Two years since uprising, Egypt braces for more protests

Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:36am EST
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By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt marks the second anniversary of the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power with little to celebrate. Deeply divided and facing an economic crisis, the nation is bracing for more protests, but this time against a freely elected leader.

President Mohamed Mursi's opponents plan to march to Tahrir Square on Friday to vent anger at the new Islamist leader and his Muslim Brotherhood backers, whom they accuse of betraying the goals of the January 25 revolution that galvanized Egyptians in a display of national unity that has not been seen since.

"We don't see it as a celebration. This will be a new revolutionary wave that will show the Brotherhood that they are not alone - that there are other forces that can stand against them," said Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 - a group that helped ignite the uprising by using social media to organize.

The Brotherhood has said it will not send its supporters to Tahrir Square on Friday - a decision that at least limits the scope for more of the unrest that has compounded Egypt's economic troubles.

Instead, with its eye on forthcoming parliamentary polls, the electorally savvy Brotherhood is marking the anniversary with a campaign to help the poor. With allies, it promises to send volunteers to renovate 2,000 schools, plant trees, deliver medical aid and open "charity markets" selling affordable food.

"The importance of the anniversary is to lift the spirits of the Egyptian people: more hope and more work," said Ahmed Aref, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman who was in Tahrir Square for the entire 18-day uprising against Mubarak.

Inspired by Tunisia's uprising against President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt's revolution helped set off more revolts in Libya and Syria. It brought political freedom that allowed the dramatic rise to power of the Brotherhood, an Islamist group that was outlawed under decades of army-backed autocracy.

Two years on, Egypt is struggling with a deep economic crisis caused by political turbulence which has continued unabated since the election of a new president.   Continued...

A protester gestures in front of a courthouse during a demonstration in Alexandria January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem