Since winning the Arabic Booker in 2009, he has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of religious extremism and cultural decline in Egypt. His voice is one among a growing number in Egypt calling for cultural change, change that can only happen if Egyptians begin to question dearly held beliefs, especially religious ones.
Still, Shabayek sees some – albeit small – changes brought about by the revolution. Women are more willing to speak out and share their stories; the audience is more open to accepting them. “The revolution has left us feeling empowered when it comes to self-expression. There is a change in people at least, even if the system is the same or maybe worse.”
Fouda spoke out against the Supreme Council of Armed Forces and Mohamed Morsi. Later, he became critical of the military-led coalition by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In Egypt’s current media environment, which has become more restrictive than under Mubarak, it is unlikely that he would find work at home.
Through his role in the island case, Ali has become the face of Egypt’s secular revolutionaries, who were the driving force of the Arab Spring protests in 2011. His detention follows a spate of arrests targeting media and opposition figures, in what rights groups have called Egypt’s harshest crackdown on dissent in decades.
Al-Aswany remains a controversial figure. He says he has been barred from appearing in any TV shows or writing for any Egyptian media outlets, whether state run or private. He is still hated by most Islamists, who accuse him of contributing to Morsi’s ouster, the death of thousands of civilians and a return to military rule. One thing has not changed, however: he continues to criticize those in power, arguing that a democratic, liberal alternative to the army and the Islamists is the only way for the country to progress.
Today people know Anissa Hassouna as one of the most influential Arab women and member of the Egyptian parliament. A passion to serve her country through civil society encouraged Hassouna to start many initiatives for human rights and citizenship. Although Hassouna was named one of the 100 most powerful Arab women, she confessed that she is softens when she sees her three grandchildren.
Bassem Youssef has become the most famous artist in the Arab world and originated a phenomenon that many tried to replicate. Youssef joined the movement that eventually overthrew the president in February 2011, helping to care for injured protesters, and subsequently creating a political satirical show unlike anything seen before in the region.
General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar was a little-known name in Egypt until his appointment as interior minister on 5 March 2015 thrust him into the spotlight. Human rights groups and activists are worried that his appointment will mean further erosion of freedoms and the gains they made following the 25 January revolution.