Crowds of rejoicing Egyptians packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square today to celebrate the “Friday of Victory and Continuation” and mark the one-week anniversary of the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule over the country.
In sharp contrast to the violence that erupted Friday at pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, the atmosphere in Tahrir Square was “festive,” the crowd dotted with families and young children, some people waving flags, some draped in them, and others playing musical instruments.
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian cleric who had been banned from entering the country during the Mubarak regime, returned home on Thursday, and led Friday prayers in the Square. The last time Qaradawi delivered a prayer sermon in Egypt was in 1981 after the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat, according to the Al Arabiya news channel.
“O Egyptians, Coptic Christians and Muslims, this is your day, all of you. January 25 was your revolution,” he said.
Qaradawi lauded Egyptian youth and told the crowds “The revolution is not over yet. The revolution just began. We need to rebuild Egypt. Be aware of those who want to take it away from you.”
Qaradawi insisted that the money “stolen” by the Mubarak regime be returned to the Egyptian people and praised the “martyrs” who died in the upheaval and for the sake of the religion, CNN reported.
Organizers said they wanted the so-called “Victory March” in Tahrir Square to serve as a reminder to the military that Egyptians were watching the ongoing reform process. They said in a statement the rally was held to “both celebrate the revolution and call for a number of demands that are yet to be fulfilled.”
Some of those demands include “freeing political detainees, issuing a statement on lost protesters, ending the state of emergency, holding corrupt officials accountable and tracing their assets,” the statement said.
MSNBC reports Qadarawi said he was confident the Higher Military Council would not betray the nation. “I call on the Egyptian army to liberate us from the government that Mubarak formed,” Qaradawi said.
But, as the BBC points out:
The coalition of young activists and pro-democracy groups that led the 18 days of protests that led to Mr Mubarak’s downfall are worried that the army will go back on promises to implement political reforms.
“This is a serious message to the military,” Mohamed el-Said, who travelled from Port Said to be at the rally told the BBC.
“After today, it will be more than obvious to them that if they don’t protect the revolution and respond to the people’s demands, the next time people go down to Tahrir won’t be to celebrate victory, but they will bring their blankets with them like before.”
Life in Egypt remains disrupted, with tanks on Cairo streets, strikes and banks and schools closed.
The Higher Military Council has pledged to “put matters back on track” but has asked Egyptians to help them.
“The armed forces do not have future ambitions and want to hand power to the civilian parties when they are strong so that they don’t collapse,” spokesman Gen Ismail Etmaan said on state TV on Wednesday.
The Egyptian military has been in charge of the country since last Friday, when Mubarak resigned from the presidency. Top military leaders dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and vowed to remain in charge until elections can be held in about six months.
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Photo courtesy on M. Soli via flickr
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