Monshipouri discusses Egypt's revolution

Egypt's Facebook and Twitter generation may have brought politics to the streets in the last year, but organization on the ground trumps the enthusiasm of young protesters when it comes to influencing the country's political future, says Mahmood Monshipouri, associate professor of international relations.

Photo of Associate Professor of International Relations Mahmood Monshipouri in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Associate Professor of International Relations Mahmood Monshipouri in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the gathering place that has become the focal point of Egypt's revolution

One year after the start of the Egyptian protests that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Monshipouri is writing a book about the Arab Spring.

"I was struck by the energy of the youth and the diversity of the people who are still joining forces in Tahrir Square to rewrite their country's history," Monshipouri said of his November 2011 visit to Egypt. But he also noted the protesters weren't representative of Egypt's general population and their influence doesn't always reach the broader populace.

"These young protesters are tech-savvy but what wins elections is how organized you are," he said. "The Muslim Brotherhood party was established in 1928 and has strong social networks and aid programs in rural areas. This counts for a lot in a country where half the population is illiterate."

He spent time in Cairo, interviewing activists, lawyers, academics and a representative from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist party that won a majority in Egypt's recent parliamentary election.

Monshipouri said there was an atmosphere of optimism among the protesters who continue to gather in Tahrir Square. He is optimistic about Egypt's future, citing the activists’ success in urging the ruling military not to delay the parliamentary elections. The formation of a new parliament is an important step, paving the way for a new constitution and a presidential election.

In his forthcoming book "Democratic Uprising in the Middle East and North Africa: Youth, Technology, and Human Rights," Monshipouri hopes to explore the conditions that sparked the Arab Spring.

"Technology and social media tell us how and when the Arab Spring happened but not why it emerged," Monshipouri said. He believes the uprisings were fueled by a demographic surge of young people unable to find employment and frustrated with political repression, but he is also interested in the power of emotion.

"I want to look at the power of emotion, identity and solidarity as a catalyst for revolution," Monshipouri said. "We saw these factors come together when a poor street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest harassment by officials and the emotion of that event led to protests, days later in Tunisia and Egypt."

In addition to his research on the Arab Spring, Monshipouri recently published two books about the Middle East: "Terrorism, Security and Human Rights: Harnessing the Rule of Law" (Lynne Rienner Publishers) and "Human Rights in the Middle East: Frameworks, Goals, and Strategies " (Palgrave-Macmillan).

-- Elaine Bible