Bianca JaggerFounder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
The Unfinished Revolution: We Must Stand Shoulder to Shoulder With the Egyptian Protesters
Today, January 25th 2012, marks an historic date for Egypt. On this day last year millions of people stood in the now iconic Tahrir Square, peacefully demanding 'Bread, Freedom and Dignity'. The number of protesters gathered in Tahrir, asking for their basic human rights, was unprecedented in Egypt's history. It was not only the size of the assembled crowd that made this day different, but its diversity. During the 18 days of uprising people from all walks of life, religions, ideologies and ages stood together as one in the square for a common purpose: to end thirty years of brutal dictatorship.
On the 11th of February 2011, Hosni Mubarak finally capitulated to the pressure from the millions of Egyptian protesters and stepped down as President of Egypt, handing over power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The atmosphere in Egypt in those days following was exhilarating, electrifying. The people had achieved a peaceful, leaderless revolution. Millions of jubilant Egyptians chanted together 'The army and the people are one hand'.
Unity of Tahrir has dissolved as 'new Egypt' proves elusive
A YEAR ago, tens of thousands of Egyptians responded to a call by internet activists to protest against police brutality by taking to the streets and squares of their country and launching an uprising that toppled 30-year Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Demonstrators, who numbered 50,000 in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square alone, were attacked by armed police and plain-clothes interior ministry “thugs” seeking to clear the square. But the protesters remained and fought off constant assaults for 18 days until the armed forces high command sided with the protesters and staged a coup against Mubarak.
The generals pledged to speed up the transition to multiparty democracy and hand over to a civilian authority within six months. This was not honoured.
Today the generals are set to commemorate the dramatic popular uprising that caught the imagination of people around the world. But activists who caused the uprising are calling for the ousting of the military council, which continues to wield power even though it has overseen the dissolution of the old people’s assembly and the election of a new parliament, which was inaugurated on Monday.
Unfortunately, the unity of purpose that powered the uprising quickly dissipated. More than 50 revolutionary movements, factions, alliances and parties are behind today’s demonstrations.
However, the majority of Egyptians, weary of constant protests, strikes and disruptions, simply seek a quiet life. They have repudiated activists seeking protracted revolution by voting for constitutional amendments proposed by the generals and have given Muslim fundamentalist parties, prepared to collude with the military, overwhelming control of the people’s assembly.
In the run-up to today’s protests, the revolutionaries were squabbling over arrangements and objectives.
Amnesty: Mideast protests, repression to continue
"They have shown that they will not be fooled by reforms that make little difference to the way they are treated by the police and security forces," said Philip Luther, the group's interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. "They want concrete changes to the way they are governed and for those responsible for past crimes to be held to account."
The 80-page report said that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where popular uprisings succeeded in toppling longtime dictators, still need to ensure that democratic gains are solidified so that past abuses are not repeated.
It called on Egypt's military rulers, who took control of the country after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February, to respect the right of protesters to express their views peacefully. It said Tunisia should ensure that its new constitution, to be drafted in 2012, protects human rights. And it called on Libya to make sure the militias who fought to end Muammar Gaddafi's regime don't continue its repressive practices.
"Muslims and Christians are one hand" : Tahrir Square celebrates New Year’s Eve
The iconic Square was lit up with candles and fireworks to end the year of the January 25 revolution; tens of thousands of Egyptians affirmed hope and unity, as well as resilience to face the struggles ahead
Sunday 1 Jan 2012
Thousands of Egyptians turned up in Tahrir Square to celebrate the arrival of 2012 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
People were handing out stickers calling for the release of detained blogger Maikel Nabil and were carrying posters of shaheed (martyrs) commemorating the dead.
Groups huddled together to keep warm.
On the stage the poet Abdel Rahman Youssef was speaking beautifully about the continued fight for freedom. Had this been a few weeks ago, we would have been facing bullets and tear gas. But last night, for the first time in months, it was a celebration.
“I wanted to be here, to see the New Year in the square. It’s important,” Magdy, 54, tells me as he stands next to his daughter who is beaming. “Next year will be good, I hope, but we are in the process of getting freedom, we have a long way to go.”
I bumped into Ramy Essam before he was due to go on stage. Dubbed the singer of the revolution, Ramy was detained and tortured by the Egyptian military back in March. The photos of Ramy’s whipped and beaten back became one the iconic images of the revolution.
“I’m not sure 2012 will be better than 2011, but we will do our best to make it better. We will keep fighting... Right now, everyone here is very happy.” Ramy sang “Irhal” (Leave) to ecstatic crowds, a song he penned in the 18 days and initially dedicated to Mubarak.