'Martyrs' remembered as crowds gather in Tahrir Square once more


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The Independent Online

A year ago to the day, Noha Tarek was standing in the same neighbourhood, outside the same mosque, under the same stagnant regime serving the same old President Mubarak.

Precisely 365 days later, she was back. The president has changed, but her sense of despair had not.

"I don't feel like it's a celebration," the political science student said as she waited outside Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in western Cairo, the starting point for one of numerous rallies heading towards Tahrir Square.

"Hosni Mubarak was the face of the regime. Right now we're challenging not just the face. We're challenging the whole system." Her views are shared by many others who feel that the ruling Military Council – which took power 16 days after the first waves of protest on 25 January last year – is intent in retrenching the networks of influence which it has been cultivating since the 1950s.

When Egypt's ruling generals first announced plans for this week's "celebration" – a jingoistic mix of pomp and pageantry replete with military fly pasts and navy boats on the Nile – there were whispers among some activists that the revolution had been hijacked.

But if the generals did intend to "co-opt" the first anniversary of the start of Egypt's revolution, they only needed to look at the sheer weight of numbers yesterday as a reminder of what can happen when the Arab streets begin to boil.

In the capital, thousands of flag-waving marchers stretched back along the main dual carriageways for as far as the eye could see.

Cries of "Freedom! Freedom!" echoed through the tree-lined boulevards, as demonstrators called on onlookers to come and join them from the towering apartment blocks. In a stark reminder of the economic imbalances which brought many onto the streets last year, the route wound its way past a Peugeot showroom and a glitzy branch of the BNP Paribas bank. Some activists wore masks of Egypt's martyrs, including Khaled Said, the young man whose death at the hands of police in 2010 made him an emblem of state violence.

"When I see the martyrs, I want to continue the revolution," said 15-year-old Saif el-Islam, who wore a mask of Mina Daniel, a Christian who was killed during a deadly outbreak of violence involving the army in October.