News / Africa

Tens of Thousands Jam Cairo's Main Square Demanding Reforms

Egyptians crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the focal point of the uprising,  to demand justice for victims of Hosni Mubarak's regime and press the new, military rulers for a clear plan of transition to democracy, July 8, 2011
Egyptians crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the focal point of the uprising, to demand justice for victims of Hosni Mubarak's regime and press the new, military rulers for a clear plan of transition to democracy, July 8, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Al Pessin

Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and several other towns to call for faster reforms and to protest this week's jail release of police officers and former government ministers.  These were among the largest demonstrations since the 18-day revolution in January and February.

Related video - Quicktake: Cairo Protests

One group of protesters chanted for retaliation against former regime members and police officers who attacked protesters in January and February.  But mostly it was a festive crowd, complete with a football-field-length Egyptian flag, tee shirt and hat salesmen and children with Egyptian flags painted on their faces.

“We are here today to continue our revolution,” said Ahmed Ali.  Ali is a young worker who restores ancient monuments and says he has been at many of the Tahrir Square protests.  "The killers are free now, out of jail.  They killed our children. They killed our brothers.  They killed our fathers. Show us justice!"

VOA's Susan Yackee speaks with Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, about how the Arab Spring is evolving:

Ali and others on the square say they came out to protest the acquittal and release of ministers from the former government who had been accused of corruption, and the decision to grant bail to police officers accused of killing protesters in the town of Suez in January.

Dr. Nagham Omar says people like herself who want real reform cannot simply expect the interim government to deliver it.

OMAR: “The revolution started two months ago or three months ago but it didn’t finish. We are the ones who did it so we must care for it until the end.  
PESSIN: "What do you hope will be the result of today’s event?"
OMAR: "Today?  Nothing will come out. But we must push.”

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa in Cairo, Egypt's Tahrir Square, July 8, 2011
Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa in Cairo, Egypt's Tahrir Square, July 8, 2011

Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who just stepped down as secretary general of the Arab League, made a brief visit to the square.

Moussa, who is expected to run for the Egyptian presidency, told VOA such protests are needed to ensure the revolution will succeed in the long run.

“I’m so proud to be among the people and to be received with enthusiasm by the people," Moussa said.  "And we want change, and we want to move on.  We want to have prosperity, stability, democracy and the voice of the people.”

At least one woman on the square had a particularly personal reason to be there.  Arzak Abdel Halim’s son Ahmed was killed during the January protests.  She came out Friday with her two young daughters, and spoke through the veil of her black abaya, decorated with an Egyptian-flag headband.  She says people started to change after the revolution, to be closer to God and perhaps to achieve freedom.

Another veiled woman, who identified herself only as Basma, said she was there for justice.  “We want to be like Switzerland.  We want to be like Europe," Basma said.  "We got tired of despotism.  We will not get Egypt on a silver platter, but after lots of hard work, we will achieve that.”

On a plastic chair at a make-shift tea shop in the middle of Tahrir Square, a long-time critic and three-time prisoner of the former regime, Professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, couldn’t suppress a smile as he looked around him. Ibrahim said protests like this one fulfill his lifelong dream of real “people power” in Egypt.

“It is needed to remind all concerned that the revolutionary spirit is still high, and people are still determined to see concrete measures of change,” Ibrahim noted.

Professor Ibrahim says Friday’s protest was particularly noteworthy because poor people came, and people from the countryside, who, he said, at first saw the revolution as an elitist movement.

Office worker Zakariya Ahmed came with his wife, and held his young daughter in his arms. He said he wants to teach her to be brave and to defend her country.

“How long should I stay in fear?  For how long?  We have been suppressed for 30 years.  And before that our parents were.  So how long should I stay in fear?” Ahmed asked.

Egypt’s transitional leaders appear to recognize the depth of feeling in the streets.   On Thursday, 25 former officials, several of them very senior, were charged with manslaughter and attempted murder for allowing an attack on protesters in February, during which officers rode horses and camels.  In addition, the Interior Minister promised to fire hundreds of police officers and senior commanders connected with attacks on protesters.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid