A Year After Mubarak Fell, What Has Egypt Achieved?

Saturday marks the first anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Last February, millions of jubilant Egyptians poured out onto the streets across the Arab country. That mood has given way to widespread frustration. Host Scott Simon talks to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson about the state in Egypt.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now let's move to Egypt where one year ago today mounting protests forced Hosni Mubarak to step down as president. Last February, millions of jubilant Egyptians poured out onto the streets across the country, but that mood has given way to widespread frustration. Many Egyptians object to the continued hold on power by Mubarak's military allies, a rapidly weakening economy and the failure to bring the former president to justice. This week we spoke with people around Cairo about their impressions one year on.

UNKNOWN WOMAN #1: Actually, in the beginning I was so optimistic about the revolution, but I started to be like pessimistic. And I'm so sad about what's happening.

UNKNOWN MAN #1: Nothing changed at all. It's the same - same corruption, same oppression.

UNKNOWN WOMAN #2: I think we - we got our freedom back. We have a voice now. I think it's so much better. It's a very different feeling than before. There's still violence everywhere. They're still killing people everywhere. There's nothing in progress. No democrat. There's no democrat.

UNKNOWN WOMAN #3): (Through Translator) The times that we are living is very critical, filled with a lot of blood and sacrifice. But this is the price that we pay for the freedom of our country.

UNKNOWN MAN #2: There hasn't been the progress that we have been waiting for. It will take some time.

SIMON: Voices from over in Cairo this week. To find out how Egyptians are marking this anniversary, we're joined by NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Soraya, good morning.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And how are Egyptians marking the occasion today?

NELSON: Well, there are a few very small protests. We see them here at Tahrir Square. There's also a sit-in with a huge sign that thanks the generals sarcastically for mismanaging the country, the ruling generals here. But the big thing today was supposed to be a strike, a nationwide strike. It's starting at universities. The worker syndicates or unions say they will take part, but the thing is, this is a normal weekend here, so government offices are closed and public transit, which would be a really key thing to paralyzing this country is still moving.

So it's unclear, you know, where this general strike is going, although this was supposed to be the kickoff today.

SIMON: What's the status of Hosni Mubarak.

NELSON: Well, he's in a hospital outside Cairo being treated for a heart condition while he's undergoing the trial. But this week it was interesting. I mean, public discontent at the moment is so high that part of the way they've decided to deal with it is to announce that they were moving him to a prison hospital wing here at Tora prison, which is where many of the Egyptians who were allied with him in government and are now standing trial, are being held.

SIMON: And how are ruling generals and the Egyptian government marking today's anniversary?

NELSON: Well, they're very opposed to this national strike. Certainly, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament has spoken out against it. They're saying that this is going to cause chaos, further wreck the economy, and so are the military rulers. They are saying that they claim that the nation faces conspiracy, that seeks to topple the state and spread chaos. And so they are also against this. And it's important to note that state television has been showing images of public transit moving, things operating to try and discount this nationwide strike that started today.

It's also important to note that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and General Martin Dempsey, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are meeting today in Cairo. And they will be talking about aid - which is $1.3 billion in military aid - I'm sure will be part of the topic which is in danger right now because of a Egyptian government crackdown on NGO workers. Among them, 16 or 19 Americans, depending on who's counting. But there's been this investigation and these people have been referred to trial. They're being banned from leaving the country. And the son of the U.S. Transportation Secretary is one of those holed up at the U.S. Embassy for shelter.

SIMON: Whatever differences there might be between the U.S. and Egypt, when Gen. Dempsey and Field Marshal Tantawi's meet today, there's a lot that ties those two militaries together, isn't there?

NELSON: Certainly. I mean this has been a 30-year-long relationship. Egypt has relationship with Israel and like most Arab countries in the region, it's very important. And the American military and Egyptian military have been very close. The American military has provided a lot of training, and in addition to billions of dollars of aid over the years. So this is a very unusual time, I think and a very uncomfortable time for both militaries, frankly, because obviously general to general, they're looking at it more from a military perspective, yet they're in the middle of this very, very tense period in U.S.-Egyptian relations.

SIMON: Soraya, thanks so much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Scott.

SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

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