth organizations provide what is arguably the only source of information on these groups beyond scattered press accounts. These groups are continuing to evolve as the situation changes and as activists gain greater experience. Building on the interviews summarized above, this exploratory study of popular committees’ Facebook presence offers a picture of the status of PC organizations in early August 2011. The study of PC Facebook pages focused initially on the organizations affiliated with the Popular Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (PCDR), discussed above, but also looked at the presence of PCs in general and other politically or community-oriented youth groups on Facebook as a way of documenting the evolution of grassroots civil society in the more permissive environment of the Arab Spring.

The approach to analyzing the Facebook presence of these groups utilized three types of searches to identify Facebook pages for analysis. Following an exploration of Facebook pages to obtain a sense of the overall population, the pages of known PCDR groups were searched to identify other groups, generally those shown on the group’s page as “Likes” or posting on the pages. Second, a search was conducted for all pages using the Arabic term for “popular committee.” Third, searches were conducted for selected neighborhoods using the Arabic term for “youth of [place name],” e.g., youth of Imbaba. For simplicity, the term “group” is used for both Facebook groups and pages that have names with the subject terms. Similarly, the term “member” is used for both members of groups and “likers” of pages.

No claim is made that these searches identified all of the activist groups nor that all such groups are on Facebook in the first place. Given resource limitations and the continuing security concerns in much of Egypt, however, this approach provided a feasible alternative to personal interviewing as a way to track the development of these groups.

The results of these searches were then cleaned to assemble a database for analysis. The most widely used pages in each category, generally those with more than 200 members (for groups) or “likers” (for pages), were then examined to determine whether they showed political and/or community involvement, based on the page description or information provided by the page managers, as well as the identifying graphics and “likes,” or, conversely, whether they were oriented primarily to social or other purposes. The pages identified as activist-oriented were then assessed on the frequency and currency of postings. A limited number of recent posts were also examined to gain insight into group objectives, activities, and perspectives.

Several caveats are in order before proceeding to the analysis of the findings. First, in the analysis presented below, both “likers” and members are treated as equivalent, although it is recognized that a greater effort and commitment may be needed to join some (but by no means all) groups. As there is no practical means of assessing how often either class of user visits or participates in any given site, much less to measure use by other Facebook users who do not choose to register on the page , a decision was made to treat all user classes as equivalent for purposes of site comparison. Further work is needed to refine the methodology for social research through Facebook, which offers a promising means of tracking evolving social phenomena.

Second, the high likelihood that many of the most active individuals are members of multiple groups and/or participate in multiple pages should also be stressed. For this reason, the analysis of total membership levels in the various populations studied cannot be regarded as by any means definitive, but only as an indication of relative levels of activity.

Finally, no claim is made that the analysis covers all of Egypt, all of Cairo, or, indeed, all groups in the neighborhoods examined. There is simply no mechanism available to identify all groups that discuss political- or community-organizing issues. Moreover, there is not a definitive mapping of Cairo’s many neighborhoods or their borders; one person’s Imbaba may be another’s Ard al-Liwa. Naturally, it cannot be assumed that all groups in any given neighborhood will include their neighborhood’s name in the page name, even if the purpose is related to community development. Many smaller groups in low-income areas would not be expected to have a Facebook page, although almost all larger groups and those in middle- or upper-class neighborhoods would be expected to have such a page if they do not have another webpage at this point.

Findings of the Facebook study. Tables 1 to 5 present the results of the above analysis. Table 1 shows the number of groups and members in those groups for all those identified having the term popular committee (or committees) in the Arabic title. In all, more than 400 such groups were identified. (Note that it is not possible to say how this compares to the total number of groups, because many groups are formatted as pages, and every individual user has a page.)

