Anger and rage over Mubarak’s last night deceptive message was swiftly replaced by explosions of joie de vivre when the long anticipated news arrived suddenly. YES, the last Pharaoh of Egypt got swept away by an avalanche of protests that began just two weeks ago. This is a true magical moment. What happened this morning in Egypt showed that a people united with one voice can indeed achieve unbelievable success, shake mountains, brave high-tech weaponry to crush, slash, and smash entrenched autocratic rulers who rule with irons fists and bent on establishing kleptomaniac regimes to suppress, kill and ultimately pillage what was never theirs: their country’s wealth.
It is now jubilation across Egypt and beyond. It feels like le grand soir de la révolution has finally dawn on the Egyptian journey, accompanied by the Tunisian syndrome with a fury that has also already threatened others autocratic rulers in the region. At its sight, experts agree, are the kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi-Arabia and other sultanate states in the Gulf of Arabia. Several of the region’s authoritarian rulers have made pre-emptive gestures of democratic reform to avert their own protest movements. Buying one’s time to prolong monopoly over state bureaucracy is nothing but a temporary measure. No matter what they do, it will never suffice to stave off the people’s thirst for human rights, popular democracy and the pursuit of affordable healthcare, and a decent job.
Eyewitnesses say the crowds in Cairo, in Alexandria, in Suez and other cities around the country erupted into a pandemonium of cheers and deafening joy. The Egyptian flag, which was forgotten for many years, has suddenly reemerged as the major symbol of the opposition. They danced, hugged and raised their hands in prayer after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall. Some fell to kiss the ground, and others chanted, “Goodbye, goodbye” and “put your heads up high, you’re Egyptian.”
There is a feeling of invincibility now among the Arab masses. If they could do it in Egypt, they could do anywhere. Of course, revolutions do not happen without sacrifices, and what took place in Egypt this morning was the direct results of utter sacrifices by young and old in the face of a deeply rooted dictatorship. One can call them heroes or martyrs, those who did not survive to see this day. But their blood was not shed in vain. It helped usher the biggest popular revolt ever seen in Arabia with astonishing implications for the Middle East, the United States, and Europe.
Mubarak had long been seen as the United States point man of an implicit deal made long ago between the US and the Middle Eastern dynasties: Supporting their autocratic rules in return for unspoken guarantees of stability for their regimes. They must also commit to a visceral approach against Islamist militants and peace with Israel.
So, phase one is over. As it is time now for celebration, one must always remember that the main work—laying the groundwork for a true participatory democracy—is just beginning.