News / Africa

Egyptian Activists Continue to Press for Faster Reforms

Protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Jul 22, 2011
Protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Jul 22, 2011
Al Pessin

Hundreds of protesters rallied on Cairo’s Tahrir Square after mid-day prayers Friday to call for faster reforms. Activists hoped for larger crowds later in the day, after the worst of the blazing heat.  

Spirited but weary protesters

A spirited crowd chanted for an end to military rule, greater freedom and social justice, led by young men on a makeshift stage.

Activists had called for a large-scale demonstration on what they dubbed “Decisive Friday.”  But attendance in the early afternoon was down even from last Friday’s showing of several thousand.

One woman who came out with her family thinks she knows why.

Rasha Osama Abdel Alim says she wants to be part of what she called “the purification” of the country, but she says five months after huge crowds forced the resignation of then-President Hosni Mubarak, many people are just tired of protesting.

“People are fed up," she said. "Whoever comes here is fed up.  Whoever doesn’t show up is also fed up.  The situation is saddening.”

What they want

But in the center of the Square, where activists have set up a tent city and say they won’t leave until their demands are met, protester Joe Gabra says there is no such feeling among movement leaders like himself.

“They’re basically counting on that we’re going to get tired of sitting here in the sun and go home, and everything’s going to go back to normal," he said. "So, we’re here to tell them that no, we’re not tired.  We’re going to stay here until all our demands are met.”

Protesters say they were not impressed by Thursday’s cabinet shakeup, in which half the ministers were fired.  They say the civilian government has no real power, and they are concerned that the military council, which holds ultimate power, will never give it up, even after elections scheduled for later this year.

The protesters are demanding trials for Mubarak and other former officials. They want an end to military trials of civilians and to prosecution of police officers accused of killing or attacking demonstrators. They are also seeking higher wages and economic reforms.

Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s best-organized political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, did not endorse Friday’s protest plans, instead calling for a “Day of Stability,” and inviting people to a conference at a large Cairo mosque.

The Brotherhood is calling for large rallies next Friday throughout the country. The group wants early elections, which analysts say will likely give the long-banned group a significant share of political power.  

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