Middle East

Egypt's Tahrir Square protesters tell their stories

Protesters gather in Tahrir Square, Cairo (25 Jan 2012)
Image caption Cairo's Tahrir Square is once again the scene of a vast gathering, as Egyptians mark one year since the uprising which overthrew Hosni Mubarak.

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.

Here, protesters who are taking part in the anniversary protests tell us about their experiences in Tahrir Square, its significance to the Egyptian Revolution and how the protest movement has changed since 25 January 2011.


I'm walking up to join the protests in the square now. I've been involved since the very beginning and have been here whenever something big has happened since January 25. I was here on that day, when there was the camel charge and when Mubarak went.

The moment when we heard Mubarak was going was something incredible which I doubt I will ever experience again. It was a collective euphoria, a one of a kind feeling. It was incredible to see people feeling like that about something that wasn't a football match but something more fundamental to their lives.

Our mistake was to leave the square before our demands were met. We should have stayed until they were.

At the moment the consensus among the different groups is that Tahrir Square is a burnt car as a method of protest. It's difficult to secure, to hold the area, and it's difficult to stop infiltration from what some call "the third party".

Now the movement has evolved and it's a lot less static. A lot of the protests are moving shows, we are marching much more than sitting. Tahrir will always be symbolic, a watchful eye over the nation but the focus is shifting.

There is an argument that Tahrir doesn't represent all the Egyptian people, so now the marches that take the movement to where the people are have become just as important.

It's a way that we can go and talk with those people and hear what they feel. It's a natural evolution of the protests.

Gigi Ibrahim

Image caption People brought their children and the square was a sea of Egyptian flags.

The protests continue because the demands we had on January 25 last year still haven't been met. Every day since then there have been protests of some sort.

The fear barrier that people had has been dismantled, and now protest numbers are much higher than they were before the revolution. The mechanisms by which we protest are much more open than they were before the protest.

However, the crackdowns are, if anything, more brutal. Before we only had to deal with the riot police, now it is the military police who use live ammunition, and their courts.

The level of violence between the military and protesters is higher, even the tear gas they use is stronger. So while we have more space to protest in, the confrontations have become more deadly.

Tahrir has been symbolic from day one and acts as a focal pressure point. What comes out of it is what matters.

During the first 18 days that led to the fall of Mubarak, it was the strikes and industrial action across Egypt that helped to increase pressure on him to go, not just the sit-in. But whenever the square is full of protesters it gives others the will to continue their protests where ever they are.

The elections have not stopped the protests - as long as the people's demands aren't met, they will continue.

The demands are still the same: social equality, freedom and justice. Under these headings are the specific demands, for example a minimum wage and an end to people being tried in military courts.

The numbers here and the marches elsewhere are opposed to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) who are still holding people and trying them in military courts and not civilian ones.

Mubarak was the head of a pyramid and what we find is that while he has been toppled, the rest of the pyramid is still there. The protests were about getting rid of the old ways and they will continue until they are gone.

Find out more about Gigi's story in This World: Children of the Revolution at 7pm on BBC Two, Friday 3 February

Adham Hamada

Image caption "Parts of the previous regime have been removed and we now have the freedom to protest"

Last year on 25 January my friends and I met at the Moustafa Mahmood mosque in Cairo and then marched to Tahrir Square. This was the beginning of our revolution.

This year I went to join the protests and I started in the same place and followed exactly the same route.

There was a very patriotic spirit to the march. There were countless people - you couldn't see the end of them. I did manage to identify many people whom I had seen at protests before.

Although we have come a long way in the last year, many of our demands still have not been met.

Parts of the previous regime have been removed and we now have the freedom to protest, but there is still a long way to go. I think the protests will continue for a long time.

When I arrived in the square today, the Muslim Brotherhood had organised themselves and had a stage and flags. I don't feel they should have been there. They are now our representatives in parliament and should be thinking about our needs, not furthering their own agenda.

I don't have anything against religion, but I don't think it should be mixed with politics.

The atmosphere in the square, to my mind, was a little unpleasant. It didn't have that sense of unity that had been there during the march.

There was not any universal feeling about why people were there. Some were chanting, some protesting, some just walking around and observing. It felt that everyone was their for his or her own reasons.

Tahrir Square is symbolic of the revolution. This is where people go if they want to deliver a message. It is a very important place, but I feel that some people are abusing this symbol for their own ends.

However, I feel good, honestly speaking. I think what we are experiencing was always to be expected. There will be bumps in the road before we reach our destination.

At least what we now see is that the people care again. People used to be so apathetic, but now they are exercising their right to protest and make demands of those who are governing the country.

The revolution may have made us economically or socially worse off for the time-being, but what we have now is hope.

Interviews by Alex Murray and Susannah Stevens

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