top of page

Redeeming Democracy: Constructing an Egyptian Truth and Reconciliation Committee

By Matthew Lee

On January 25th, 2011, thousands of protestors poured into the streets of Cairo demanding economic and political reform. For the first time in 30 years, a whole country erupted into a people’s protest against the ruthless dictator Hosni Mubārak, culminating in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Despite fighting seismic street clashes through tear gas and bullets, killing 840 protestors, the people triumphed: President Mubārak resigned. However, in 2013, hopes for a democracy were crushed by a new, oppressive military regime led by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Military brutality during a peaceful protest in Tahrir Square left 24 dead and 200 injured. In their conquest for change from a corrupt government, political repression, and economic inequality, the democratic revolution succumbed to an even more oppressive regime.

During both Mubārak’s presidential campaign and the present ironclad military regime, transparency, protest, and the press have been heavily silenced. Assuming restoration of a democratic government, the first step towards a healing process led by an established Egyptian Truth and Reconciliation Committee (ETRC) should be to document injuries, abuses, and casualties inflicted by the military and police. The next would be to end human rights violations by ensuring legal accountability of perpetrators. Finally, creating state-run welfare and health care programs could aid in civilian recovery. In its success following Arab Uprisings, the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) is the best model for the ETRC.

In 2016, the Tunisian TDC successfully instituted a reconciliation and restitution campaign, documenting and archiving numerous cases (over 62 thousand pleas for reparations) along with broadcasting 14 public hearings for human rights violators and corrupt former officials. As the only country to establish a truth commission following Arab uprisings, the Tunisian TDC is helping transition the country into a new democratic government. Similar to the Tunisian TDC’s response to the 2011 Jasmine Revolution, the ETRC should create an independent complaint body separate from the military to investigate brutality and misconduct by security forces, creating transparency in place of a previously opaque government. Truth-seeking sessions, public hearings, and testimonial collection would build a more comprehensive understanding of past events as well as create a platform for victims to openly share their stories and experiences. This will promote healing and awareness in Egypt, as it did in Tunisia. Additionally, the Tunisian TDC instituted judiciary reforms and regulations concerning security forces while establishing an independent police force. Instituting legislative reform will restrict military influence on civilian arrests and prosecutions while helping to avoid regression. By adopting these policies, an Egyptian TRC can replace a history of oppression with a transparent and hospitable community in which proper justice is brought to culpable military and political leaders. Finally, Tunisia is attempting to provide public welfare programs. These restitutions for long-suffering Egyptian citizens could revitalize the population, help to recover a struggling economy, and restore faith in a democratic Egyptian government. The Egyptian Revolution began in the shadow of Tunisia’s success, and, in the footsteps of the Tunisian TDC, the Egyptians would find justice and receive reparations.

In the wake of Arab Uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Egyptian Revolution demonstrated a people’s movement against a thirty-year-long dictatorship. Its ultimate failure has caused untold harm but nevertheless shed light on government corruption and military brutality. Following Tunisia’s success, an Egyptian TRC would deal transitional justice by not only dealing punishment and offering reparations, but also resolving systemic problems to avoid future decades of oppression. Through promoting government transparency, accountability, and service, an Egyptian TRC should unite the country in a healing process that would aid in a successful transition to democracy.


Works Cited

Geri, Maurizio, and Chiraz Arbi. “After Sparking the Arab Spring, Is Tunisia Still a Success Story?” The Washington Institute, 22 Jan. 2021, Accessed 27 June 2023.

Hussein, Wael. “Egypt’s Revolution: I Saw the Unimaginable Happen.” BBC News, 9 Feb. 2021, Accessed 27 June 2023.

“Justice to Come? Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission.” Brookings, 3 June 2020, Accessed 27 June 2023.

Negus, Steve. “The Failure of Egypt’s Revolution.” The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2018, Accessed 27 June 2023.

Shenker, Jack, and Barry Neild. “Cairo Clashes Leave at Least 24 Dead.” The Guardian, 9 Oct. 2011, Accessed 27 June 2023

“What Happened during Egypt’s January 25 Revolution?” News | Al Jazeera, 25 Jan. 2023, Accessed 27 June 2023.

“Tunisia: Truth Commission Outlines Decades of Abuse.” Human Rights Watch, 5 Apr. 2019, Accessed 27 June 2023.


bottom of page