10 February 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been keeping up with the news on the protests in Egypt since they broke out in Tahrir Square on 25 January. Every single day, as I drive my pathetic car twenty five miles over a sheet a ice to school, NPR blasting over the heater that only works on high, I’ve heard interviews with professors in Cairo, economists and politicians from the world over, and the protesters themselves. And they’re all saying the same thing: Mubarak must go.
Last night, a hundred thousand people marched on Tahrir Square to hear Mubarak’s speech, one they expected would be his last as president. Let me repeat that. 100,000. A Hundred Thousand People. For weeks, they’ve been stoned with bricks and teargassed by the army and police. No one really seems to know the stance of the Egyptian Army – whether they’re around to protect the protesters or to fight them. One thing seems to be certain, though: they’re not taking orders from Mubarak anymore. At one point, the protesters themselves gave the ultimatum: “Egyptian army, the choice is now, the regime or the people,” they said.
More than 300 have been reportedly killed since the protests erupted almost three weeks ago. Thousands more have been injured.
Mubarak’s speech did not make the people of Egypt happy. He said he would not step down from his post until September, when this term ends. He refused to bow to ‘foreign pressure.’ “Two hours ago we were crying tears of joy,” says Shadi Hassan, a protester from the city of Mansoura. “Now it’s tears of sorrow. Tomorrow, it will be anger.” She’s been in Tahrir square for more than a week.
He doesn’t need to bow to foreign pressure to do the right thing. All he has to do is look out the window of his office. his people are speaking, and he’s not listening. A march on the presidential palace is planned for today.
The interview I heard this morning features a professor in Cairo being interviewed by the BBC. The interviewer was hurried, making sure she got her questions in, but the man was going to say the same thing whether she did or not. “The people are young. They have strength and they have stamina. Mubarak is old and he is senile and very, very stubborn. I hope that the people will keep going, because they have the stamina,” he said.
I didn’t catch his name, but I heard the hope and excitement in his voice.
The protests will continue. They have momentum and they have resolve, which seems to be more solid every day. When this turns to rage, and it will, the world may not be ready for it.
But they should be, because this isn’t just about Egypt. And the rest of the Arab world is picking up on what’s going on. These protests are not limited to Tahrir Square, or even just Cairo. They’re happening all over Egypt. In Jordan, a new cabinet was just sworn in. In Tunisia, where anti-government protests first broke out in January, former president Ben Ali’s regime has totally collapsed. Perhaps a full blown democracy is on the horizon. Iraqis in Baghdad have begun to protest the corruption in their government.
The rest of the world can be cautious with their hope, but there seems to be little caution in the center of Cairo, and that’s where it matters. The people will get what they want – or die demanding it.