Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Egypt Marks 60th Anniversary of 1952 Revolution

By Stephanie Figgins

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a spokesperson for the Karama party urged a small crowd to complete the goals of the revolution: “bread, freedom, and human dignity.”

But she was not referring to the 25 January 2011 uprising that had its epicenter in this square. Rather, she was referring to the 1952 revolution led by former president Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose ideals her party holds dear.

Monday marked the 60th anniversary of Egypt’s 1952 revolution, in which a group of army officers overthrew King Farouk and ostensibly established a democratic republic. Several political forces, including failed presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahy’s Karama party, gathered to celebrate the day that the Free Officers ended the 150-year monarchy.

But a parallel demonstration against the military, also held in Tahrir, revealed a split in how Egyptians view 1952’s legacy in light of the 25 January uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak 60 years later.

On nearby Mohammed Mahmoud Street, one demonstrator in his early 20s, Abdullah Ibrahim, said that neither 1952 nor 2011 were revolutions, “they were military coups,” he said.

In the days leading up to Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections last November, Ibrahim battled security forces on this same street in clashes that claimed 40 lives. His subsequent arrest and beating hardened him against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the group of military generals that ruled the country from the time Mubarak stepped down until the recently-elected President Mohammed Morsi took his oath of office on 30 June.

Demonstrators on Mohamed Mahmoud Street chanted against military rule and celebrated the birthday of the famous pro-democracy activist and revolutionary symbol Mina Daniel, who was killed by security forces while demonstrating in front of Egypt’s state TV headquarters.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, in his address to the nation on Monday, called 25 January an extension of the 23 July revolution.

"We must celebrate the July 1952 revolution with more determination than ever,” he said, “to exert greater effort to push Egypt onto the ranks of the developed world’s leading nations."

But according to Ibrahim, the only revolution that took place in 2011 was one of awareness among the Egyptian people.

“Now we have an idea of what our rights are, and how to take them,” he said.

Such was evident on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where several civic organizations that have sprung up since the 25 January uprising called on demonstrators to join them in their various struggles. Causes ranged from releasing civilians being tried before military courts, to electing revolutionary-minded youth to city councils around the country, to educating Egyptians about their stake in the ongoing constitution-writing process.

Ibrahim left the protest charged from networking with fellow activists engaged in projects to deliver basic freedoms and services to Egyptians.

“That’s what the revolution was about,” he said.

Related: Nasser, Palestine and Israel