No longer a war zone, Egypt looks ahead

With unrest spreading throughout the Arab World, Egypt sits as an example of a reborn society on the other side of an uprising, inching its way down the road to democracy.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from Cairo, nearly four months after protesters drove Hosni Mubarak from office, that at the least, Tahrir Square is no longer a war zone.

In early February, the square was filled with protesters and lined with a few makeshift clinics, treating the wounded. At that time, Dr. Islam Abdel Rahman was sending battle bulletins to the world while helping the injured.

Four months later, he's back on shift as an anesthesiologist working in his home town north of Cairo, fully ware that toppling Egypt's corrupt government was just the first step.

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"It may be hard to drop a regime with all its content, but it's much harder to build a new one," Dr. Rahman said.

Despite the challenge, the work of rebuilding is under way. For proof, look no further than an open air veterinary clinic that would have been banned under the old regime.

What's the reason it would have been banned? It's run by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that used to be outlawed for alleged extremism.

Since Tahrir Square and the uprising, the group is operating openly. Dr. Rahman, while not an official member, is delighted at the change.

"They could never do this before," Dr. Rahman said.

Many Egyptians, like Dr. Rahman, dream of a tolerant Egypt, and some are spreading the word one town hall meeting at a time. There are hardliners in the brotherhood who'd like to impose strict Islamic rule in Egypt, but a recent poll shows the group's support among decided voters at only 15 percent.

Still, the doctor fears his political vision is too progressive for conservative Egypt.

"I fear that people won't understand what I'm talking about: Freedom of speech, freedom of practice," Dr. Rahman said.

They're the things he fought for in Tahrir Square, and that some of his friends died for, an idea that he says will always haunt him.

"Every moment of freedom, every moment of liberty, every dream we are creating now it has happened by the blood and spirit of these martyrs," Dr. Rahman said. "So God bless them."

It was a sacrifice that left a dictatorship in the past, with democracy lying some way ahead.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."