Friday, February 11, 2011

Dateline Cairo: Let's celebrate the revolution tonight, then see what happens tomorrow

Breaking News / President Obama praising the Egyptian people.

The people of Egypt, at last, have brought down the regime.

Tonight has brought excitement mixed with a bit of bewilderment over the speed in which the events that paved the way for democracy in Egypt unfolded.

"It's the greatest day of my life," opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told NPR.

Yet, for eighteen historic days, ElBaradei and the rest of the world watched in tense anticipation.  The images, voices and actions shaping the Egyptian revolution were riveting: Peaceful, non-violent mass demonstrations, beamed from around the world into our homes, were filled with hope.  Then, one day last week those peaceful demonstrations were broken ~ albeit briefly ~ by an angry mob uprising.  Instead of diplomacy, Molotov cocktails were a weapon of choice by the mob. Journalists, some of them American, attempting to report the unfolding story for an ever-growing and curious world audience, were beaten up by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.  Others were detained and threatened before being released.  Doubts remained. Which side would prevail, the people or the dictatorship?

The story continued to unfold around the clock:  Through Facebook, on Twitter, in the New York Times, on CNN and Al Jazeera. The whole world was watching.

Shaken but not defeated, in the days that followed, there were more mostly peaceful mass demonstrations. The demonstrators, whose numbers increased daily, camped out in Liberation Square for the long haul because democracy doesn't happen quickly.  And, it's not always orderly, either.

Today's New York Times /
The anger before the euphoria.
Then, last night, there was a huge let down that shattered the hopes for the entire nation, when the autocratic Mubarak refused to quit, announcing he would not be stepping down as president as had been widely speculated in the hours leading up to the announcement.

The country had been blind-sided, victims of another sucker punch from the regime.  Supporters of democracy in Egypt vented their anger well into the night.  Some feared violence as things reached a standoff.  What could possibly happen next?

What happened was this: Today, at 6 p.m. Cairo time (11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT), a history-shaping moment occurred. The announcement heard around the world was made on Egyptian state television by Vice President Omar Suleiman that Hosni Mobarak had stepped down as President of Egypt, after it was disclosed he had flown to Sharm-el-Sheikh.  Mr. Suleiman said that power was being handed over to the higher council of the Egyptian armed forces.

Quickly, the news spread throughout the country and, collectively, the Egyptian citizens erupted in joy. Overwhelming happiness. Jubilation. Freedom.

History continues to unfold.  This much is certain: Tonight, Mubarak is out of power.

The Egyptian revolution /
The whole world is watching.
Monitoring the news on NPR, CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera English, one can't help but feel there is a sense of pride in the Arab world that the Egyptian people have prevailed. Peaceful protest, without military force from the outside world, has brought the end to 30 years of autocratic rule.  The reaction, both locally and from world leaders, has been mostly positive, if not cautious.

"Let the celebration begin tonight, then wake up and see what happens tomorrow," said Ethar El-Katatney, a staff writer for Egypt Today, during a live interview Friday with CNN's Anderson Cooper, about three hours after the announcement that Mubarak had stepped down.

"The people in Egypt have spoken ... and Egypt will never be the same," said President Obama.  Standing in the foyer of the White House, he added: "It's not the end of the transition.  It's the beginning.  There are many difficult questions that lie ahead.  I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers. Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."

Obama said the United States will be "a partner" to Egypt, ready to help if asked.

According to the BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she welcomed the departure of Mubarak as "historic change."

Tonight, there's a giant euphoric party going on in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the Ground Zero of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, and Egyptians are also joyfully celebrating in Alexandria, the country's second city.  Fireworks have replaced Molotov cocktails.  People have come out of their homes en masse to celebrate their new-found freedom. The dictator is now gone and the process to rebuild a large, proud Arab nation begins.  There's a new day in Egypt.

"It's joy, exhilaration, total emancipation for 85 million people," ElBaradei told the BBC. "For the first time Egypt has been liberated and has put its feet on the right track toward a country of democracy and social justice."

Google executive and activist Wael Ghonim vows that Egypt will become a democratic state.  "This is Revolution 2.0," Ghonim told CNN.

The transition to democracy can be chaotic ~ and won't happen overnight ~ but there's a lot of optimism spreading throughout Egypt tonight.  One thing is certain: There's a lot that has to be done to ensure a peaceful transformation happens.  In the days ahead, I'm sure we'll all learn the backstories of just how democracy prevailed in Egypt.

The world awaits.

The story continues.  The adventure has just begun.

No comments:

Post a Comment