Egypt rallies mark anti-Mubarak uprising anniversary

 

Jon Leyne says the atmosphere is one of a street party

Thousands of Egyptians are holding a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square marking the first anniversary of the uprising which toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Some are celebrating the success of Islamist parties in the first post-Mubarak elections, while others are calling for further political reforms.

The decades-old state of emergency law has been partially lifted to mark the anniversary.

Mr Mubarak is on trial accused of ordering the killing of demonstrators.

He denies the charges.

Hundreds of people who had been sentenced to jail by military courts were due to be released on Wednesday as a concession to the protesters.

'Goals not met'

On Tuesday night, several thousand people had already gathered to camp out in Tahrir Square, the focus of last year's demonstrations - they were joined by thousands more in the morning, representing both the liberal and Islamist ends of the new political spectrum.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says the mood is peaceful so far, resembling more a huge street party than a political protest.

At the scene

One year on from Egypt's revolution I am standing in the same square with the same people in a different country. Thousands are filing into Tahrir Square to celebrate the end of a dictatorship which smothered this nation of 85 million people for decades.

But if a year ago the people were united in one cause the scene in the square today also reveals their divisions. Before there was only one stage, one microphone and one message. Now there are many.

And as in the new parliament the loudest voice, the biggest platform, the greatest support in the square today belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the moment Tahrir Square feels more like a victory party for them than a celebration for all the people. The Facebook generation are simply lost in the crowd. Political Islam has taken centre stage both in Tahrir and in the Arab world. It now believes it can now reshape the region in its image.

The various groups are all competing to claim ownership of the revolution, says our correspondent, from the youth movement which began the protests a year ago to the Muslim Brotherhood, which now dominates parliament, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), which took power last February after Mr Mubarak stepped down.

Protesters who stayed in the square overnight put up tents and chanted slogans against the military council, which many say should stand down immediately.

"We are not here to celebrate. We are here to bring down military rule," pharmacist Iman Fahmy told the Associated Press news agency.

"They have failed the revolution and met none of its goals."

Demonstrator Khaled Abdallah told the Reuters news agency: "The army and police murdered us and cut off the revolution's voice; but I am telling you now, the revolution's voice will not be silenced."

Other groups chanted "Down with military rule" and "Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt's streets".

Start Quote

This is not a celebration, but it is a big event to send our condolences to our brothers who passed away”

End Quote Walid Saad Tahrir Square

But some people in the square said the protests should end and the new leaders be given time to 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.

Teacher Alaa Mohammed, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the military council had overseen the "cleanest elections ever" and protected the revolution.

Others said they had turned out to remember the more than 850 people killed during the Tahrir Square protests.

"We should not forget that there was bloodshed here. This is not a celebration, but it is a big event to send our condolences to our brothers who passed away between the 25th of last January and now," said Walid Saad.

'Thuggery'

On Tuesday, Scaf chairman Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said the state of emergency, which has been in place in Egypt almost continuously since 1967, was to be lifted.

A baby wearing face paint in Tahrir Square, Cairo (25 Jan 2012)

But Field Marshall Tantawi said the law would still be applied in cases of "thuggery", without giving any details.

The military has used the term "thugs" to justify the crackdown on people demanding a return to civilian rule.

An end to the much-hated law had been a key demand of the protesters. During his nearly 30 years in power, Mr Mubarak had repeatedly promised to lift the decree and then failed to do so.

Last year, the generals widened the scope of the emergency law to include labour strikes, traffic disruption and spreading false information.

The military council has also announced that more than 1,900 prisoners have been pardoned by Field Marshall Tantawi - they reportedly include prominent blogger Michael Nabil, who was jailed for insulting the armed forces.

The newly elected parliament met for the first time on Monday since elections - which took place over several months - returned an Islamist majority.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) of the Muslim Brotherhood - banned under Mr Mubarak - holds the largest number of seats.

The session began with a moment of silence for those killed in the anti-Mubarak protests.

 

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Egypt in transition

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 86.

    Egyptian women, embattled for decades under autocratic rule, are among tens of thousands pouring into central Cairo’s Tahrir Square to celebrate one-year anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. By early afternoon, Tahrir Square was packed with Egyptian women of all ages and backgrounds.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 71.

    I am staying 10 minutes away from Tahrir Square prior to working here for a few days. The atmosphere is AMAZING - there are people of all ages. I was greeted in the square with warmth and happiness. The word "welcome" was spoken to me many times. I met a family whose son was expected a year ago and had been brought here today for the first time by the parents to welcome in the new Egypt.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 38.

    I was living in Egypt when this all kicked off last year. It was such a time of uncertainty and nobody,not even our own government knew what was going to be the outcome. Egyptian people are more defiant than the rest of the world could possibly comprehend. My heart goes out to their uncertain future and just hope that one day the country can hold itself up to be the proud nation it deserves to be

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 36.

    Continued street protests are not going to change anything in Egypt. Changes will come when the elected politicians start acting. Unfortunately I don't thing that freedom will be high on their agenda for change. Egypt probably does need to settle down now and concentrate on repairing the damage the revolution has done to their economy. If they don't there wont be a country to protest in.

 
 

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