The largest ten percent of these groups account for seventy-seven percent of all members, however, and the top eight groups account for more than half of all members, indicating a high degree of concentration. These large groups, shown in Table 2, demonstrate the variety of groups growing out of the PC movement. Two of the three largest groups are Islamic in orientation, although not identifiably associated with either the Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi movements. This underscores the strength of the Islamic orientation among Egypt’s youth, as distinct from the leftist or socialist orientation associated more commonly associated with the PCs. Two of the largest groups are members of the generally liberal/leftist PCDR grouping, including the national group and the Alexandria group. One represents a grassroots youth campaign to reassert the core objectives of the revolution, and another is the page of a (non-youth) candidate planning to run for office from a large Cairo neighborhood, perhaps suggesting the role of the PCs in the parliamentary campaign expected to take place in fall 2011. The final two groups are youth-oriented pages, both emphasizing efforts to rebuild the country. The agenda of the eighth group is worth quoting in its entirety, as the elements given are found repeatedly on the websites of the continuing PC groups:

  1. Build Egypt
  2. Channel the energies of young people toward the benefit of the nation
  3. Strengthen and spread good morals among the people
  4. Harness efforts to help [needy] organizations and individuals
  5. Spread awareness among the people through publishing periodically
  6. Achieve social justice and equality
  7. Apply democracy and freedom to express opinions
  8. Fight exploitation and greed
  9. Purge Egypt of corruption
  10. Create jobs to fight unemployment

http://www.facebook.com/groups/shababallegan/

The remaining three tables provide a progressively more detailed look at PC mobilization at the local level. It should be emphasized that most groups do not identify themselves with a specific location or, in a few cases, have a location name that recurs in many different places. Some of these may well be location specific groups that have simply adopted a generic title rather than groups that seek a national role. Localities range from individual villages to governorates (provinces). It may be assumed that some of the latter groups have adopted the name of the governorate more out of hopefulness (or hubris) than realism.

These data make several points about the PC movement:

  1. Cairo accounted for a disproportionately large share of the PCs. Whereas Greater Cairo accounts for about twenty percent of the national population, it accounted for more than a third of the PCs with an identifiable location.
  2. Cairo’s groups are not larger than those in other urban localities, however, perhaps reflecting the diversity of Cairo’s neighborhoods and the greater complexity of its geography.
  3. Alexandria’s groups are dominated by the large PCDR group there, which represents about eighty-five percent of the identifiable total for the city.
  4. Rural groups tended to be smaller, not surprisingly. It may also be assumed that fewer of the rural groups established a Facebook presence or have remained active.
  5. Overall, about three-quarters of the groups identifiable by location were in the urban areas, and one-quarter in rural areas (although this conclusion may not be meaningful, given the expectation of lower Facebook participation in the rural areas).

Overall, this analysis suggests that the PC movement is not confined to the major cities, although, not surprisingly, it is concentrated there. Further work is needed at the local level to determine the extent to which activities have continued in towns and villages that have simply not developed a presence on Facebook.

It is noteworthy that, within the urban areas, Alexandria and the Canal cities of Port Said/Port Fouad, Ismailia, and Suez have a proportionately higher level of PC activity. Although these cities have only thirty-eight percent of the population of the Greater Cairo Region, their population of PC groups is seventy-six percent that of Cairo and their membership actually outnumbers Cairo (accounting for fifty-two percent of the total compared to Cairo’s forty-eight percent). Thus, their groups are larger, as well, with an average of membership of 162 vs. 119 in Cairo.3

Further research is needed to determine why this is the case. The Canal cities, in particular, are noted for their independence and resistance to oppression. It is significant that the January 25th demonstrations were held on Police Day, a holiday that commemorates the heroic (if unsuccessful) stand of the Suez police force against the takeover by Great Britain in the 19th century. Both Port Said and Suez have also been centers of labor activism.

An alternative possible explanation is that activists in Cairo may be more likely to join groups with a national orientation, either because it is more convenient as they are located in Cairo or because they more naturally see themselves as acting on a national plane as residents of the capital city.

Table 3 takes a closer look at the PCs in Greater Cairo, where most of the first round of PC interviewing was conducted. The Greater Cairo Region (GCR) includes extensions of Cairo proper into Giza Governorate (where Imbaba and Bulaq al-Dakrur are located) and into northern and southern suburbs. Over the past thirty years, the government has also established a ring of “new cities,” which are characterized by expensive private developments and large public housing blocks. Unsurprisingly, this combination has not necessarily conducive to the development of a cohesive urban culture, and a large share of both types of housing remain unoccupied.

