A Look At Egypt, One Year After Its Revolution

Robert Siegel talks with Sherif Mansour about the events that have unfolded in the year since the Egyptian revolution began. Mansour is an Egyptian democracy activist, who is also a senior program officer for Freedom House's Middle East and North Africa programs.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

One year ago, Egyptians took to the streets to protest. The month before, protests had broken out in Tunisia. And that example inspired and emboldened Egyptians like Adel al-Sharif, a father of three, who told our reporter in Cairo, he was demonstrating for the first time for political and economic freedom.

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ADEL AL-SHARIF: This is the exact thing that moves everybody. The status quo is too much, too much not doing anything. We're not progressing. My children are growing. I don't know how to tell them that we've been living like this for ages. So we need this changed.

SIEGEL: Now, one year later, Egypt's long time leader, Hosni Mubarak, stands accused of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters. The generals who assumed what was ostensibly transitional authority are still in charge and the Muslim Brotherhood, which played a minor role in instigating the protests, has emerged as the major winner of parliamentary elections.

Last year around this time, I was being filled in on the Egyptian protest movement by Sherif Mansour, an Egyptian who works at the Washington-based pro-democracy group Freedom House. And Sherif Mansour, welcome back.

SHERIF MANSOUR: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: Good to see you.

MANSOUR: Good to be here.

SIEGEL: The gentleman we heard a moment ago wanted economic and political freedom for him and for his children. Do Egyptians have that today?

MANSOUR: We, this year, at Freedom House, continue to rank Egypt as not free, mainly because public freedoms, political rights have not seen the real progress that we could promote Egypt and make it at least partially free.

SIEGEL: Today, a field marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, announced a partial lifting of the state of emergency, which was invoked to excuse the repressive policies of several past Egyptian presidents. Which is more noteworthy to you, the lifting of the state of emergency or the fact that it's only a partial lifting of the state of emergency?

MANSOUR: Well, the partial part and I think, because this has been the performance of Mubarak, every time Mubarak promises that they will only use it in nonpolitical cases, the implementations always contradict. So it has been used by Mubarak to justify torture, to create and sustain restrictions on political speech and political organization.

And what we're seeing today from Tantawi is some of that. He, at least, is only limiting the use of emergency law to one caveat, which is...

SIEGEL: Thuggery.

MANSOUR: ...thuggery, which is a very broad word which - there is a law in Egypt that tackles this issue, which is organized violence. And so there is not really need for it to continue to be a caveat on the emergency (unintelligible).

SIEGEL: I wanted to ask you about something that I experienced in Tunisia in the spring, which is that, when a country has an election, a country that has no real history of free elections and has no real history of constant political polling and demonstrations, people in the country really don't know their own country. They don't know how many people in it are likely to support the military or the mosque because there's no history of free expression.

Is Egypt getting to know itself these days?

MANSOUR: Absolutely. The country is rediscovering itself and it's not about who is in charge. It's about the attitudes, the practice of the habits. The biggest lesson is that they have managed to get Mubarak out of the system. He's currently in jail, but there is a Mubarak in every single institution in Egypt and it's a long fight to make sure that the country gets out of this habit of listening to whoever in power, of doing autocracy as a day-to-day behavior.

SIEGEL: Sherif Mansour of Freedom House, thank you very much for talking with us.

MANSOUR: You're most welcome.

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SIEGEL: And, tomorrow in Egypt, protests are planned to demand that the military speed up the timetable for electing a president and promptly turn power over to a civilian government. Sherif Mansour tells us that he expects millions of people in the streets.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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