Divisions in Cairo as Egyptians mark uprising
Crowds of several hundred thousands teemed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising, with liberals and Islamists in a competition over the course of the revolution, reflecting the deep political divides since the downfall of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
Liberal and secular groups marched into the square calling for continued protests and street power against the ruling generals who took power after Mubarak’s ouster. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, in contrast, pressed a message that the revolution had succeeded, the time for protests is over and now Egyptians needed to rally behind the new parliament that they dominate.
The presence of official Egyptian security personnel was far more limited. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports that very few soldiers or police in uniform were visible in the iconic square. (Follow Clarissa Ward on Twitter for updates on the situation in Cairo)
Military generals led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi took over from Mubarak when he stepped down on Feb. 11, 2011. Revolutionaries accuse them of perpetuating Mubarak’s authoritarian system, saying that even though Egypt has held its freest election in decades, it is not changing the roots of the dictatorship.
A general view of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to mark the one year anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2012. (Credit: AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The Brotherhood, in contrast, have been the biggest beneficiaries of the military’s handling of the transition. Elections held over the past two months gave them just under half of parliament’s seats, making them the country’s predominant political bloc. More radical Islamists, the Salafis, won a quarter of the seats.
The Islamists made a forceful show Wednesday in Tahrir, which was the symbolic heart of the 18-day wave of protests against Mubarak that began Jan. 25, 2011. A large Brotherhood podium blared speeches through 10 loudspeakers to the crowds, with one speaker proclaiming that Egyptians must defend their countries against “enemies” who want to strike Islam.
Brotherhood loyalists were chanting religious songs and shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great. The group, whose cadres are known as the most disciplined in Egypt’s politics, largely claimed the job of policing security in the square, checking IDs and searching the bags of those flocking to join the rally.
In contrast, liberals on the other side of the square chanted, “Down, down with military rule,” and demanding that Tantawi, Mubarak’s defense minister for nearly 20 years, be executed for the deaths of protesters killed in crackdowns against their movement in recent months.
“Tantawi, come and kill more revolutionaries, we want your execution,” they chanted, alluding to the more than 80 protesters killed by army troops since October. Thousands of civilians, many of them protesters, have been hauled before military tribunals for trial since Mubarak’s ouster.