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Egypt's Unfinished Revolution: Revisiting Tahrir Square

A return to Cairo as Egypt begins the daunting work of building a new nation.

The Egyptian Current Party is a small faction that includes maverick youth leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Abbas. The parliamentary candidate the party plans to field is Islam Lotfi, whom we had also gotten to know in Tahrir Square.

He was the scribe of a document written on the back of a piece of cardboard torn from a box of plastic water bottles. It was titled "The Birth Certificate of a New Egypt." Lotfi is a lawyer who has had a new baby born since the revolution. He has not been able to practice law and has put everything on the line to try to build a new party. When we caught up with him he was training new supporters on the rudiments of political canvassing.
 

 

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Mohammed Abbas was at the party meeting, watching Lotfi and clearly supporting him. But Abbas struggled to clearly explain the mission of the party. Many in the protest movement believe that Abbas would make a good candidate, but he is 26 years old and candidates must be at least 30. It is an electoral law that is met with some cynicism in a country where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30 (who also account for an estimated 90 percent of the unemployed).
Abbas sees the Current party as representing his more moderate Islamist views and the vision for a new Egypt that came out of his work with the many different players of the Revolutionary Youth Council — even if that larger vision is losing momentum.  


"REAL HARD WORK AHEAD"

You could feel the fatigue in the protest movement on Friday, July 1, when several thousand came together for a rally in the square. The chants were half-hearted and the crowd was relatively small. At one point an April 6 movement leader pleaded with a group of young people, who looked bored, not to leave. They didn't look convinced.

We saw Abbas there, looking for his friend Sally Moore. And so were we. She is a Coptic Christian whom Abbas met through the work they did together on the Revolutionary Youth Council during the days when the square was filled with tents and optimism. She hails from an upper middle class Christian family, a contrast to Abbas's poor, traditional Muslim Brotherhood background.

They were unlikely friends, and I wondered if their relationship had lasted. As they reunited in the square, I joined them with my camera.
 

 

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They walked along with the crowd, going through the motions of another protest and chanting the same slogans. But it seemed as if the revolution, at least for Sally, had become a more interior story, a magical part of history in which she had proudly taken part but which now left her uncertain.

As we slowly walked from Tahrir Square to the Council of Ministers building, she explained, "I am a psychologist, so I guess I look at things psychologically. But I think I feel like a lot of Egyptians that we are going through dramatic change and we are unsettled by it and we are trying to cope in our own ways ... It is like the whole country is experiencing trauma.

"We were so elated by the fact that Mubarak had to step down, but we all get pretty quiet and even a bit down when you think about how long it is going to take to bring real change, and how much real hard work there is ahead," she said.

"How do we do that?" she asked, as protesters left the square in the fading light to get home before nightfall. "I think it is the question we are all asking ourselves."  

("Tahrir Revisited: Egypt's Unfinished Revolution" was produced in partnership by PBS FRONTLINE and GlobalPost.) 

This story was updated to clarify that the Beverly Hills PR firm that reportedly worked on behalf of the April 6 Movement offered its services pro bono, rather than being hired by Ahmed Maher.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/110817/egypts-unfinished-revolution