“The people have brought down the regime!” was a cry heard around the world when on Friday, February 11th, 18 days of unrelenting non-violent protest finally forced the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year, US backed rule over Egypt.
Ecstatic jubilation filled Cairo’s Midan al-Tahrir (Liberation Square), which had become one of the central sites of massive, nearly 24 hour demonstrations. Demonstrator after demonstrator called their feelings as “indescribable” after Vice President Omar Suleiman read the thirty second statement of Mubarak’s resignation and transfer of power to the Egyptian military.
In addition to its non-violent quality, the “January 25th Revolution” (as it is commonly called by Egyptians after the day when the popular uprising began) was remarkable in its leaderless character. Originally sparked by various sectors of working people and politically engaged youth, the uprising eventually encompassed an incredible diversity of classes and backgrounds of Egyptian society. While in its final days it included coordinated strikes all over the country and began further refining its always very clear call for an end to the regime, not just Mubarak’s rule, there was never one voice, opposition group, or ideology which could claim to represent the demonstrators.
Though key elements of the notoriously brutal regime are now gone, its violence is still deeply felt, as over the nearly two and a half weeks of protests an estimated 300 demonstrators were killed and over 2,000 were injured. There are also very real questions about how the people will continue to push for their social and political demands with a US policy that is very wary of Middle Eastern self-determination, and a military whose business ties deeply implicated it to Mubarak’s regime.
At this moment though, after both Tunisia and Egypt’s dictators have been pushed out, people all over the region, and indeed the world, are feeling a new hope, as perhaps the deepest obstacle has been removed. As one Egyptian living in Astoria, Queens said on the night of the 11th, “Let them bring what ever monster they want after Mubarak, it’s OK. We’ll take them on. We are not afraid anymore.”