Conflict & Justice

Egypt's reformers still unhappy

By Matthew Bell

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Egypt's military rulers announced today — on their Facebook page, naturally — that the Egyptian prime minister had resigned. Anti-government demonstrators can chalk this up as yet another victory. But protest leaders say the Egyptian revolution is not over.

Young people at the Egyptian Democratic Institute lingered in a no-frills office space in downtown Cairo. They had just finished a workshop on how to start up new political parties. No one here looked to be over the age of 30. Everyone here, according to political activist Karrem Jidda, was happy about today's news.

"It was a wise decision for Shafiq to resign," said political activist Kareem Jidda. "If he hadn't resigned, tomorrow's demonstrations after Friday prayers would have been angry and possibly even messy."

Protest leaders today said they decided to scale back on some of their plans for Friday's demonstrations. Big numbers of demonstrators are expected to show up again. But there won't be any marches through downtown. Nor an attempt to take and hold Tahrir Square overnight, as demonstrators have done before. The plan is for tomorrow to be a day of celebration, rather than confrontation.

On a drive through the clogged streets of Cairo, 27 year-old Hayat Guergues said she's been out protesting every day since the revolution began on January 25th. Stopping now, she said, would be unthinkable.

"You cannot tell a woman in labor, 'Enough. You're making too much noise. You need to go home.' We deserve our country back. It's our country and we are getting it back," Guergues said.

Guergues and other demonstrators say most of their demands have not been met by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. They want genuine democracy. They want Mubarak to be prosecuted. They want every one of his old associates thrown out of government and brought to justice.

The Egytian military is moving too slowly, Guergues contends, and that's only playing into the hands of the former regime. "They're giving them the time to [destroy] documents, to transfer their money," she said.

"The Army has been used by the regime to scare us, because they thought if the army goes into the street people will get scared because of the martial laws and we'll have go home. But what they don't get is we're not scared anymore." Guergues said anti-government activists continue to be detained, attacked and threatened. "But we're serious and the soldiers in the square know it," she added.

Egypt's new tourism minister, however, has a different take on the state of the revolution. Munir Abdel-Noor said what is needed now is patience.

"If you look at any revolution, be it the French revolution back in 1798, the Soviet revolution in 1917, or be it even the Egyptian revolution back in 1952, I mean the cut is never sudden. There's always a transition period. You cannot change completely, immediately, it is impossible."

Mahmoud Adelhatta is a 23 year-old political activist who works on the campaign for reformist politician, Mohamed El-Baradei. Adelhatta said he was out in the streets protesting right up until the day Mubarak resigned and he hasn't been back since.

"People should think about how the protests and labor strikes are harming Egypt's economy," he said.

Physician Raouf Roshdy says it is not just about the economy. Roshdy said he is thrilled that Mubarak is gone, but he added that Egyptians should have realistic expectations about their country's political future.

"It's not enough to remove the head of the system," he said. "As a doctor, I see the nation like human body. If you just remove the tumor, you still have metastasis everywhere. It reach the bone, it reach the surround organs, it reach the lungs. So, it will take time."

Abou Elela Mady knows about time and patience. He is the chairman of the Al-Wasat Party, which finally got government permission to operate last month after 15 years of waiting. He thinks the military's choice for the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, is a good one.

"He is independent and he is fair, and he is a technocrat, not a politician," Elala Mady said. "We need a technocrat to make this transition period, we need neutral man, not one who came from regime Mubarak, like Ahmed Shafiq."

By sacking Shafiq as prime minister, the Egyptian military appears to be trying to show some goodwill toward anti-government demonstrators.

Sharaf, the new prime minister, has been critical of Mubarak in the past. He has even joined recent demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

  • Hayat-Guergues400.jpg

    Hayat Guergues is a 27 year-old activist from Cairo. She says demonstrators need to keep the pressure on the military to dissolve the cabinet and sweep away all of the remnants of the old Mubarak regime.

  • roshdy200.jpg

    Raouf Roshdy is a physician and fertility expert in Cairo. He says Egyptians are rightly proud of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak, but they need to be patient about the pace of change.

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