CAIRO — In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a spokesperson for the Karama party urged a small crowd to complete the goals of the revolution: “bread, freedom, and human dignity.” But she was not referring to the 25 January 2011 uprising that had its epicenter in this square. Rather, she was referring to the 1952 revolution led by former president Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose ideals her party holds dear.
Monday marked the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s 1952 revolution, in which a group of army officers overthrew King Farouk and ostensibly established a democratic republic. Several political forces, including failed presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahy’s Karama party, gathered to celebrate the day that the Free Officers ended the 150-year monarchy.
But a parallel demonstration against the military, also held in Tahrir, revealed a split in how Egyptians view 1952’s legacy in light of the 25 January uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak 60 years later.
On nearby Mohammed Mahmoud Street, one demonstrator in his early 20s, Abdullah Ibrahim, said that neither 1952 nor 2011 were revolutions, “they were military coups,” he said.
In the days leading up to Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections last November, Ibrahim battled security forces on this same street in clashes that claimed 40 lives. His subsequent arrest and beating hardened him against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the group of military generals that ruled the country from the time Mubarak stepped down until the recently-elected President Mohammed Morsi took his oath of office on 30 June.
Egypt's Interim Constitution Declaration
Published by ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on June 17
Amends the council's Constitutional Declaration of March 2011
Requires next president to take oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court because parliament is dissolved
Gives Supreme Council of the Armed Forces authority over all affairs of the military
Makes council chairman, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, armed forces commander, defense minister
Gives military leaders power to appoint panel to draft new constitution
Postpones new parliamentary elections until new constitution is approved
Grants military leaders powers to initiate legislation until new parliament elected
Despite this formal transfer of power, Ibrahim wonders to what extent the army is still in charge. That question has been playing out in a series of legal battles over Morsi’s attempt to reinstate the Islamist-dominated parliament that was dissolved by Egypt’s highest court, and over the military-issued constitutional addendum that gives Egypt’s generals legislative authority until a new parliament can be elected.
Demonstrators on Mohamed Mahmoud Street chanted against military rule and celebrated the birthday of the famous pro-democracy activist and revolutionary symbol Mina Daniel, who was killed by security forces while demonstrating in front of Egypt’s state TV headquarters.
As for President Morsi, in his address to the nation on Monday, he called 25 January an extension of the 23 July revolution. "We must celebrate the July 1952 revolution with more determination than ever,” he said, “to exert greater effort to push Egypt onto the ranks of the developed world’s leading nations."
But according to Ibrahim, the only revolution that took place in 2011 was one of awareness among the Egyptian people. “Now we have an idea of what our rights are, and how to take them,” he said.
Such was evident on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where several civic organizations that have sprung up since the 25 January uprising called on demonstrators to join them in their various struggles. Causes ranged from releasing civilians being tried before military courts, to electing revolutionary-minded youth to city councils around the country, to educating Egyptians about their stake in the ongoing constitution-writing process.
Ibrahim left the protest charged from networking with fellow activists engaged in projects to deliver basic freedoms and services to Egyptians. “That’s what the revolution was about,” he said.