Muslim Brotherhood Tries To Distract From Second Anniversary Of Egyptian Revolt

On the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on Friday, liberal and secular opposition groups held protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The Muslim Brotherhood did not hold counter-demonstrations this time. Instead, its members did charitable work in poor districts of Cairo and other cities.

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From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Protests and violence mark the day in Egypt. It is the second anniversary of the revolt that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. And demonstrators are calling for a new revolution. They want to oust Mubarak's successor, President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Liberals, leftists and secularists filled Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Meanwhile, as NPR's Leila Fadel reports, the Brotherhood was doing what it does best, drumming up support for parliamentary elections by providing services to the poor.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Women pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables and drop them on a scale at this wholesale market run by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in a Cairo suburb. One woman excitedly rattles off the list of what she bought, all at half price. It will feed her family for five days. On this day, Brotherhood supporters stayed away from Tahrir Square, where demonstrators cursed the government, demanded a new constitution and the end of Brotherhood rule.

But at this market the patrons blame the protestors for Egypt's turmoil. Haitham Maleh, one of the Freedom and Justice Party organizers says this is how he chose to commemorate Egypt's revolution. It's part of a service campaign launched two days ago by the Islamist movement and it will go on for weeks.

HAITHAM MALEH: Everyone can do what he thinks is the best for this country. We think this is the best approach to serve people. Others want to express their opinions. They have the freedom and right to express those opinions.

FADEL: Meanwhile, across town streams of people flooded into Tahrir Square.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

FADEL: Their frustration was palpable. Almost two years after the revolution, Egypt's economy is close to imploding. The political transition has polarized the nation along secular and Islamist lines and the revolutionary ideals of economic equality and civil liberties seem distant. Emad Amis walked to the square with his wife and daughter. Today is also the anniversary of the day he lost his job as a cook on a cruise ship. He said he's gotten no help from the government since then.

EMAD ANIS: Where is the government? You think if you go to government, it will (unintelligible)? Think not.

FADEL: Anis, like others here, says the Brotherhood is run by power-hungry dictators that have silenced their critics as they seek to dominate every Egyptian institution. But even protestors on this day seem deflated, unsure that anything will change. Tony Sabry, a young activist I met multiple times in the square over the past year is angry. Nothing has changed in two years, he says. The time for peaceful revolution is over. Too many people have died and almost no one has been held accountable, he says.

Sabry points to a group of young men and women dressed in black, their faces covered in masks. They're new on the scene and call themselves the black bloc. One of them carries a stick with spikes at the end. Sabry calls them the armed resistance. Nearby protestors try to storm a Brotherhood office only to be sprayed with birdshot fired by local street vendors, according to eyewitnesses. One young man sits just outside Tahrir Square with pellets in his leg and face as a girl bandages his wounds.

Clashes also broke out in Alexandria, where protestors stormed the courthouse and Brotherhood offices were broken into across the country. One was set on fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

FADEL: Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo.

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