This week marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Egyptian revolution: a time of celebration, a time of remembrance for the thousands lost, and a time for a new collective discourse regarding Egypt’s political progress.
A festive and victorious mood filled the air in Cairo last Tuesday night as several thousand people gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the January revolution and camp out in Tahrir Square. The anniversary marks the end of the former dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, who dominated the nation for 30 years. Despite the celebrations and feelings of festivity, questions remain for the Egyptian public regarding the nation’s path towards an established and legitimate political rule. The peaceful congregation of civilians included various groups within civil society representing both the liberal and Islamic sides of the political spectrum.
These various groups all claim some role in the revolution, from the youth movement that began the protests a year ago, to the Muslim Brotherhood, which now dominates parliament, to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, which took over power last February after Mubarak stepped down.
Despite the feelings of festivity and celebration, the atmosphere was that of mixed emotions as people still remain divided over the true purpose of the anniversary. It seems that not everyone shares the view that their gathering should be a peaceful celebration. Many are demanding that pressure be placed on the military, which took over after Mubarak officially stepped down on the 11th of February, to step down immediately. Some can be seen chanting slogans such as “Down with military rule!” in the streets, calling for the council hand over power to a civilian government.
“We are not here to celebrate. We are here to bring down military rule,” local pharmacist Iman Fahmy told the Associated Press.
“I’m here for the first anniversary of the revolution. Let’s not say to ‘celebrate’ it,” said Nada Ramadan, who struggled to reach the anniversary gathering from Cairo’s Hussein district with her two children.
“I realize many rights have not yet been given to people. This is not over.”
Such remarks draw attention to the fact that many in Egypt remain frustrated by the shortcomings of the revolution. New discourses, assessing which goals, if any, have been met since the revolution began last year are becoming more common.
“The elections are our only achievement in a year. Now the military should hand over to the parliamentary speaker,” said Hussein from Imbaba. “This used to be in our constitution.”
Another common demand was justice and compensation for the hundreds killed and thousands injured in the January 25th revolution and subsequent period of unrest.
However, closure remains elusive for the Egyptian public, who use the anniversary as a day of remembrance for those lost. Faces of the ‘martyrs’ were shown on a large television screen and on posters carried by relatives marching together on the streets. Posters of the former President and his reviled Interior Minister, Habib al-Adly, were also seen – with their heads in executioners’ nooses.
Despite such perceived shortcomings, there are still those who believe that now is the time to end the protests, and with patience, allow the new leaders to help move Egypt forward.
“The council will leave power in any case. Sure, the revolution is incomplete, but it doesn’t mean we should obstruct life,” accountant Mohamed Othman told Reuters.
Some, such as local teacher Alaa Mohammed, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the military council had overseen the “cleanest elections ever” and were truly safeguarding the goals of the revolution.
Regardless of divisions in political opinion and public demands, Egypt’s revolution proved to the world the power of collective collaboration and the undeniable potential a nation has to become the author of it own political history.
– Linda Sarvi