By Mostafa Abou Elezz / AFP
CAIRO: One year after the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have taken to the streets again, carrying the same signs and shouting the same slogans, but this time targeting Mubarak’s ex-defense minister who now runs the country.
Tens of thousands of protesters returned to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square on Wednesday, demanding the ouster of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who heads the military council that took power when Mubarak resigned in February last year.
“Leave!” and “The people want the downfall of the regime” were signature chants of the Egyptian uprising that have made a come back on its one year anniversary.
“They think that the revolution is finished because Mubarak is on trial. It isn’t!” said Tayseer Fahmy, an actress and member of a small leftist party formed after the revolt, as she joined the protests.
Dozens of long marches snaked through the capital to converge on Tahrir Square, where on January 25, 2011, an unprecedented rally kicked off the uprising that changed the history of the Arab world’s most populous nation.
A year later, the podiums are back on the square, the megaphones are out, the banners are back up, and the protesters are just as fired up as they were a year ago.
Today, they are calling for an end to military rule and the ouster of Tantawi.
The army enjoyed hero status at the start of the uprising but has been the target of protesters’ increasing anger over rights abuses and violations.
Activists also accuse the army of seeking to maintain political control in the country despite promises that it will cede power to a civilian authority when an president is elected in June.
Political activist and blogger Gigi Ibrahim joined a mile-long march from Giza to Tahrir Square, where protesters carried an Egyptian flag several hundred meters long.
“We did not come to celebrate the revolution, but to achieve our goals which remain the same since day one: bread, freedom and social justice,” said Ibrahim.
“The country is today run by Mubarak’s generals, they are killing the revolutionaries and destroying the revolution,” she said.
But some showed up in Tahrir and in other parts of the country to celebrate the one year anniversary of the revolution, though they were far less vocal than the anti-military demonstrators.
The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which dominates the newly elected parliament, was in Tahrir to celebrate and said it would continue working for the goals of the uprising without trying to push for a “second revolution.”
A military band played in the corner of the square but was swiftly shuttled away after anti-military chants drowned out the music.
Street vendors were out in force again, making the rounds in Cairo’s central plaza, which has witnessed a roller coaster year of massive protests, huge celebrations and deadly clashes.