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Egypt's protesters ready for the next revolution

On the face of it, not much has changed since the protests against former President Hosni Mubarak's regime began a year ago. Now, activists want to start another revolution to topple the military council.

Protesters in Cairo holding signs for the military council to step down

Protesters call for the military council to step down

These days, not even freshly brewed peppermint tea can help anymore: Omar Sabry's voice simply hasn't recovered. He's hoarse from three weeks of leading the chants while roaming the streets of Heliopolis, a neighborhood in northeastern Cairo, together with other activists. Sabry shouts out his anger at the violence, and at the military council's lies.

Omar Sabry is in his mid-20s and works as a consultant. But his heart belongs to the revolution. He and his fellow activists want people to wake up. They show videos depicting the brutal treatment of protesters in public at the hands of the police and military. They gather to form human chains and to spray graffitis.

They want to achieve great things by getting the masses back onto the streets. On January 25, one year to the day that the rebellion against Hosni Mubarak's regime began, they plan to start another rebellion. "We have to bring our revolution to an end," says Omar.

Remnants of Mubarak's regime

Not much has changed since the revolution in Egypt started one year ago. Mubarak was ousted, but his old guard remains firmly in control, supported by the military council. Court cases against the former President Mubarak and his stalwarts have been delayed. So far, none of the police officers who shot protesters to death a year ago has been prosecuted.

Protesters in Cairo

Protesters march through the city to win over the public

Instead, the security apparatus continues to crackdown on protesters on the streets. Accordung to the protesters, at least 120 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded since July last year. NGOs critical of what has been happening have been closed down in order to prevent a public outcry about human rights violations.

Activists and bloggers, too, are being silenced. Some are beaten up on the streets by the regime's henchmen. Others are made short work of in trials before military tribunals. According to Human Rights Watch, over 12,000 civilians have been brought before military tribunals within this past year - many more than during Mubarak's 30-year reign.

Toppling the military council

The military council has turned a deaf ear to the cries for food, freedom and social equality - cries which have been resonating throughout Egypt for the past year. Now, the activists want to topple the council. They want presidential elections to be held in April instead of June, and they want all powers to be immediately transferred to the Parliament's president. They also want to prevent the military council from having any part in drafting the new constitution.

Over 50 political parties and movements have called for mass protests on January 25 - not just in Cairo, but all over the country. In order for these protests to be successful, Omar and the other activists have to win over the population. But many Egyptians are tired of revolutions - they simply want food, security and stability, and less chaos instead of even more. And so, Omar canvasses neigborhood by neighborhood, explaining the activists' cause using leaflets, photos, and videos.

Military Council's threats

The police does not like these videos. A kiosk supplying the activists with electricity for their video screening was shut down that same evening. During the marches leading protesters to central public places, glass bottles were thrown at the activists. One man got out of his car, shoving one of Omar's friends to the ground. The man argued the march was just blocking traffic and had been incited and paid for by foreigners. Omar says it's people like this man who the activists need to win over. "This is really getting serious," he adds. The situation in Cairo is tense.

Activist Omar Sabry

Omar Sabry shouts out his anger at the military council

Activists are also up against the military council's propaganda machine, and against that of the state media. The military council intends to celebrates the revolution's first anniversary on January 25 without any troublemakers - Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi already spoke of the great dangers which Egypt was facing and of people aiming to set the country afire. "They plan to break Egypt's backbone, the military," Tantawi said, adding: "We will not tolerate this." It is hardly a veiled threat against Omar and other protesters, meant to invoke fear and to keep protesters at bay.

Muslim brotherhood

According to the Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm, special security forces have been trained to take on protesters. They are supposed to have been given the go-ahead to use live ammunition. If true, conflicts between protesters and security forces are likely to escalate.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, wants to celebrate the anniversary away from any demonstrations. A year ago, many of them were still being persecuted or stuck in Mubarak's torture chambers. Today, they constitute the majority of Egyptian Parliament.

"We are at a decisive point in time," says Omar. He adds that on January 25, it will become clear whether protesters on the streets are powerful enough to exact some political decisions. He is prepared to give up everything for a democratic Egypt. "If they assault us," he says, "we'll take on the bullets with open arms."

Author: Viktoria Kleber/ ar
Editor: Rob Mudge

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