On the eve of the revolution's anniversary, she tries to recover the energy of that moment with residents in lower-class neighbourhoods, families of the martyrs, and both politicised and regular citizens who are speaking their minds.
Leaving from al-Matariya Square on unfinished business
In the working-class neighbourhood of al-Matariya located in east Cairo, the main square has witnessed constant confrontations between protesters, politicians and Ultras football fans. Nidal Mohamed, a member of the Socialist Revolutionaries Organisation is among those who hit the streets a year ago today. He is determined to head out to the anniversary from the same square to Tahrir Square, since he believes nothing has changed. Prices have gone up, and freedom has been curtailed; notorious laws banning striking and protesting have been propagated; civilians continue to be tried before military courts; and the current regime has dragged its feet trials of the major figures of the former regime and engaged in collaboration. In short, the rallying cry of "Bread, Freedom, Social Justice!" is still ringing in people's ears, but has not been realised on the ground.
Martyrs fathers to march in the front, seeking justice
Mohamed called up his comrades and the families of the martyrs to hit the streets in a protest that is expected to be massive. He is in the same position as Mohamed al-Saeti, whom we met in front of Martyr Mohsen al-Saeti Street in al-Matariya. The martyr's father says that he will protest to demand that the people who killed his son be brought to justice. Wiping away his tears, he says the image of his son haunts him day and night, calling upon him to seek justice so he can rest in peace. The father adds that nothing has changed, since the police are punishing and chasing down the martyrs' families, and they're enraged as if though they want to punish Egyptians for reducing their living standards.
Making up for mistake of leaving Tahrir Square
In front of al-Manshaa School in Shubra al-Kheima, Ahmed al-Benhawi, member of the Revolution Youth Coalition in Qalyubia, writes graffiti saying, "Down with military rule." He says, "We committed a fatal mistake when we left Tahrir Square after Mubarak stepped down. The political elites robbed the revolution and sullied it with cost-benefit calculations in their dealings with the Military Council; then they inflicted on the revolution all the political ills Egyptian has inherited in Mubarak's 30 years [of rule]."
Al-Benhawi expects popular large-scale participation in Qalyubia. He sensed this two days ago when they organised a large march in which thousands participated. Starting out from al-Saea Square, they marched through the streets of Banha town, chanting against the Military Council and the remnants of the Mubarak regime.
Turn around: from square to petrol queue
In front of al-Saada petrol station in Shubra al-Kheima, rickshaw (tok-tok) driver Atef Bishay waits in line to fill up. He is refusing to join anniversary protests even though he participated and was injured in the revolution. Yet to find a respectable job, he has lost hope of drawing any benefit from the revolution. Meanwhile, some revolutionary youth who were at his side have translated their positions into personal benefits. Some have become representatives in parliament and others are appearing on satellite TV day and night. Meanwhile, most that made major sacrifices have been left poor, or standing like him in queues waiting for gas, petrol or bread.
Parliament divided about the Square
Bishay does not deny that some citizens are terrified of what may happen on the anniversary, and – in a scene reminiscent of the security vacuum a year ago – are staying at home or joining neighbourhood patrols. Meanwhile, former MP and political science professor at Suez Canal University Gamal Zahran says Egyptians have dozens of reasons to hit the streets on the anniversary. This is what motivates him personally to join marches calling for an end to military rule. In Zahran's view, anniversary protests will reorient the revolution toward its true goals. On the other hand, Muslim Brotherhood MP Nasser al-Hafy said he does not approve of the revolution anniversary as an occasion for "trouble-making by political forces bent on destruction." He only approves the idea of a celebration, and called on his constituents to go out and confront any elements that are trying to disrupt this joy.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist.