Today marked the one year anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution, or more accurately, the January 25th demonstration that kicked off the 18-days of protest leading to Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Over the last few weeks and months, the 25th was a frequent topic of conversation and inquiry. What would happen? Would there be violence? How would it all affect Egypt’s political processes, formal and informal?
Today’s massive protests – not only in Cairo but all around the country – sent a powerful message that despite a plethora of divisions, a critical mass of Egyptians is committed to making their voices heard and demanding more respect from the government. The millions of Egyptians that turned out this afternoon may not all agree on when the military should hand over power to a civilian government, what the constitution should include, or what the country should look like in ten years, but they all declared that they will be a part of that future, as uncertain as it is.
Arriving in Tahrir Square a little before 1 pm, under a surprisingly hot January sun, tens of thousands were already crammed into the public space, rivaling the numbers of this year’s largest crowds. Meanwhile, many of the most committed activists and notable political figures like Mohamed ElBaradei were at work rallying marches from civic institutions and mosques in Giza, Shubra, Abbassiya, Maadi, and elsewhere.
By and large, the feeling in and around Tahrir was not so dissimilar from the Friday protests of September and October, except much more crowded. By some of the entrances and exits, it was basically impossible to move freely. Even the makeshift Syrian tent next to the Arab League Headquarters was packed to the brim. Inside, Syrian and Egyptian activists led joint chants, emphasizing that Egyptians and Syrians stand together, for freedom and justice, and against Bashar al-Assad and his Ba’ath Party.
There was zero police or army presence during the protests, and volunteers (including a lot of members of the Muslim Brotherhood) cheerfully managed the influx of demonstrators with brief pat downs and bag checks.
Still, the day did not pass without violence. No shots were reported fired, and there were no clashes with riot police, but many young women have begun to report incidents of sexual harassment. As Lindsay Carroll, an editor at Al Masry Al Youm wrote a few minutes ago on Twitter, “It’s not a great square if so many women are treated this way in it, and it’s not democracy if women aren’t included.”
Photos: Tahrir Square, Cairo – January 25.