Egyptians pack Tahrir, reveling in victory – and bringing new demands

At a huge rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday Egyptians said they aren't going to ease up 'until all our demands are met.'

Khalil Hamr/AP
Demonstrators celebrate in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Feb. 18. Many thousands of flag-waving Egyptians packed into Tahrir Square for a day of prayer and celebration Friday to mark the fall Hosni Mubarak a week ago and to maintain pressure on the new military rulers to steer the country toward democratic reforms.

Egyptian flags waved high under the afternoon sun as thousands gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a day of prayer and protest. The sea of men, women, and children spreading across downtown Cairo was reminiscent of 18 days of demonstrations that resulted in Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

But Friday’s display of unity was somewhat different; Egyptians gathered to celebrate Mr. Mubarak’s resignation and voice a list of demands to several government authorities, rather than just one.

"One of our demands was met, which was to have Mubarak step down,” says Hoda Youssry. "But we are going to be in the square until all our demands are done."

Ms. Youssry sat with a group of Egyptians who have protested in the square for weeks. Now they are writing a list of new demands, 35 in total, that they are calling the second part of their nation’s revolution.

“Egyptian people are like the genie who came out of the lamp and who have been in prison for 30 years,” says Youssry. “We are not going back in until all our demands are met.”

Other groups of protesters moved around the square, some made up of more than 100 people. “We all now know that Mubarak and his gang are going to try to control the country from back doors,” says Ahmad Radwan, who held a sign with a list of seven demands on one side and rainbow-colored bubble letters on the other. “We are here to voice our demands directly to the military.”

One side of his sign asked a series of questions: “Why is the government of Ahmad Shafiq still there? Why are political prisoners still in prison?” The other side read: “I miss Tahrir Square.”

Mr. Radwan says he’s learned a lot over the past several weeks and that Tahrir Square has showed him the “true Egyptian spirit.” But like others, he fears that what people have been fighting for won't change if they don’t hold their ground.

Among the thousands of people voicing their demands, there was no single person in charge. Some, however, argued that there is real leadership. "Of course we have leadership,” Youssry says. “The ones who died – those are our leaders."

Some came out Friday to ask for an investigation into the December 2010 bombing of an Alexandria church that killed 23 people and that the emergency law is lifted. One man said he came to the square because today he wants to breathe freedom.

People prayed for those who lost their lives during protests, while some marched holding corners of large flags that flowed above the crowd. In contrast to the previous 18 days of demonstrations, there was a sense of celebration as many blew whistles and horns.

"People are both happy and worried at the same time,” says Abdel Rahman Mohammad. “They are happy because the head of the snake is out but the rest of the snake is still hidden.”

Many in Tahrir called for a new interim government, as some like Mohammad worry that with a Mubarak-appointed cabinet presently in power, no real change can be made.

"The feeling now is that they are only going to take cosmetic steps, and not real steps to deal with the fat cats," he says about former ministers and members of parliament who have recently been accused of crimes and corruption. “So long as Mubarak’s friends are in place, how are these men going to be tried?”

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