Meeting Egypt's Silent Majority

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Two women in Tahrir speak for their country

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Protesters in Cairo / Thanassis Cambanis

CAIRO, Egypt -- Lots of people here, usually supporters of the regime, like to claim the support of the "silent majority." A week ago in Tahrir Square I met two women who could probably fall in that category. Hoda Aboulmagd used to run a school, and is now retired. She brought her friend Iman to Tahrir, because in her words, "If people don't come out to protest today, when will they?"

Hoda isn't a regular at the square, but she's enraged at the moves by the military junta, and leaders of the former ruling party, to reassert control over political life. "Our revolution is not complete," she said. "We want a civilian government, democracy, justice, an independent judiciary."

Hoda's sign, on orange posterboard, bore a verse from the Koran: "They plot and plan and Allah too plans but the best of planners is Allah." Iman's, on a yellow background, carried another injunction to the generals ruling Egypt, this one borrowing a saying attributed to the prophet: "Tell you what council, a free man's promise is a debt on him."

A group of young women stopped to admire their signs, and Hoda offered a piece of yellow posterboard so they could make a sign of their own.

Even after sitting in the sun for hours, Hoda and Iman were incredulous that the military council was still toying with the popular demands for a full handover to democracy.

"We do not trust the field marshal," Hoda said, referring to Egypt's head of state, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.

"Their ways of fooling people are very stupid, as if the population is naive. Are we stupid?" Iman added. In this revolution we lost lives. So the population will never get tired from the revolution. We are tired from 30 years already."

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Thanassis Cambanis, a columnist at The Boston Globe and a regular contributor to The New York Times, is writing a book about Egypt's revolutionaries. He is a fellow at The Century Foundation, teaches at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and blogs at thanassiscambanis.com. He is also the author of A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel.

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