Social Movements and their impact




Pre-Revolution Social Movements

Although many attribute the success of the  Egyptians Arab Spring revolution, or rather the overthrow of the government to more recent crises and concerns, there were many social movements that had been in place for years that led to the Mubarak-led regime downfall. But what are social Movements defined as exactly? “Movements are media that speak through action, their primary message is that they exist and act. Social movements are intricate networks of individual and collective agents (humans and non-humans) that constitute a wave of confrontational social engagements at many levels that encompass different forms of performances and associations marked by their oppositional but proactive character “(1) In short, social movements are the results of various networks working towards something, but do not constitute the foundation of those networks. Therefore, how did these social movements begin and how did they lead to the eventual ousting of a 30-year government stronghold?

According to a study on the Egyptian 2011 revolution done by the International Review of Information Ethics, there were four different key phases that occurred before the revolution. Each of these phases acted as stepping stones leading up to the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. Literally a revolution cannot and does not happen because of one single issue nor does it happen overnight. These phases included:

1. Launching a Public Presence (2008)

  • In March of 2008, Egyptian workers, other opposition groups, and movements called for a national strike at the Ghazl Al-Mahalla textile factory to be held on April 6 which marked the “bread crisis” in which bread, which was normally subsidized by the government at a certain set price, was increased, thus causing outcry and becoming catalyst for a  demonstration for raising wages. (2)
  •  Before this protest happened Israa Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher, the protest organizers set up the “April 6th Strike Group” or the “youth movement” on Facebook and invited friends to support the workers strike, calling for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience. The outcome was unexpectedly successful. Over 77,000 people joined the group and committed to either express themselves on social media, protest or skip work on April 6 thus propelling social mobilization and  illustrating the resurgence of the labor movement. (2) Social Media was key in developing support for the growing labor movement, but it was not the foundation nor the root cause of the uprising.

2. Building a movement (2008-2009)

  • In response to the April 6 movement and the growing social media presence, the government began to crack down on freedom of expression, and repress the people through online threats. However, the young people of Egypt were determined to use social media and harness the support and power to create a political moment. Israa Abdel-Fattah and Ahmed Maher were put into jail as well as tortured. Not only were social media sites key in spreading information and garnering support but they also sparked discussions about mutually shared concerns which made people unite over mutual discontent. The news of the torture of the protest organizers was spread throughout  social media, angering the citizens. (3)

3. Strengthening the growing movement (2009-2010)

  • Protests and social discontent grew after the April 6 Strike and with the imprisonment of the protestors in jail. This strike or movement rather became impactful because it brought together different social organizations that found a common base to work with one another and was chastised by the government illustrating that what they were doing was a threat to the regime. Facebook was a key park of this because it became less about using the social media site for networking, and more about spreading information and activism. (4)

4. Uniting around a common concern ( Police Brutality) (2010)

  • Now that this social movement and social media presence was growing, there needed to be another event that helped to push the social movement to the next level that would unite the people. The death of Khaled Saeed by an Egyptian policeman via torture re-sparked the momentum for social protests and brought to surface a more public concern over Egypt’s unjust political system.The death of Saeed was published online, thus triggering international human rights organizations to become involved included Amnesty International which put pressure on the U.S. and the European Union to put pressure for democratic reforms in Egypt.  (5)
Wiki Commons

Then came Tahrir Square

After these four phases that built upon the momentum of the April 6 Youth Movement or Strike, came the last step that tipped the scale in social movements in resulting in actual governmental change. This last step was the occupying of Tahrir Square which symbolized the population’s, especially the young population’s, political frustration.

Egypt is different from some other countries in MENA because people didn’t unite over the desire to have a single ethnicity or religion, but rather over political, economic, and social frustrations with the government. Without the use of Facebook and Twitter, these social movements would have maybe even never gained the ground that they did which caused the Youth Movement to act as the real catalyst for the eventual overthrow, or “resignation” of Mubarak.


(1) Melucci, A. (1994). A Strange kind of newness: What’s New in New Social Movements? In E. Laraña, H. Johnston & J. R. Gusfield (Eds.), New social movements : from ideology to identity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press

(2) Carr, S. (2008a). April 6 strike kicks off a year of protests. The Daily News Egypt, p. 1. Retrieved from

(3) El-Sayed, M. (2008). Virtual politics. Al Ahram, p. 1.

(4) Singer, M., & Samaan, M. (2008). April 6 activists stand by detained peers. The Daily News Egypt, p. 1.

(5) Al Malky, R. (2009). The death of youth activism in Egypt? The Daily News Egypt, p. 1. Retrieved from


3 thoughts on “Social Movements and their impact

  1. The last paragraph about the meaning of revolution sums up the popularity of the Arab Spring. I like how you mentioned that Egypt fought against the tyranny of the government. This goes to show that the people united for a collective cause. The story about the bread strike open my eyes to the responsive cry. Bread is normally a staple food in the world and raising money on cheap item can create unhappiness. Overall, this blog was very intriguing to read!


  2. Great blog! I loved how you broke down the phases of revolution that Egypt took to eventually come together for the Arab Springs revolution. For my research and blog on Iraq, I found an article that titled and showed evidence of Iraq having the “unofficial” start to the Arab Springs and from reading your blog, I definitely am intrigued to find out if the theory of the four phases you wrote on Egypt would apply to Iraq as well!


  3. Great blog post! I agree completely with this post. As we have come to learn, the Arab Spring was the caused by many social factors or pure dissatisfaction of people all around the MENA region, and in Egypt it was no different. The development of social media was definitely the biggest social weapon that citizens would have used to create a movement that would be impactful enough to make some type of change.

    My favorite part of your blog this ween was your very last paragraph because it is very true, it was not about uniting over a religion or ethnicity, it was because people had enough and were frustrated with their current political and social situation in country.

    Also, great structure on your blog!


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