NPR Story
3:00 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Egypt Marks Anniversary Of Revolution

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 7:03 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Cairo's Tahrir Square overflowed with Egyptians today. Traffic was snarled for miles as people jammed bridges and streets. The crowd marked the first anniversary of the popular uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.

And as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, many people did not come to celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Protestors who marched to Tahrir Square from across Cairo shouted slogans against the ruling generals overseeing Egypt's transition to democracy. The protestors say they see no difference between the generals and Mubarak, whose government included many of the officers still in charge. The generals have repeatedly said they will hand over power after a president is elected this summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

NELSON: But as protestor and artist Lara Baladi explains, Egyptian who turned out to mark today's anniversary don't trust the junta to follow through.

LARA BALADI: For a lot of people, this the second revolution or it's the continuation of the revolution.

NELSON: Many young protestors echoed her message.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

NELSON: This isn't a party. It's a revolution, they chanted, as they dance in Tahrir Square. Forty-year-old protestor Sahar Hamed was one of many who planned to spend the night there.

SAHAR HAMED: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The first time we came here was to bring down the regime, not for Mubarak to be put in a hospital and his ministers in a five-star prison from which they still rule our country. The system has not fallen.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

NELSON: Protestor Hany Rashed says adding insult to injury is that the generals have failed to bring the people responsible for killing thousands of protestors over the past year to justice.

HANY RASHED: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The 36-year-old has a picture of his slain friend, Ahmed Bassiouny, pinned to his shirt. Rashed says a fitting tribute to his friend will be to force the ruling military council from power. For their part, the generals appeared to get the message that they would not be welcome at today's commemoration. Planned flyovers by military jets and a government-sponsored rally to mark the anniversary didn't take place.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

NELSON: Nor were Egyptian security forces or soldiers sent to deal with the crowds. Instead, volunteers from the Muslim Brotherhood checked IDs of people entering the square and detained anyone who tried to cause trouble among protestors. Still, the protestor unity that was so striking last January was lacking on this first anniversary of the revolution. Liberals and Islamists congregated on different sides of Tahrir, signaling the deepening political divide between the groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: On the Islamist side, speakers hailed the new parliament dominated by the Brotherhood, an ultra-conservative Salafists. They also denounced the former regime and its dealings with Israel. Unlike their secular counterparts, they did not call for a revolution to oust the generals.

MOHAMED FAWZY: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Brotherhood supporter and protestor Mohamed Fawzy says that's because continuous protests won't help Egypt get back on its feet. The 34-year-old teacher says political and economic reforms Egyptians are seeking will only happen if people go back to work and give the new parliament a chance to bring about change. A recent Gallup poll found that 93 percent of Egyptians share Fawzy's view that new protests will harm their country.

That's no surprise to Khaled Fahmy, who heads the history department at the American University in Cairo. He says the generals and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or SCAF are stirring up anti-protest sentiment.

KHALED FAHMY: People are tired. Economically, the country is in tatters, and the economy has all but collapsed. There's no tourism. There's no new investments. The rate of unemployment is soaring. At the same time, SCAF has conducted a very successful PR campaign to blame all of this on the demonstrators.

NELSON: But Fahmy, who later went to the square, says today's large turnout proves that as tired as Egyptians may be, they will not relinquish their hard-fought right to freely express themselves.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News. Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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