Thousands gather in Cairo on anniversary of Egyptian revolution

January 25, 2012

Cairo (CNN) — Thousands of Egyptians packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday, exactly one year after the start of the revolution that ousted longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, but many say, accomplished little else.

At times the mood in the square was somber and tense, not celebratory, amid fears that violence could break out between protesters and the military.

Many held banners and chanted against the country’s military leaders.

But some said Egypt has progressed since Mubarak’s ouster.

“This time last year, every person in Egypt was enslaved to Mubarak’s regime, and those who dared speak or write about his tyranny paid a high price,” said Yasmeen Khalil, a teacher “Yes, the revolution may not be complete, but I think we have come a long way, and no one can deny it.”

Egypt’s revolution last year came on the heels of Tunisia’s revolt that led to the ouster of that country’s leader in January 2011. Since then, protests against longtime rulers swept across North Africa and the Middle East, including uprisings in Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Signs of progress toward a more democratic system in Egypt after the revolution that began in Tahrir Square are mixed with the feeling that the real changes protesters had hoped for have not been realized.

Egypt’s democratically elected parliament met Monday for the first time since Mubarak was ousted after decades of authoritarian rule. But the country’s influential military, which stepped into the vacuum as Mubarak teetered last year, retains much of the decision-making power.

Pro-democracy activists, frustrated by what they say is the slow pace of change, have clashed with the military in Cairo’s streets in recent months.

“It is ironic that the most times I’ve ever been beaten, the most times I’ve ever felt the threat of danger, was after Mubarak stepped down,” Nour Nour, an activist who was 20 at the time of Mubarak’s fall, said in a recent interview. “And all of these are very basic indications that the regime that is ruling us at the moment is merely a continuation of the Mubarak regime.”

In the recent parliamentary elections, established Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood performed much more strongly than the liberal parties that represented some of the protesters. And a new constitution has yet to be drawn up.

Some Egyptians have said the hopes forged by protesters in the heady days of January and February last year were always likely to be disappointed.

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