Thousands of Egyptians yesterday rallied to mark the first anniversary of the country’s uprising last year, with liberals and Islamists gathering on different sides of Cairo’s Tahrir Square in a reflection of the deep political divides that developed in the country in the year that followed the downfall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and their liberal and secular rivals differ over both the goals of the revolution and the strategy to achieve them, in particular the relationship with the country’s new military leaders.
Volunteers from the Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group that won just under half of parliament’s seats in recent elections, were checking IDs and conducting searches of the thousands flocking to join the protests.
Other Brotherhood followers formed a human chain around a large podium set up overnight by the group. The Brotherhood loyalists were chanting religious songs and shouting, Allahu Akbar, or “God is great.”
In contrast, liberals on the other side of the square were chanting, “Down, down with military rule,” and demanding that military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi be executed.
“Tantawi, come and kill more revolutionaries, we want your execution,” they chanted, alluding to the more than 80 protesters killed by army troops since October.
There were no army troops or police in Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising that began on Jan. 25 last year.
Military generals led by Tantawi took over from Mubarak when he stepped down on Feb. 11. The ousted president is now on trial for his life on charges of complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising.
However, the liberal and left-leaning groups behind Mubarak’s ouster say that beyond that, the generals have left the old regime largely in place — and that the Brotherhood has tacitly accepted this, concentrating its efforts on winning parliamentary seats rather than working for the realization of the uprising’s goals — social justice, democracy and freedom.
Meanwhile, Tantawi said in a televised address on Tuesday that the draconian emergency laws, in force for more than three decades, would be lifted effective yesterday, but would remain applicable to crimes committed by “thugs.’’