It appears that the Egyptian protestors have won and President Mubarak will step down this evening. If events continue to unfold as reported the world that we wake up to will be a very, very different place.
Watching these historic events unfold is pretty amazing. This was all started just seventeen days ago by a few angry students who, seeking better economic conditions, wanted to organize a protest against an oppressive government. What they succeeded in doing was instigating the overthrow of a regime that has ruled the largest Muslim nation in the world for thirty years. And they inspired similar demonstrations and substantive changes in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Many of Egypt’s neighbors are nervous. "Israel", said NBC’s Brian Williams, “is as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
Egypt is a country where huge sums of wealth line the pockets of the ruling class while the remaining citizens suffer hunger and poor living conditions. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said “Egypt is not a poor country. It is a country of poor people.” Reporter Richard Engel took us on a video tour of Cairo. We saw the masses, living in squalor, existing on less than two dollars a day; their shacks a stones’ throw from gated mansions housing government functionaries. It has been reported that President Mubarak himself has accumulated a personal net worth of over $78 billion dollars while the citizens he is suppose to serve are starving.
And so they marched into Cairo’s central square. And they voiced their opposition and their frustration…peacefully. They didn’t use guns or roadside bombs or suicide bombers so popular among radicals. They used Facebook, Twitter and text messages. And they stayed. For seventeen days, they stayed. The pro-Mubarak forces came and attacked them with sticks, and knives and fists. Many of the protestors were injured and several of them died. But the next day they were still there…and the day after that…and the day after that….they stayed. When the military announced that their demands would be met the crowd erupted. And finally when the government realized that they had to bow to the will of the people, they won. As we write this an estimated one million people are crowded into the square awaiting word that Mubarak has officially stepped down.
The situation is still tenuous. Until Mubarak officially leaves and his successor is named the people remain cautiously optimistic. They are hopeful. And they are firm in their resolve.
Achieving democracy can be an ugly, brutal process. But at the same time it is quite a beautiful thing to observe.