How much has Egypt really changed?

Egyptians celebrate the resignation of President Mubarak in February 2011 The euphoria that followed President Mubarak's resignation faded quite quickly

As Egyptians prepare to vote in their first parliamentary election since last February's revolution that ousted President Mubarak, have they really seen the changes they were fighting for?

Autumn darkness has enveloped Cairo. I am waiting outside high, fortified gates as my papers are being scrutinised by an armed guard.

A sullen nod ushers me into a crowded compound. Uniformed soldiers are huddled near their armoured vehicles.

This is Egypt's Ministry of Information. It is my first visit to Cairo's house of propaganda in almost 20 years. It strikes me that very little has changed.

The last time I was here I was in trouble.

I had made a television documentary which infuriated the then Information Minister Safwat Sharif.

"You're undermining this country," Mr Sharif had raged at me back then. "Overstep the mark again and you will no longer be welcome in Egypt."

Safwat Sharif now has his own, more pressing problems.

President Mubarak in court Hosni Mubarak is charged with conspiring in killing of protesters and abusing power to amass wealth

He is currently in jail facing trial on a host of corruption and conspiracy charges alongside his political master of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak.

But do not be fooled by the striking images of Egypt's former rulers languishing behind bars in their prison pyjamas.

Last winter's revolution claimed some prized scalps but it did not tear down the old regime.

For the past nine months, Egypt has been ruled by a military council, a junta, headed by the man who loyally served Mubarak as military chief and defence minister for 20 years.

Last February, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi promised Egyptians the army was on their side.

His words then were reassuring, his actions since have been anything but.

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"The real revolution hasn't happened yet," declares Tarek Shalaby, a veteran of the Tahrir Square protests.

Six months ago he was arrested, roughed up and handed a suspended prison sentence by a military court.

Now every time he blogs or marches, he runs the risk of joining thousands of other activists in long-term detention.

Why has the army lost the trust of so many of the Tahrir generation?

Start Quote

The generals have run this country for 60 years, you think they want to give it up now?”

End Quote Mohamed Gohar TV entrepreneur

For an answer, I seek out one of my oldest friends in Cairo - Mohamed Gohar, a canny veteran of almost four decades in the media business, a TV entrepreneur with the hide of a rhino.

"If you'd been with me on October 9th," he says, "then you'd understand."

He gives me an account so vivid it takes my breath away. How a crowd of protesters - mostly Coptic Christians - gathered on the street below his office that evening to protest about a series of sectarian attacks.

How unseen snipers opened fire on the crowd, then Egyptian army vehicles ploughed into the throng, crushing and breaking bodies.

How the dead and wounded were carried to his ground-floor stairwell and how he hid 17 desperate men and women in a back bathroom, while troops searched the building looking for Christians.

"You know that movie Schindler's List? I felt I was reliving it," he tells me. "I was ashamed, seeing soldiers doing this to my people."

Egyptian Coptic Christians carry coffins to mass funeral for victims of sectarian clashes with soldiers in October 2011 Twenty-five people died and hundreds were injured in clashes between Coptic Christians and troops

"But why did they do it?" I ask.

"To send a message that, without them, Egypt is chaos. The generals have run this country for 60 years, you think they want to give it up now?"

Next weekend, Egyptians will vote in parliamentary elections.

They will face an alphabet soup of political parties from strict Islamist to committed secularist but, when the votes are counted, real power will still be in the hands of the junta.

There is already talk of a new constitution granting special powers to the armed forces. And a mysterious but seemingly well funded political movement is calling on Field Marshal Tantawi to run for president in 2013.

'Not any more'

Which brings me back to the Ministry of Information.

After the revolution, Tantawi decreed that this hated source of censorship and official deceit was to be closed down. Five months later the generals changed their minds.

Minister of Information Osama Heikal Osama Heikal was recently appointed as Egypt's minister of information

I find myself shaking hands with Egypt's new minister of information, a dapper former journalist called Osama Heikal.

Just months into the job, he exhibits the slippery skills of a veteran. The killing of more than two dozen Copts was unfortunate, he concedes, but the army is investigating. The state of emergency will be ended just as soon as stability has been restored.

As I am heading out of the ministry compound, one of his staff approaches. I suspect he is going to berate me for my impertinent questioning of his boss.

Instead he slaps me on the back.

"Great interview," he says. "What a liar that guy is. They still think they can say what they like and the people will believe them.

"But they can't, not any more."

Stephen Sackur will be reporting from Egypt for HARDtalk on the Road broadcast from Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 November 2011 on the BBC News Channel and BBC World News.

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