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Protesters Say Egypt’s Revolution Far From Finished

  • Al Pessin

Egyptians chant slogans against the government and military rulers after Friday prayers, 230 kilometers north of Cairo, in Alexandria, Egypt, July 15, 2011

Egyptians chant slogans against the government and military rulers after Friday prayers, 230 kilometers north of Cairo, in Alexandria, Egypt, July 15, 2011

Millions of Egyptian protesters throughout the country succeeded in ousting President Hosni Mubarak in February. As dramatic as that change was, however, for many Egyptians it was only the beginning. They say the reforms have not gone far enough.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have returned to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other rally points in recent weeks, demanding reform of the police force, the prosecution of top former officials, and faster trials of those responsible for the deaths of protesters who helped oust long-time president Hosni Mubarek in February.

And the interim government has responded. The interior ministry announced that more than 600 senior police officers would be fired.

But many of those who come out to Tahrir Square said there has not been enough change quickly enough.

"I am here today because I have not felt any change," said one woman. "The military council has corrupted political life in Egypt."

“We need to finish what we are doing since beginning 25th of January, you know. And when we came on the 25th of January, we need to change all of the things," said a man on the street.

“It’s just a change of the faces," said another man who was interviewed. "I mean there’s no real change that could satisfy me and my people.”

At the English-language newspaper Daily News Egypt, chief editor Rania Al Malky said the renewed protests point to a fundamental crisis of confidence.

“The minister of the interior had made statements meeting these demands, but people stopped listening because they feel that everything is being done too little, too late,” said Al Malky.

That is all too evident on Tahrir Square, where the main complaint is that police officers accused of killing protesters.

“We didn’t achieve anything yet," said this young man. "Many people, like 300, die for nothing. There is no one [who] killed them.”

To the outside world, it looks like weekly protests every Friday. But for these people, it’s an everyday thing. They’ve promised to stay here, as a sit-in, to live in these tents, until they get justice for the people who were killed during the revolution.

For long-time Mubarak opponent, Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian revolution was a lifelong dream. He said his limp is the result of daily torture when he spent three years in a Mubarak prison. Ibrahim said the renewed protests are a good thing.

“Egyptians now broke the fear barrier and if things do not unfold to their liking, they will take up to the square, not just Tahrir Square, but all the public squares in all major cities of Egypt,” said Ibrahim.

Indeed, protesters have already done that, including this demonstration in the city of Alexandria.

But one veteran Egyptian journalist worries that after decades of repression, many people here are too quick to return to the streets because they don’t know how to pursue their goals through a political process. Journalist Hisham Kassem spoke in the building he is renovating for his new media venture.

“You have a mindset which is what I call the prolonged opposition trauma," said Kassem. "And even people like myself can suffer from that because it’s not natural to be in the opposition for 20 years. Now, in some cases, there are political activists who failed to make the switch. They need something to oppose. To them, that’s politics. They’ve never practiced politics properly.”

Proper or not, this is the way thousands of Egyptians are continuing to practice politics, in an effort to ensure that the dramatic change they achieved in January results in the real reforms they want.