Middle East Eye

Middle East Eye

Die in poverty or at sea: The choice facing millions of Egyptians

An Egyptian street vender selling bread walks past as a tear gas canister (background) fired by riot police during clashes with protesters near Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 29, 2013. Egypt's military chief warned that the political crisis sweeping the country could lead to the collapse of the state, as thousands defied curfews and the death toll from days of rioting rose to 52. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI / AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

“The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune,” Alexis de Tocqueville said in his 1840 Democracy in America.

Tocqueville’s words clearly reflect Egypt’s harsh reality today. Five years after an uprising called for “bread, freedom and social justice”, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s repressive policies and bad governance are forcing a wave of Egyptians, mostly children and adolescents from disadvantaged rural areas, to flee a crumbling economy, impoverished conditions and a widespread sense of disempowerment.