The GCR groups have been categorized into four neighborhood types: informal areas, new suburbs, popular or working-class, and middle-class. This analysis, presented in Table 4, shows that the formation of groups in all areas except the new suburbs is close to the share of the population living in these areas. Although the low incomes and limited access to the internet in the informal areas might be expected to reduce their participation in Facebook groups, in fact their membership is nearly equal to their share in the population, at fifty-seven percent compared to sixty-four percent (Sims, 2010). Participation in the established areas (popular/working-class and middle/upper-class) also tracks broadly with these areas’ share in Cairo’s population. Group formation in the new suburbs, by contrast, has far exceeded these areas’ share of the GCR population. Although these areas account for less than two percent of the GCR total (Sims, 2010), they accounted for seventeen percent of the groups and twenty-one percent of the membership, indicating that their groups were also slightly larger than the average.

Participation in PCs with a Facebook presence in the post-revolutionary period has thus been very broadly spread across the Egyptian population, particularly the youth, who have predominated both in the revolution itself and in Facebook use in the region. Mourtada and Salem’s 2011 study of social media use in the region reports that account for an estimated seventy-five percent of Facebook users in Egypt fall in the fifteen- to twenty-nine-year-old age bracket.

The results of the analysis of Facebook groups with the term “youth of [place name]” or a close variant in the title gave the results shown in Table 5. This table also includes further analysis of the groups that are affiliated with the PCDR or that use that name, both for convenience and for comparison, and data on the twelve largest groups in each area. Two of the areas shown, Bulaq al-Dakrur and Imbaba, are informal areas in Giza governorate, part of the GCR, while Maadi is an established upper/middle-class suburb south of Cairo.

On first appearance, it would seem that Maadi is the more active area, with by far the highest number of groups and members and more large groups (those with over 200 members). The examination of the largest twelve groups in each area, however, indicates that the Maadi groups are less likely to have a political or community development orientation than do the groups in the informal areas. Thus the number of members in PCs among the top twelve “youth of” groups is higher in Bulaq al-Dakrur and Imbaba than in Maadi, although Maadi’s politically active groups are larger. The non-PC groups in Maadi included two chapters of a leading charity (Resala), with the remainder being social groups, as were the non-PC groups in the other areas. Naturally, the distinction is not a strict one: social groups may include political or community-development commentary and vice-versa.

Searches for PCs were conducted for informal areas outside of Giza (such as Marg and Ezbet al-Haggana in Cairo Governorate), but these searches found a much lower level of activity in these areas. A handful of groups with a community-development purpose were identified in Marg, but none in Haggana.

Nearly all of the larger groups in all areas (those with 200 or more members) show a high degree of activity, with up-to-date postings as of early August. Many of them have a hundred or more posts per month, demonstrating that these are active groups and not relics of the revolution. An analysis of the top forty PC groups (those with PC in the title) indicated that two-thirds of them had current postings and a total of eighty percent had postings within the past month.

A preliminary content analysis of the websites indicates that the PCs are engaged in a wide variety of activities, from exchange of information and commentary on political events to organization of group activities, such as those discussed above with regard to the Imbaba PCDR. It is noteworthy how large a role discussions of solid waste play in many of the groups’ discussions and activities. Training and other self-help discussions also emerge as a common theme, along with concern over corruption and ways to combat it. Further analysis of the content is planned for the next stage of the research.

To sum up this second part of the paper, the analysis of PC presence on Facebook confirms that a new community of community organizations has arisen in the wake of the popular committee experience during the revolution. These groups range in size up to several thousand members and show regular and sustained activity. While the numbers joining these groups on Facebook remains well below the tens or hundreds of thousands who have signed on as members of leading political groups in Egypt, Facebook has nonetheless helped to mobilize large and active groups for community development and political affairs in Egypt’s communities, representing an important step forward in the development of a pluralistic society. Participation in these groups is by no means confined to the middle class or well-to-do members of society; indeed, among the most active are groups working in some of the poorest neighborhoods. A key question for the future is whether these groups will be mobilized in the coming parliamentary campaigns, the first truly open elections in Egypt in more than sixty years.

