Tens of thousands massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other Egyptian cities on
Wednesday, a year after an uprising erupted that toppled Hosni Mubarak and
exposed rifts in the Arab world’s most populous state.
One group of
mostly youths in Tahrir stood near a street where protesters clashed in November
and December with police and the army, chanting “Down with military rule” and
“Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets.”
other side of Tahrir, supporters of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood and other
Islamists grouped to celebrate. “I’m very happy with the anniversary of
January 25. We never dreamed of this.
The revolution’s victory was
reaped with the elected parliament,” said Khaled Mohamed, 41, a member of the
Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) secured the biggest bloc in
parliament after the first free vote in decades.
A member of the
Brotherhood’s party now sits on the speaker’s chair, an idea unimaginable a year
ago when the lower house was a compliant, rubber-stamp body stuffed full of
Mubarak’s supporters. The assembly also has a strong contingent of
ultraconservative Salafi Muslims.
Protesters mistrust the military
council that took charge on February 11 last year when Mubarak was driven out
and which is led by the man who was his defense minister for two decades, Field
Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. The army has vowed to relinquish power after a
presidential poll in June.
Some liberal activists fear the Brotherhood
and other Islamists are colluding with the army to entrench their position in
mainstream politics at the expense of a deeper purge of the old
Islamists dismiss talk of any such alliance.
States, a close ally of Egypt under Mubarak, praised “several historic
milestones in its transition to democracy” this week, including the convening of
“While many challenges remain, Egypt has come a long way in
the past year, and we hope that all Egyptians will commemorate this anniversary
with the spirit of peace and unity that prevailed last January,” a White House
US President Barack Obama plans to accelerate the pace of
American aid to Egypt, a top State Department official said on
Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats, part of a US
delegation that held unprecedented talks last week with Egypt’s Muslim
Brotherhood, said Washington wanted to provide “more immediate benefits” to
Under the plan, some non-urgent US aid slated for other
countries – he did not name them – would be redirected to Egypt. Funding in the pipeline for long-term programs in Egypt would be shifted to quick-impact
projects, he said.
Hormats, speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the
annual World Economic Forum, emphasized that the White House had not made any
final decisions, and that he was providing Washington’s “broad thinking” on the
The slow pace of change also frustrates some
Last year, when the Egyptian army was first ordered onto the
streets after days of clashes with police during the uprising, the troops were
hailed and cheered. Many Egyptians have since watched in horror as soldiers have
dragged, beaten and fired tear gas at demonstrators demanding the army return to
The activists in Egypt point to a surge in military trials
of civilians and the use of violence against protesters as signs of autocratic
ways similar to three decades under Mubarak.
Tantawi defended the
military during a televised speech on Tuesday.
“The nation and the armed
forces had one aim: For Egypt to become a democratic state,” he
Along with demonstrations in Cairo, Egyptians also gathered in
Alexandria and in Suez, the scene of some of the fiercest violence during the
revolt and also the place where the first death was reported during the
“We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest
against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand
over power to civilians,” said Mohamed Ismail, 27, in Suez, a port city east of
There were no official numbers for Wednesday’s turnout.
some witness estimates put the number in Tahrir at 150,000 or more, although
there was a constant flow of people in and out of the square. Thousands were
also out in other areas of Cairo.
Demands for justice for the “martyrs of
the revolution” was a unifying call for everyone on Wednesday. Banners with
pictures of those killed were hung from lampposts in Tahrir.
angry that no one has yet been found responsible for the deaths of 850 people
during the uprising as the trial of Mubarak, his interior minister and others
“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the
struggle,” chanted protesters in Alexandria.
But friction between rival
ideas about where Egypt is headed was not far below the surface, even late on
Tuesday as people began congregating in Tahrir.
“The military council is
Mubarak,” said Amr al- Zamlout, a 31-year-old protester clutching a sign
declaring that “there is no change” and stating his aim was to topple the army
Mohamed Othman, an accountant, stopped to say Egypt needed
stability for economic recovery not more protests.
“The council will
leave power in any case. Sure, the revolution is incomplete, but it doesn’t mean
we should obstruct life,” he said, touching off a row among the crowd that