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Faces of Egypt's revolution

Last Updated: January 25, 2012


The face of Egypt's Arab Spring has been a youthful one. The protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square have been dominated by a young and vocal generation of Egyptians demanding an end to the repressive regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. For the most part, the events of the last year took place in the capital city of Cairo - but the social changes that followed in the wake of Mubarak's ouster have affected all Egyptians. The following is a series of portraits of Egyptians from all walks of life, each affected in different ways in the year of the Arab Spring.

Gamal al-Banna

Gamal al-Banna is an Islamic scholar and brother to the late Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rejected by conservatives for his liberal interpretation of faith, Gamal, now in his 90s is like many Egyptians: worried about an Islamist-run parliament. He says the Brotherhood doesn't have the expertise to manage the crumbling economy, grinding poverty, illiteracy and lack of freedom facing Egypt. But al-Banna is hopeful the seeds of the Arab Spring uprising and fall of Mubarak will germinate. "We are waiting for wind, rain, tornadoes ... but eventually it will calm down."

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Nader Bakker

Nader Bakker speaks for the conservative Salafi party al Nour, now the second largest in Parliament. Popular amongst Egypt's lower class, al Nour bills itself as representative of 'the true face of Egypt.' Bakker is a young, well-educated business owner who says his party has plans to improve the country's international image. When asked about enforcing Sharia law - specifically tenets requiring women to wear head scarves and forbidding revealing bathing suits - he says his party would leave the choice to the individual.

Samira Ibrahim

Samira Ibrahim, 25, was participating in protests in Tahrir Square last year when she and a group of other women were violently arrested by police. Dragged by her hair and cuffed to a fence, Ibrahim was separated, imprisoned, stripped naked and beaten repeatedly. Brought before what was described to her as a military court, she was then subjected to a so-called virginity test, performed by a high-ranking male officer in front of a gallery of hundreds of onlookers. Now, Ibrahim is attempting to take the military to court.

Father Samaan Ibrahim

Father Samann Ibrahim presides over Cairo's poorest Christian community, the Zabbaleen. The Zabbaleen are collectively known as the 'garbage collectors.'

Twenty thousand live, work and pray amongst a sea of trash on the outskirts of Cairo. For the past 70 years, the Zabbaleen have served as the de facto recyclers and street cleaners for Egypt's most populous city, gathering, sorting and selling an astounding 80 per cent of the city's trash. Father Ibrahim, like many Egyptians, is waiting to see what a new constitution will hold, especially for the minority Christian community who have been historically prevented from building churches under Egyptian laws dating back to the Ottoman Empire.

"We are awaiting the new Constitution that we might expect something good for us in it. Especially the article concerning building the churches in Egypt. We're waiting to see what's going to happen."

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Tarek Tohamy

Tarek Tohamy speaks on behalf of Egypt's New Wafd party, a liberal minority affiliation that recently won seats in Egypt's new parliament. While stopping short of identifying New Wafd as secular, Tohamy says the party appeals to Egyptians who hold liberal or more secular political views. The representation of the party takes on even greater significance in a parliament dominated by Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party and the hard line Salifists, al Nour - collectively accounting for about 70 per cent of the elected body. Not normally a factor in Egyptian politics, New Wafd's newfound legitimacy in parliament will only be strengthened should al-Nour and the Brotherhood fail to form a bloc, meaning Tohamy and his compatriots may be in a position to push for new religious and social freedoms in the new constitution.

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Alaa el Bahalwn

Alaa el Bahalwn, 58, owns a small weaving business but has also been a strike and protest leader in Mahalla. He was one of the organizers of the 2008 protests that some say were the genesis of Egypt's current political transformation. Bahalwn ran as a candidate this last election, but didn't win.

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El Said Etewey

El Said Etewey has paid a very high price for his participation in the Egyptian uprising, something he believes has prevented him from finding work in Egypt's largest city. He also has a son who was arrested for striking under the Mubarak regime. His son faces a pending court date and el Said Etewey fears he may too spend time in jail for alleged crimes against the regime.

Faisal Lakoucha

Faisal Lakoucha, 43, was one of the strike leaders from 2006 to 2008. He was forcibly relocated to Cairo as punishment for his role in the labour unrest and says what happened in Malhalla was the precursor to what happened in Tahrir Square. Lakoucha says the revolution must continue until the military is gone.

Mazhar Shahin

Known as the Tahrir preacher, Sheikh MazharShahin is imam of the Omar Makram mosque, located on the edge of Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Shahin has been an outspoken opponent of the military council's post-revolution rule, often using his Friday prayer - heard across Tahrir Square via loudspeaker - to encourage Egyptians to continue to push for reform post-Mubarak. In the days leading up to the Jan. 25 anniversary of the ouster of the former president, Shaheen criticized state television for ignoring coverage of the death of protesters and focused, instead, on the burning of the Scientific Institute, which was torched during clashes in front of the Cabinet building in December.

Talaat Mussalam

A former general in the Mubarak regime, Talaat Mussalam says it's time for the military and chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Hussein Tantawi, to step aside in favour of civilian rule. Mussalam says the military's role as 'guardian of the nation' should not extend into the political sphere. Mussalam, like many Egyptians, is keenly awaiting the drafting of a new constitution.

Dr. Nawal el-Saadawi

Dr. Nawel el-Saadawi is an outspoken feminist writer, activist and medical doctor. In 1981, under the rule of President Anwar Sadat, she was imprisoned for her writings in an Egyptian feminist magazine that she helped publish. Saadawi always maintained her vocal opposition to practices of female genital mutilation that she says are common in Islamic society. She has participated in numerous rallies in Tahrir Square, most recently speaking out against reports of virginity tests conducted on female protesters.

Farag Abdul Hanima

Farag Abdul Hanima is a third-generation horse and camel tour operator in Giza, a suburb of Cairo most notable for its proximity to the great pyramids. "My life is at the pyramids and my job is at the pyramids. My family eats because of the pyramids," says Hanima. But, the decline in tourism since the political unrest began has forced Hanima to sell all but six of the horses in his stable, which once held 35 animals. He refers to 2011 as a "black year" for business.

Mohamed Eid Yousef

Mohamed Eid Yousef, 60, has held dozens of jobs over the course of his professional career. In his most recent incarnation, Mohamed works as a 'fixer' - an invaluable asset to foreign journalists - who is able to navigate the challenges of the language barrier and the chaotic (by Western standards) roads of Cairo. Working abroad, especially in a city and culture as rich as Cairo's, would be nearly impossible without the guidance and street sense of fixers like Mohamed.

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Rally in Tahrir Square

Egypt's parliament