From fear to defiance, from violence to festivities: in an unprecedented display of bravery, the people of Egypt rose like lions to change the fate of their nation.
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It all started exactly a week ago, when tens of thousands of young protesters — inspired by the ‘Jasmin Revolution’ in Tunisia — organized themselves via Facebook to take to the streets of Cairo on ‘National Police Day‘, demonstrating against rampant unemployment, sky-rocketing food prices, widespread government corruption, brutal police oppression and Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule over the country.
While the mainstream media struggled to recognize the importance of the initial protests, members of the millennial generation around the world realized that the next Arab revolution had just begun. In a frantic explosion of global solidarity, people everywhere relayed their support for the young Egyptian revolutionaries over Twitter and Facebook. It wasn’t until two days later that the mainstream media and world leaders finally began to catch up.
By that time, the ever-swelling ranks of the protest movement had been clashing violently with police for days on end. Yet the violent crackdown of Mubarak’s security apparatus only appeared to further embolden the protesters. All fear had been shed: children, men, women — Muslims, Christians, atheists — all transcended their sectarian and ideological differences and rose up in unison to assert their essential oneness and demand their rights as human beings.
By Friday, the fearless people of Egypt had overwhelmed the largest and best-organized police force in the Arab world. In a truly epic day-long stand-off on Kasr al-Nil Bridge, tens of thousands of protesters defied an army of policemen to take the bridge and break through security lines to liberate Liberation Square — the global epicenter of the 21st century struggle for freedom and social justice; today’s equivalent of the 1789 Bastille.
By Saturday, police had all but disappeared from the streets of Egypt’s major cities. In a truly unbelievable display of the fundamental goodness of human nature, citizens immediately started self-organizing. Protesters of all walks of life — businessmen, street vendors, religious clerks, veiled women and students — formed a 3,000-strong human chain around the Museum of Antiquities to prevent looters from ransacking the pride of the nation.
Before long, Mubarak’s thugs were back on the streets — looting and causing mayhem to discredit the revolution and incite fear among those who had stayed at home. But all the King’s men and all the King’s horses could not put Humpty Dumpty back together. Citizens everywhere set up local security committees, armed themselves and took turns to protect their neighbors from the state-sponsored criminal gangs. The people had become the police.
The next morning, volunteers popped up everywhere providing water, food and tents to protesters. Mosques opened their doors to serve as makeshift hospitals and doctors volunteered their services to the wounded. Music could be heard and Egyptian poetry was being recited in the streets and squares, while hundreds of poor people took up broomsticks to sweep the dusty streets of Cairo, symbolically wiping off the dirt of Mubarak’s thirty years in power.
By Sunday, losing grip of the situation and realizing that the army — which had been moved in to replace police forces and keep order in the streets — would take the side of the people and not use force to quell their uprising, Mubarak decided to make one last stand. Two fighter jets were sent to fly over Liberation Square at extremely low altitude in order to intimidate protesters and impress the farcical and near-comical idea upon the people that the regime was still in control.
But it was too little, too late. Having successfully taken the streets, the people of Egypt had shed all fear. Al Jazeera reported that “everytime an army fighter jet flew over Tahrir square, there was a deafening and defiant roar from the crowds.” For all those who had remained skeptical in the face of these historic events, the thundering roar of the Egyptian people finally brought home the realization that no army could stop the yearning of a people.
Or, to paraphrase Victor Hugo, “you can stop an invasion of armies, but you can’t stop an idea whose time has come.”
Yet Mubarak, oblivious to the fact that his days are numbered, still chooses to bide his time. Perhaps hoping that the protests will dwindle over time, the dictator has made a handful of cosmetic changes to his evil regime, sacking the government and appointing his intelligence chief as Vice President. But despite the swelling resistance to and waning legitimacy of his regime, Mubarak has vowed to stay in power.
Today, right when it seemed that the uprising couldn’t get any more legendary, the leaderless revolution called for a general strike and a million man march. Absolutely historic images relayed by Al Jazeera showed over two million people gathered in Liberation Square, demanding the President to step down immediately and pledging not to leave the streets until he does.
Mubarak, hanging by a thread, now finds the forces of history conspiring against him. His public announcement tonight — that he would not run for re-election, but that he would not step down either — was met by yet another defiant roar from the people. “Leave! Leave! Leave!” chanted the masses in unison. Let it be clear that these people won’t back down until the President gets out. At this point there is simply no way back.
And so Egypt finds itself on the cusp of a historical transformation. The Sfinx has risen like a phoenix from its ashes and the youth continues to roar like a lion in its challenge of the old patriarch. The revolution is in full swing. Insha’allah.