CAIRO -- Alaa Abdullah stood in a sea of people on Wednesday in Tahrir Square, the symbolic center of Egypt’s revolt that began a year ago today.
In the weeks that followed, longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, the military took control of the state and more than 1,000 people were killed. Today, Mubarak stands trial in a prosecution cage. A freely elected parliament was seated this week.
“It’s been an eventful and painful year. Every drop of blood that fell to the ground took a piece of me,” said Abdullah, a 21-year-old medical student, her face framed by the billows of a blue scarf. “Today is a day of both sadness and happiness.”
Behind her, graffiti covered the walls.
“Down with military rule.”
“Freedom is not free.”
Abdullah was here during the 18-day revolt, when the country was united behind one seemingly impossible goal: toppling Mubarak. Today, the nation is divided behind different objectives--workers right, stability, the ouster of Egypt’s military rulers.
“We need to get back to those 18 days when Egyptians were one hand,” she said. “I wish for the morals and the unity of those days.”
The square bears the scars of the last 12 months: The burned out scientific complex, where ancient manuscripts were destroyed during clashes with the military in December; walls built from concrete to cut the square off from the Ministry of Interior and the Cabinet building where bloody clashes between protesters and security forces happened in November and December.
Graffiti depicting women and men wearing eye patches covers the walls on the side road that leads to the Ministry of Interior, symbolizing the dozens of protesters who lost their sight from birdshot. Nearby is the place where Abdullah worked in a makeshift field hospital, treating the wounds of unarmed protesters who had clashed with Egypt’s security forces.
The violence did not end with Mubarak’s resignation. More than 100 people have been killed since the military took control of the state. The most brutal images came in December, when women were dragged through the street by their hair, and videos showed soldiers beating people unconscious.
“I never imagined that anyone would be killed after Mubarak was gone,” Abdullah said.
But there are the accomplishments too. Wider freedom of speech, the power of the Egyptian voice and a newly elected parliament that, Abdullah hopes, will force the people’s will upon Egypt’s military rulers.
“There is the air of freedom,” she said. “Now we need to finish the goals of the revolution for social justice.
“The Square still has power.”
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