Conclusions and Questions for the Next Steps in the Popular Committee Research Project

The foregoing exploratory study of the popular committees emerging in post-revolutionary Egypt, while confirming that most PCs discontinued operations in February 2011, has shown that a minority of popular committees have remained in operation and have shifted their focus on community organizing, serving as a voice for their communities to hold governments accountable, and service delivery. They hold tremendous potential for developing into a new and authentic voice for people who have long lacked any voice at all.

To realize this potential, they will have to overcome organizational challenges that are only beginning to be identified, much less addressed. It is still too early to say whether these organizations will develop models of leadership, financing, and operations that will enable them to thrive or even to survive in the new Egypt. The coming period, as Egyptian political life is reshaped in the nation’s first truly competitive elections in six decades, will be a crucible in which these organizations may be forged into a new grassroots social movement or, conversely, may melt away as a new, party-based politics emerges.

In tracking these events over the coming months, three questions, suggested by the foregoing discussion, will guide the next stage of the field research and analysis:

  1. Have the popular committees been able to mobilize and to sustain a leadership cadre and rank-and-file membership base drawn from the local communities that they serve?
  2. Have they developed a financial model that can sustain their activities, whether through dues, support from local business communities, or revenue-generating activities?
  3. Have they set one or more models for their operations that can achieve concrete results for the people of the communities and win them a place in the democratic decision-making processes that will, one hopes, replace Egypt’s authoritarian system?

 

Table 1. Distribution of all Popular Committee Facebook Groups* by size

Number of:

Members/ group

Percentage of all:

 

Membership:

Groups

Members

Groups

Members

Over 1,000

8

35,982

4,498

2%

54%

500-1,000

8

5594

699

2%

8%

200-499

29

9528

329

7%

14%

100-199

51

7700

151

12%

12%

50-99

49

3767

77

11%

6%

20-49

80

2494

31

19%

4%

Fewer than 20

202

1240

6

47%

2%

Total

427

66,305

155

100%

100%

Over 200

45

51,104

1,136

11%

77%

*Includes all groups with the Arabic term for “Popular Committee” in the group title (or description).

Source: Facebook pages and author’s analysis

 

Table 2. Popular Committee Facebook groups with more than 1,000 members

Group name:

Members

Orientation

Good Youth/Union of Popular Committees

14,341

Islamic

Popular Committees for the Defense of the Egyptian revolution

6,314

PCDR-national

Islamic Popular Committees

4,944

Islamic

Popular Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Alexandria

2,914

PCDR-local

Popular Committees of the Second Egyptian Revolution of Anger

2,396

Youth-oriented

Let's Reconstruct Our Country Campaign

2,136

Youth-oriented

Solomon Ibn Hisham Victory

1,612

Political campaign

Movement of the Youth of Popular Committees

1,488

Youth-oriented

Note: adds to a slightly different total than shown in Table 2 because data were collected several days apart.

Source: Facebook pages and author’s analysis

 

Table 3. Location-specific Facebook websites by type of location

Number of:

As a percentage of location-specific total

Category of location

Groups

Members

Members/ group

Groups

Members

1. Urban

 Cairo

41

4,661

114

34%

35%

 Alexandria

13

3,447

265

11%

26%

 Canal cities (Port Said/Fouad,

 Ismailia, Suez)

18

1,655

92

15%

12%

 Subtotal, urban governorates

72

9,763

136

61%

73%

2. Non-urban

 Delta

9

1,059

118

8%

8%

 Upper Egypt

17

1,774

104

14%

13%

 Other rural (unidentified)

21

788

38

18%

6%

 Subtotal non-urban governorates

47

3621

77

39%

27%

Subtotal, location-specific groups

119

13,384

112

100%

100%

For comparison:

Groups with no identified location and more than 100 members

80

36,799

460

Source: Facebook and author’s analysis

 

Table 4. Greater Cairo Facebook groups for Popular Committees

Number of:

As a percentage of all Egyptian:

As a percentage of all Cairo:

Category of location

Groups

Members

Members/ group

Groups

Members

Groups

Members

Informal areas

21

2,663

127

18%

20%

51%

57%

New suburbs

7

964

138

6%

7%

17%

21%

Popular (working-class)

