What will happen on Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the beginning of Egypt's 18-day uprising? It's a question on the minds of many here in Cairo and across the country as pro- and anti-government activists, political parties and even Egypt's military gear up for protests, celebrations and potential clashes on what was recently declared a national holiday.
Tensions remain high in Cairo following violent confrontations between protestors and police and army in November and December near the capital's iconic Tahrir Square, and in which over 50 protestors were killed. The arteries of the city's downtown, once bustling avenues of commerce and traffic, are now severed by stacks of cement blocks, angry snarls of barbed wire and lines of jumpy security forces. The walls were built as part of a government effort to separate demonstrators from the nearby ministry of interior and cabinet building, both sites of heavy street battles in recent months.
Protestors, mostly young, revolutionary activists, took to Tahrir Square to demonstrate against the ruling military's efforts to influence any new constitution. The protest morphed into a peaceful sit-in in front of the cabinet, which was military appointed and therefore seen by activists as illegitimate. Full power has yet to be transferred to a civilian authority.
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Many Tahrir-area residents are understanding but weary. Others are bitter. A nascent movement of extreme nationalists, who think the young Tahrir demonstrators are foreign-paid thugs, are planning a counter-rally - but which also ironically celebrates last year's revolution - at Abbaseya, a square just north of downtown.
Egypt's army generals, which have cracked down violently on protestors and tried many in military courts, are making their own preparations to celebrate the "revolution." One of the generals of the 20-member Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which assumed power during the uprising that toppled the president, said in a bit of an Orwellian moment that the military would be sponsoring three days of revolutionary celebrations in Tahrir.
The generals have also warned ahead of Jan. 25, 2012 that Egypt is facing unprecedented "grave dangers", but that its military will protect it.
So what, then, will take place on round-two of Egypt's revolution?
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Some have speculated that the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's biggest political force that just won elections and has cozied up to SCAF in recent weeks, will preemptively occupy Tahrir and other squares across Egypt to try to prevent clashes between protestors and security forces. (The Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, will open parliament on Jan. 23).
On a lighter note, local daily newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, says SCAF is formulating a plan to spray demonstrators with permanent colored paint that will mark them for up to six months. Activists on Twitter said they welcomed the move and would wear the colors proudly.
Others have placed hope in mass demonstrations forcing SCAF to handover power to a civilian president before its Jun. 30, 2012 deadline.
But Amr Al-Kahky, decades-long Egyptian journalist and former Al Jazeera English bureau chief in Cairo, who covered anti-Mubarak demonstrations for seven years, perhaps sums it up best:
"What’s going to happen on the 25th?" Al-Kahky said. "Nobody can tell."