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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

MORNING EDITION's Steve Inskeep is reporting from Cairo on what comes after the revolution there. The generals who now control Egypt promise to bring democracy, though that means more than just elections.

STEVE INSKEEP: In recent days, we've reported on building blocks of democracy here, like the protection of minorities, the drive for a more independent press or the right to privacy from government spies. We're also finding out how the state treats those who dissent. Some of the protestors who thought they won when Hosni Mubarak left have found out they haven't won yet. And this is the story of what happened after Mubarak to a young man known as the singer of the revolution.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RAMY ESAM (Musician): (Singing in foreign language)

INSKEEP: We're listening to a song about Mubarak called "Leave." A little-known young guitarist put protest chants to music. Thousands sang along as he played the song onstage in Tahrir Square. It became a hit on YouTube, and the protest singer became a celebrity.

Mr. ESAM: My name is Ramy Esam, and I'm 23 years old.

INSKEEP: Ramy Esam is an architecture student at Mansoura University on the Mediterranean coast.

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: Ever since I was young, I liked to draw, he says. But his heart's not really in architecture. He loves music: Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Nirvana. After the revolution made him famous, he went into a recording studio.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ESAM: (Singing in foreign language)

INSKEEP: This song sarcastically declares: bend your head. Bend your head. You're living in a democracy. It suggests that Egypt's democracy is not real yet. Six days ago, Ramy Esam played a concert in Cairo. Later, he dropped by Tahrir Square, which protesters were still occupying.

(Soundbite of traffic, horns, chatter)

INSKEEP: And so, by chance, he was present when the army swept into the square without warning and ripped down protester's tents, as captured on a YouTube video.

(Soundbite of traffic, horns, chatter)

INSKEEP: The army arrested more than 100 people, including the singer Ramy Esam. He says men in army uniforms dragged him to the Egyptian National Museum, which had become a security headquarters. By the time the army released him, he could barely walk.

When we met Ramy Esam, he was lying face down on the same twin bed he slept in as a child. His shirt was off, and the blanket was pulled down half way. He didn't want anything touching the red gashes and welts all over his back.

What are the injuries on your back?

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: He says that men in army uniforms took him to a courtyard, stripped him to his shorts, beat him and more.

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man (Interpreter): In addition to this, a soldier and an officer who jumped up in the air and gonged down on his head with his leg.

INSKEEP: So you say they used a whip, they used a stick.

Mr. ESAM: Yes.

Unidentified Man: Yes.

INSKEEP: They used metal rods.

Unidentified Man: Yes.

INSKEEP: They stomped on your head.

Unidentified Man: And electricity.

Mr. ESAM: Yes.

INSKEEP: And electricity.

Mr. ESAM: Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: I'm sorry to ask this question: Where did they apply the electricity?

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man: All over his body.

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: He says he couldn't see exactly, since his face was on the ground, but he could feel it. In one way, Ramy Esam may be lucky. He was, at least, released. Many civilians arrested in recent weeks have been taken before military courts as the government seeks to maintain control of the streets.

Last night, the army had yet to make a formal statement on Ramy Esam's case. Yet even with the marks on his back, the singer of the revolution refuses to condemn the army as a whole.

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: He says we still believe there are honest people who will investigate what happened.

Mr. ESAM: (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: As Ramy Esam speaks, the family apartment is filled with friends. They're smoking cigarettes and waiting to help, if needed. The young man's mother is in the kitchen, cooking a huge pot of macaroni. People smile when Ramy and his brother Shady recall how their mother feared for them when they joined the revolution.

What did your mother say when you went out and started protesting?

Mr. SHADY ESAM: In the very beginning, she was very, very afraid. And she went, I will come after you. But after that, we have said again and again, we are okay, mother. You have borne men, not just young people, and we can do it. She believe in us, and she believe that Ramy is a big hero, and yeah.

INSKEEP: When you got hurt, did your mother say I told you so?

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Yes, they say. Even in pain, Ramy Esam smiles. And if that seems strange, just consider that one of Ramy Esam's songs is called "Laugh Revolution."

(Soundbite of song, "Laugh Revolution")

Mr. ESAM: (Singing in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: You can hear more of Ramy Esam's protest songs at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Laugh Revolution")

Mr. ESAM: (Singing in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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