5

724

145

4%

5%

12%

16%

Middle/upper-class

7

306

44

6%

2%

17%

7%

Cairo, unspecified

1

4

4

1%

0%

2%

0%

Total, Cairo

41

4,661

114

34%

35%

100%

100%

Source: Facebook and author’s analysis

 

Table 5. Popular Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and all youth-titled groups on Facebook for selected neighborhoods in Cairo
Sub-group: All groups Members/ group Groups with >200 members Groups with >200 as percentage of all:
Groups Members Groups Members Groups Members
1. Summary
PCDR 28 18,965 677 19 17,926 68% 95%
Bulaq al-Dakrur 59 7,079 120 9 5,186 15% 73%
Imbaba 111 12,229 110 16 8,855 14% 72%
Maadi 279 34,474 124 35 22,047 13% 64%
Top 12 groups only Members/ group PCs as a percentage of totals for top 12:
2. Largest 12 groups PCs Members in top 12 Groups Members
Bulaq al-Dakrur 9 5,186 576 75% 92%
Imbaba 7 6,414 916 58% 80%
Maadi 3 4,276 1425 25% 30%
Note: the Bulaq al-Dakrur, Imbaba, and Maadi entries refer to all groups with the term “Youth of Bulaq al-Dakrur” (etc.) in their titles. See text for further discussion. Source: Facebook and author’s analysis.

References

Al Musharaf, Waleed (Feb 2, 2011). ‘Welcome to the lions of Almaza’: Neighborhood patrols defend a Cairo in flux. Blog post on The Comment Factory Blog.

Amar, Paul (Feb. 2011). Why Egypt’s Progressives Win. Post on Jadaliyya blog. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/586/why-egypts-progressives-win

Associated Press (2011, 11 Jul). Street by street, Egypt’s activists face Old Guard in a country of bribery and patronage. Al-Arabia online. Accessed 5 Aug 2011.

Bremer, Jennifer (2011). Leadership and Collective Action in Egypt’s Tahrir Revolution: Emergence of Civic Activism in Response to Repression. Paper presented at the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration Annual Conference, Rome, Italy, June 13-18, 2011.

Brinkhoff, Thomas (2011). City Population. http://www.citypopulation.de. Accessed 16 Aug 2011.

Elmeshad, Mohamed (2011, 23 Apr). Popular committees from across Egypt convene in Tahrir. Al-Masry al-Youm English edition. Accessed 26 Apr 2011.

Gaber, Yassin (2011, 22 Apr). Popular Committees Convene in Tahrir. Ahram online. Accessed 29 April 2011.

Ismail, Salwa (Apr. 2000). The Popular Movement Dimensions of Contemporary Militant Islamism: Socio-Spatial Determinants in the Cairo Urban Setting. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 363-393.

Itameri, Kirsti (2011). Zamalek residents take law and order into their own hands. Al-Masry Al-Youm English edition, 31 Jul 2011.

Mossalem, Alia (2011, 9 Jun). Imaba is very angry, as am I. Blogpost. http://tinker-thoughts.blogspot.com. Accessed 6 Jul 2011.

__________ ( 2011, 18 Jun). Popular committees continue the revolution. Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition.

Mourtada, Racha, and Fadi Salem (2011, May). Arab Social Media Report. UAE: Dubai School of Government.

 Sims, David (2010). Understanding Cairo: the Logic of a City out of Control. Cairo: American University Press.

Singerman, Diana (2009). “The Siege of Imbaba, Egypt’s Internal ‘Other’ and the Criminalization of Politics.” In Diane Singerman (ed.), 2009, Cairo Contested, Cairo, The American University Press.

Notes

1 Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Public Policy and Administration, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, American University in Cairo. Email: jbremer@aucegypt.edu.

2 Greater Cairo consists of Cairo Governorate (Cairo proper) plus the urbanized parts of Giza Governorate (adjacent to Cairo on the western shore of the Nile) and the extension of urbanization north into Qalyubia Governorate. It includes the city of Helwan, now absorbed into the urban agglomeration, and the new satellite cities located in the desert to the east and west of Cairo/Giza, such as 6th of October and New Cairo (which includes Rehab and Tugamua al-Khamis), and other new cities.

3 GCR population taken from Sims (2010); other cities from Brinkhoff (2011).

 

 
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