Tahrir at One: The Revolution Lives On
By: Ruqaya Izzidien
Published Thursday, January 26, 2012
On the morning of January 25, the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, the streets of Cairo were eerily and uncharacteristically deserted with the exception of the iconic Tahrir Square. In the square, people of all stripes: leftists, Islamists, liberal, young, and with families, were out to renew their allegiance to a revolution still in the making.
Cairo - Thousands of people marched Wednesday from almost every district of Cairo towards Tahrir Square, coaxing those watching from their balconies above to come down to join the demonstrations.
What began as small protests, originating from districts as far away as Imbaba, Shoubra and Helwan, ended in Tahrir with a typically festive spirit. Protesters continued their customary chants, such as “Revolution, revolution until victory, revolution in every Egyptian street,” “Whoever wants change, come with us to Tahrir” and “[Attacking the] women of Egypt is a red line.”
Asma Ali marched with her husband and 11-year-old daughter, Abeer, to Tahrir from the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the Mohandessin district.
“We came to Tahrir to continue the revolution and to demand our rights,” Ali said. “There are many demands that the military was supposed to meet within months, and definitely by now. They need to offer us more than this that we’re living in.”
Upon arriving in Tahrir Square, Ali, like anyone wishing to enter the area, had her identification checked and bags searched by volunteers in order to keep Tahrir free of thugs and weapons. Egyptians welcomed one another with greetings associated with Eid and birthday celebrations, as well as scatters of the newly-invented greeting, “Sawra sa’ida” – Happy Revolution.
Tens of demonstrations were organized outside mosques where they began their march to Tahrir. Most marches took several hours to arrive to the square, which had been packed since the previous night.
Mohammed Samir, 26, arrived in Cairo from his hometown of Port Said two days ago, determined to commemorate in the capital.
“I came because I can’t see that anything has changed over this last year,” Samir explained. “The military spent 30 years at Hosni Mubarak’s side. They play no cleaner than he did. They haven’t changed anything.”
Samir voted, but he doesn’t hold much faith in the democratic process, “This was supposed to be a revolution. In a revolution you go down and take the streets for yourself, you don’t wait for power to be handed to you on a plate. The military is never going to fully hand over power.”
Ali agrees that little has changed since the military took control, but hopes that they will hand over power. “They should hand over power as soon as possible. We now have the People’s Assembly poised to rule once they are given the chance and at the very least we need a president.” She believes that Egyptians should continue to put pressure on the military junta, “We’re not going to sit in our homes. For the last year, our protests have been peaceful and we hope they will continue that way but we’re not afraid of clashes. People have died and been injured, but we still demand our rights and we will continue to do so.”
She is adamant that January 25 be considered a protest, “This march is a protest, not a party. How could we celebrate when we are commemorating our martyrs?”
However, Egyptian photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy believes that protesting and celebrating need not be mutually exclusive. “No matter how little our victories, we can celebrate and use these gains as inspiration to achieve more. Some people have come simply to celebrate but I don’t think those protesting should fight with those celebrating – there has been a polarity in recent weeks, but I haven’t seen any of that so far today.”
The Muslim Brotherhood won close to a majority of seats in the recent rounds of election, but no group dominated Tahrir Square on the anniversary of the day the revolution started.
Mosa’ab explained: “They are always going to have a significant presence because they are a large and organized part of our society. Today the Muslim Brotherhood was present, but there were other revolutionary groups too, such as the youth activists and coalitions that are associated with the revolution – not just the liberal and secular, but all groups and classes. These were probably the largest marches since January 28 and the majority were not part of an Islamist party.”
The 21-year-old explained that the aim of the day was to protest, commemorate and to celebrate. “We came today to emphasize the demands that have not been met yet, and also to celebrate breaking the fear of establishing a new Egypt.”
“It is important to remember all that we have achieved, everything that we have been through and those who were killed and arrested by the new regime. At the same time we must remind ourselves how indebted we are to the martyrs, the injured and the imprisoned and to ensure that we don’t allow all of this to happen in vain. A couple of steps have been taken, but nothing worth sacrificing lives for, which is why I, along with everyone else took back to the streets today,” he added.
It was also an important and busy day for street vendors, particularly those selling snacks – such as sweet potatoes and corn on the cob. Some business-wise vendors even drove to the square on motorcycles piled high with boxes of the popular dish koshari balanced sky-high.
By evening, Tahrir was almost overflowing with people, many believing that their numbers exceeded one million. Families came out to enjoy the night and infants chanted from their parents’ shoulders with their faces painted in the tri-color flag. A special neon-lit obelisk was planted in Tahrir to commemorate the day. People came with blankets as well as banners, which overwhelmingly called for the end of military rule.
Samir believes that Tahrir epitomizes Egyptian determination.
“The spirit today shows you how people chase their dreams. We are still fighting for our dream.”