Revolution: Egyptians return to Tahrir Square

Eight months after ousting President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians continue to face torture and repression from the country's military

Eight months after ousting President Hosni Mubarak, whose regime repressed and tortured citizens for decades, Egyptians are now facing the same treatment from the country's military. Bob Simon reports from Egypt, where he meets the troubadour of the revolution, Ramy Essan, a musician who continues to sing protest songs, despite the brutal torture he has endured. "I just want Egypt to be better," he says.

Editor's Note: Egypt's military ruler today ordered a halt to military trials of civilians. But Human Rights Watch called today's announcement by Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi "insulting" because it doesn't completely spare civilians military justice. They say there is a long list of crimes that are still punishable by military courts and that the decree makes no mention whether the 12,000 civilians already tried by military tribunals will be acquitted or retried by civilian courts.


The following script is from "Revolution" which aired on Oct. 9, 2011.

When the people of Egypt rose up in January and threw out the dictator who had ruled them for 30 years, it was called a Facebook Revolution. We went back to Cairo last month to see what was going on eight months after this revolution; how many of the people's dreams were being fulfilled. What we found was that even though Mubarak was on trial - something Egyptians thought they'd never see - the military, now in control, had reinstated the dreaded emergency laws. It was arresting activists by the thousands, outlawing strikes, clamping down on journalists and that's not all. We found that people opposing the current regime were being tortured, just as they'd been under Mubarak.

Eight months ago this might have been the happiest place in the world, a traffic circle named Tahrir Square, where people overthrew a dictator in 18 days. Well, the people are back again but the happiness is gone. That's because many feel that the revolution has been taken away from them - that the army which supported them during those heady days is now saying, 'Go ahead, demonstrate if you want to, but we are in control as we always were.'

For three decades, Mubarak's generals kept him in power. But when protesters took over Tahrir Square, the soldiers stood by and let it happen. To give you a sense of what role the military played back then and since, we'll tell you the story of one man, a student named Ramy Essam. He came to the square with his guitar, started strumming, like a young Bob Dylan. Before long, he was on stage, singing a song he'd made up on the spot, "Down Down Hosni Mubarak." That had never been sung before.

Ramy became the troubadour of the revolution. But after a week, the Mubarak regime decided to close down the show. It sent in thugs on horses and camels to empty the square. They beat up Ramy but he kept on fighting and was still there the next morning.

[Ramy Essam in square: Yesterday they hit us with rocks and they shoot with guns, they hit a lot of us... I had a rock in my head... here... but I am okay and not sad and we will stay here until Hosni Mubarak will go away.]

And Ramy did stay. He got back on stage, a bandaged singer serenading a bandaged audience. The protests grew, women, children and crucially, millions of workers. Eight days later, Mubarak was gone.

Bob Simon: You must have felt happier than you'd ever felt in your life.

Ramy Essam: Yes. It was a very-- it's-- it's the happiest moment for me, ever.

It was the happiest moment for everyone. Egyptians were shocked at what they'd accomplished. The soldiers were treated like liberators. The generals, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as they're called, were applauded as well. They appointed a transitional government and promised free elections in six months. Meanwhile, they kept the power.

Simon: Who are these guys?

Hossam El-Hamalawy: These are the generals who made it to the top of the army, simply because they enjoyed Mubarak's confidence.

Blogger and labor activist Hossam El-Hamalawy who has been fighting the Mubarak regime for years is convinced the generals were against them from the start.

El-Hamalawy: Don't you think that the-- that the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces wouldn't have loved to nuke us in Tahrir during the revolution?

Simon: Do you think so?

El-Hamalawy: Oh, yeah. I mean, if it was up to them, it-- they could have gotten away with it, they would have nuked us. But why didn't they do that? Because they knew that the soldiers and the conscripts and the young officers they sent to us in Tahrir, they wouldn't have opened fire. Because they are just as oppressed as us.

Produced by Michael Gavshon and Drew Magratten.

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments