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Egyptians rally in Tahrir Square

Year after revolt, they want change

Demonstrators protested against the Egyptian military council at Tahrir square.
Demonstrators protested against the Egyptian military council at Tahrir square.(Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/REUTERS)

CAIRO - Several thousand Egyptians marched to Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday ahead of the one-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, demanding justice and retribution for those killed in clashes with security forces.

Activists have organized the demonstrations as part of a week of “mourning and anger’’ around the Jan. 25 anniversary to rally support for their call to end military rule. They say the generals who took power after Mubarak’s fall have continued policies just as authoritarian and abusive as those of the toppled regime.

The military has tried to counter what some protesters have dubbed “the second revolution’’ by using state-run media to accuse protesters of receiving foreign funding to destabilize Egypt and by calling for celebrations on the anniversary of the uprising to boost the military’s image as the nation’s true patriots.

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While many Egyptians support the army and believe it is the only entity able to run the country until presidential elections slated before the end of June, activists say that the ruling generals, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, are trying to derail the democratic process and want to hold on to power.

President Obama spoke on the telephone yesterday with Tantawi, who served as Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years, to emphasize Washington’s support for Egypt’s democratic transition. The call comes just weeks after Egyptian security forces stormed offices of non-governmental organizations, including three US-based groups funded by the State Department, and accused them of using prodemocracy funds to foment violent protests.

Obama stressed that such groups “should be able to operate freely,’’ the White House said.

Activists slammed the raids and pointed to Egypt’s own military, which receives nearly $1 billion a year in foreign assistance from the United States

Activists say they will use the occasion as a day to continue protests and push for an end to military rule.

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Yesterday, protesters in Cairo set out from different neighborhoods in the city of some 18 million people and descended on Tahrir Square, which served as the epicenter of the 18-days of protests that pushed Mubarak from power on Feb. 11.

Women also marched through central Cairo demanding Egypt’s ruling military step down in a continued show of outrage against soldiers who dragged women by the hair and stomped on them during a crackdown on activists last month.