Revolutionary Spirit Returns To Egypt's Tahrir Square Earlier this year, the square in Cairo was at the center of the political whirlwind that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Now, protesters unhappy with the slow pace of change in Egypt have returned to Tahrir to press their case.
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Revolutionary Spirit Returns To Egypt's Tahrir Square

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Revolutionary Spirit Returns To Egypt's Tahrir Square

Revolutionary Spirit Returns To Egypt's Tahrir Square

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Cairo's Tahrir Square became famous to the wider world back in January when it was the center of the political movement that toppled President Hosni Mubarak from power. The Square became synonymous with revolution in Egypt. Protesters returned to Tahrir Square three weeks ago and they've been camping there ever since. They say they're unhappy with the pace of change and they're hoping to revive the spirit that swept across Egypt six months ago. NPRs Mike Shuster reports from Cairo.

(Soundbite of drumming and singing)

MIKE SHUSTER: Tahrir Square has become a political festival - singing and dancing, and face painting, and arguing. Its a sit-in, a camp-in, a tent city a place of artistic expression, and political freedom unlike anything Egypt has seen in decades. It was created primarily by the young, and protesters like 26-year-old Ramy Muhammad Abdullah dont want to give it up.

Mr. RAMY MUHAMMAD ABDULLAH: Every day I finish my work and I come here in Tahrir Square. Im trying to do my best to achieve our goals. Because our revolution, until now, didnt achieve anything from our goals.

SHUSTER: Thats become the mantra of Cairos protest movement the military council that is Egypts caretaker government has moved too slow, they say. The revolution has stalled. You can see that message on flags and posters and banners all over the square, sometimes expressed with anger, other times with wit and humor. Take the fight over the word thug. When the protesters march, the military calls them thugs. The protesters counter that the military employs thugs to squash the revolution. Semantics clash on banners flapping in the wind.

Ms. SARRAH ABDEL RAHMAN: This one it says the headquarters of the thugs party. Its also sarcastic, because the protesters are usually referred to as thugs.

(Soundbite of chanting)

SHUSTER: It is not a quiet place, Tahrir Square. The air is filled with the sound of speeches and chanting - it breaks out all the time.

Whats the slogan?

Ms. RAHMAN: (Foreign language spoken) The people want to bring down the system.

(Soundbite of chanting)

SHUSTER: The demands can be general, like that one. And they can be quite specific. For Sarrah Abdel Rahman, who is 23 and a prolific tweeter and blogger, the issue tonight is the use of military trials to prosecute demonstrators accused of crimes.

Ms. RAHMAN: We have a constitution and we have a law, and that law is there for a reason. And these laws are made for civilians. Military trials are completely unfair and inhumane. They dont give you a lawyer. Its just like very fast. And they give you like five years. And sometimes they actually - its actually corrupt. I believe that the military is corrupt.

SHUSTER: But not all in Egypt find the political festival in Tahrir Square as endearing or inspiring.

Mr. HISHAM KASSEM (Civil Rights Advocate): Its become pointless, OK?

SHUSTER: Hisham Kassem is a long-time civil rights advocate, but he has lost patience with the Tahrir Square generation. He cites their demand that the military speed up Mubaraks trial. The former president is charged with responsibility for causing the deaths of more than 800 demonstrators.

Mr. KASSEM: Most of the demands are ridiculous and unacceptable. To expedite Mubaraks trial is unacceptable to me. I have fought for the rule of law, and this is the country I hope that we will build together. Now, summary trials is something I refuse completely, and Mubarak must face justice, not revenge.

(Soundbite of singing in foreign language)

SHUSTER: Back in the square, protesters like Sarrah Abdel Rahman, reject these criticisms, insisting that holding the square is the only way to insure the revolution advances.

Ms. RAHMAN: There is no other way that we know that can make a difference. I mean, whatever happens, the Supreme Council does what they think is good for them, not for the country and they dont take into consideration anyones opinion.

SHUSTER: Activist Ahmed Maher, sweating profusely under a broiling sun, expresses the same sentiment.

Mr. AHMED MAHER (Activist) (Through Translator) We are here because we fear the revolution is going backwards. As long as there are still rebels here, we will not lose the revolution.

SHUSTER: Tahrir Square, Liberation Square, once again, the center of Egypts revolution.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Cairo.

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