Egypt's seniors play central role in country's recent uprising

July has been a dramatic month for the 85 million residents of Egypt.

After days of nationwide protests where millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand the removal of their president, Mohamed Morsi, who was elected on a thin margin in June 2012, the Egyptian military forcibly removed Morsi as president, and installed a caretaker government until elections can take place at a later date.

In the west, photos and videos of the Egyptian protests filled newspapers, websites and television screens, and most of the images featured young men and women protesting in the streets, demanding the removal of the president.

EgyptBut what about Egypt’s older citizens, Baby Boomers and seniors? What role – if any – did they play in the recent upheaval that took place in Africa’s third most-populous country?

Kevin Newton, director of Habbibi Consulting, LLC, a firm which offers data and research on the Islamic world for companies and organizations seeking to do business there, told while older people were less prominent in the Egyptian protests than their younger counterparts, they nonetheless wield tremendous influence.

“One would really expect that the liberal, more secular crowd would put its faith in a younger leader, but that is exactly the opposite of what one sees in Egypt,” Newton said. Acting Vice President Mohamed “ElBaradei especially has emerged as an ideological leader for liberals, especially younger liberals, in Egypt, regardless of religion, despite the fact that he is the oldest prominent Egyptian leader,” he said.

Newton added that one of the biggest factors contributing to the shortage of images of Egyptian Boomers and seniors in the protests is a matter of demographics. Only five per cent of the country is aged 65 and older, while a whopping 70 per cent are aged 30 or younger.

Still, many of the political and religious leaders held in high esteem by protesters aren’t in the same age bracket as most protesters: acting president Adly Mansour is 67 years old, Mohamed Baradei is 71 years old, and the two primary leaders of the Muslim majority and Christian minority, who stood alongside Mansour as he announced the fall of Morsi’s government, are both over the age of 60.

According to Newton, the prominence of older people, both in the new government, and the previous regime, is primarily a factor of the reverence in which they are held by the majority of Egyptians.

“Much of this draws back on the Egyptian/Islamic culture that demands significant respect for one's elders, something that while slipping in the West is very much alive in the Islamic world,” Newton said.