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Young Revolt in the Land of Pharaohs

Egypt. Make no mistake about it: The revolt that took place as we witnessed it in real time was all about youth and hope for the future. That's the reason for the successful revolution in Egypt. That explains the millions of Egyptians massing together, chanting and protesting, in Tahrir Square.

Yes, the unrest is about a failed leader and his failed economy, but the revolt is a young peoples' absolute rejection of a leadership that has done nothing to advance young peoples' futures or improve their lives.

Calling it a religious conflict is easy -- and it is wrong. Worse, it shows just how little we in the Western world understand the Middle East. For the West, it is easy to demonize the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi. True, he is the first democratically elected president of Egypt, but that was overridden by the fact that Morsi represented the Muslim Brotherhood and came to office as the result of a union between the Brotherhood and an even more Islamist party, the Nouri party.

Ousting the Islamists seems like the right thing for Egypt to do. And while from the outside looking in, it looked as though, for the four days of protest, the only rhetoric to be heard was related to religious issues, every Egyptian knows that not to be the truth. Every Egyptian knows that if there were tourism in Egypt and natural gas and oil were being exported, there would be some discontent in the land of the pharaohs, but nothing like this. There would be stragglers protesting in the street, not millions massing in Tahrir Square.

In Egypt right now, it is all about the economy. And right now, Egyptian youth have no future, thanks to their failed economy. We are talking about a country with almost no economy, and growing debt, a country that is heavily dependent on the handouts of foreign aid. But aid can no longer save the Egyptians. They need to produce. They need to export. They need to do it on their own.

Some would argue that the problems in Egypt exist because Morsi was an Islamist leader. They say that the Muslim Brotherhood and Islam were his primary priorities. And that may have been true for some things. But I would argue that the crisis in Egypt was due to the fact that Mohammed Morsi was a bad and inexperienced leader.

There were high hopes at first. Morsi could have been forward-thinking and more inclusive. He could have been a president who embraced public safety. Instead he became a president who polarized, and that was probably the greatest error Morsi made. There is no doubt that in the eyes of the world, polarization in Egypt was interpreted as danger, and danger means no tourism. In what we can now call "the good old days," the days before Morsi came to power, Egypt thrived on tourism. Today, there is none.

The leaders of the protest movement in Tahrir Square were young people in their 20s. They were not professional leaders or party people. And a major part of the success of the rallies that brought so many people together was the fact that they were not party-affiliated. The organizers refused to put any political agenda forward except the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi. That non-party, non-political bent enabled and empowered the movement to oust Morsi.

The movement was called "Tamarod," or "Rebel." Mahmoud Badr was one of its creators, central organizers and chosen spokesman. He insisted, over and over and over again, that there was no political agenda and no party affiliation. Tamarod was for everyone who opposed Morsi.

Badr and his colleagues began by collecting signatures on a petition. It was a pipe dream, but it took on great momentum and culminated in rallies that drew millions of Egyptians to Tahrir Square on the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration, June 30. And then it went on for three more days.

The petition has more than 22 million signatures on it. There are only 80 million people in Egypt. That means that one in four people signed the petition. They succeeded beyond even their own wildest dreams.

Badr was smart and organized. He insisted that the army protect them from Morsi supporters, and in that way he prevented Egypt from erupting into civil war. He and his colleagues empowered thousands of people to maintain peace during the protests. The army agreed to protect them, and General al-Sisi announced that the army would not permit a civil war. And that is what ultimately sealed the success of the rallies.

Morsi once again proved his ineptitude as president of Egypt. Rather than realizing the depth of pain and emotion and will to survive that Tamarod embodies, Morsi thought that he was dealing with a disorganized political opposition composed of a group of disgruntled students. In truth, Badr and his team were bridge builders, not playing petty political games.

There is a long way to go before the Egyptian economy is strong and it is safe for tourism to return to the Nile Delta. But the first crucial steps are being taken. With no bloodshed. With no beheadings. With future leaders speaking their minds and setting the agenda. Democracy may yet come to Egypt after all.

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