CAIRO – On January 24, 2011, Tahrir Square was like any other major rotary in
Cairo – congested with cars, teeming with people, beggars pleading with
passersby and tourists snapping photos of the famously pink Egyptian
The next day, the square exploded with protests, a popular
revolution over 18 days that swept president Hosni Mubarak out of power after 30
On Thursday, just before the second anniversary of the day that
Egyptians took to the streets in the most dramatic upset of the Arab Spring,
Tahrir Square hums with a nervous energy. Hundreds of people mill around,
sometimes spontaneously breaking out in chants, arguing politics and visiting
the recently erected Revolution Museum in the middle of the square. On Friday,
Egypt marks two years since the revolution that radically altered the
Protesters preparing for Friday’s anniversary are seething with
anger at the Muslim Brotherhood.
Using the same heated language as two
years ago, they slam the ruling political party and President Mohamed Morsi,
which, they say, have plunged the country into a terrible economic
“People hate the Muslim Brotherhood and they hate the
system,” says Tony S., an activist with a youth union, who will oversee the main
protest stage on Friday.
“We need to complete our revolution, not make a
festival,” he adds. “For one year we were against the army, now we are against
the Muslim Brotherhood. Everyone is against the Muslim Brotherhood,” he says,
pointing to a scar on his lip that he says is from a knife fight with
Brotherhood members in Tahrir last month.
“Revolution means change,” says
Magdi, a veteran leader in the Building Egypt Activist group. “Why did we come
out for freedom, liberty and justice if the president doesn’t follow the people?
[Morsi] is only following his party, the Muslim Brotherhood.
the people will come out tomorrow. We’re not going to wait four years [until the
end of Morsi’s term] without freedom and democracy. If we wait four years, we’re
going to stay 100 years without freedom and democracy,” Magdi said.
came out against Mubarak; we can come out against Morsi. The people in
Egypt are not scared anymore.”
At the plastic tents of the Revolution
Museum, which feature photos of protesters killed in clashes, articles, protest
signs, flags and memorabilia, visitors can only enter by stepping on a giant
picture of Morsi, a serious insult in Arab culture. Most stomp on his picture
A., who owns a souvenir store, says inflation has exploded
and the black market, which had laid low for a decade, is back with a vengeance,
due to the instability.
“I was hoping it would get better, but now there
is no safety. I cannot walk outside at night by myself,” he says at a
coffee shop near Tahrir Square. Two women in head scarves join in to
express their disgust.
“They’re selling Islam,” says Lila. “People are
attracted to the Muslim Brotherhood because they say ‘We’re Muslim,’ but they’re
playing with religion, they never mean it.”
While anger at Morsi is
widespread, Khaled, a medical student, warns that the country needs to be
“I don’t like his policies, but I am for the president,” he
“He has only had seven months, we need more time.”
says the protesters are now more vocal but much fewer in number, and he doubts
that calls for Morsi’s resignation will have any impact.
Egyptian riot police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters who clashed with
police as they tried to tear down a cement wall built to prevent demonstrators
from reaching the parliament and cabinet building, according to the
Major opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei posted an online video
message urging people to come to the protest.
“I demand from each one of
you, all across Egypt, to prove that the revolution must continue and must be
completed,” he said in the message.
The Muslim Brotherhood has promised
that its members will not attend the demonstrations during Friday’s anniversary,
ostensibly to avoid violence, though many protesters doubt they will stay away.
The Brotherhood announced that it would renovate 2,000 schools, plant trees and
deliver medical aid as part of their charity efforts to win over poor
The greater possibility for violence is on Saturday, when the
final verdict is to be delivered for the suspects in the February 1, 2012, Port
Said Stadium massacre, when 79 people died in riots at a soccer pitch.
Eyewitnesses said police did nothing to stop the melee that broke out between
rival soccer teams and even refused to open the doors to allow people to escape.
The massacre was held up as proof of the country’s slide toward
If the suspects receive light sentences, the ultras, soccer
hooligans who are often at the head of protest marches and responsible for much
of the violence at Egypt’s recent protests, have promised to destroy and burn
buildings in Cairo, according to Internet posts by various factions.