On Friday, February 11, against all odds and most predictions, the unthinkable happened: after more than two weeks of peaceful protests, the Egyptian people forced the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the country's president for over 30 years (though as one tweep, @imPalestine, put it, “He did not step down, he was stepped upon”).
The announcement, made by his one-time security chief and short-lived vice president, Omar Suleiman, was unexpected, even to the CIA: iIntelligence and word from those close to Mubarak’s inner circle had said he was resigning the night before in a much-anticipated speech.
Instead he shocked his nation, and indeed the world (both the virtual and real ones) by saying, for the third time in as many speeches, he had no intention of relinquishing power (speaking to this confusion, a website was created following his true resignation with the url ismubarakstillpresident.com. The one-word answer on the blank page simply says: NO).
It wasn’t long after his resignation was tendered on his behalf that Switzerland announced its intention to freeze his family’s assets and the Egyptian military dissolved the parliament, suspending the constitution and installed a caretaker government. They also praised his service, giving him a “dignified exit," and then saluted those who gave their lives on the road to freedom. He is now said to be holed up in a mansion in Egypt’s tourist haven, Sharm El-Sheikh.
Obama, who for days has been treading on careful waters, uncertain what the outcome of the protesters tireless efforts would be, came out with a strongly worded statement in their support, saying Egyptians “had inspired us." According to the Washington Post, Obama said in a speech on Feb. 11: "Today belongs to the people of Egypt. And the entire world has taken note. We saw the power of human dignity and it can never be denied."
Reaction on social media was giddy, with no shortage of uprising-inspired jokes:
On Facebook, this little commentary which was widely shared said it all:
Uninstalling dictator ... 100% complete!! ██████████████████████████
Do you wish to Restart Your Political System?
And on Twitter:*/
Joke I got on my mobile phone: "After 'Victory Friday' in Tunisia & 'Liberation Friday' in Egypt Gaddafi has decided to abolish all Fridays"less than a minute ago via webSultan Al Qassemi
But Ghonim, the young Google Middle East region Google executive who is credited with jumpstarting the uprising, was not all laughs. There was serious nation-re-building work to be done, and he wanted to get started right away: "Let's work on raising 100 Billion EGP from Egyptians to rebuild Egypt. Talked to one business man and he is ready to put the first 1B" he tweeted. Others added their two cents: "to raise money we could try to identify assets of the corrupted regime members and pay some of Egypt's debts" responded Seif Lotfy.
The celebrations were not limited to Cairo -- all across the Arab world, people were out on the streets, honking horns, passing out candy, crying, laughing, and waving Egyptian flags. The mood was simply euphoric.
"It's like Eid" (the Muslim holiday in which it is customary to pass out sweets), I joked with my friends, "But without 'Mubarak'" (the greeting for Eid is usually "Eid Mubarak," or blessed Eid).*/
I literally got hit in head by piece of candy!!! RT @hazemz People were handing out knafeh & candy outside Egypt Embassy in Amman #JO #Jan25less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhoneAli Abunimah
Many on the right were quick to voice concerns about neighboring Israel's security, and the Obama administration, too, wasted no time in citing the need for any new Egyptian government to uphold its peace treaty with Israel (which they did): "[W]e've got to keep our mind on what people are saying. This is not about Israel, quite frankly" came the response from at least one congressman, Minnesota's Keith Ellison, on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show, Last Word. Israeli officials, too, continued to argue their line about the importance of so-called stability over democracy. One CNN anchor, Michael Holmes, noted: "it may have been an autocratic regime, but it was an autocratic regime Israel could do business with."
Many people were hoping that the end of the Mubarak era would also spell an end to the Egyptian stranglehold on Gaza:*/
In the day of triumph, the Egyptian people, banded together, and together, they overcame the repressive will of the regime, and overcame the fear and repression that regime had planted in their minds in what in my opinion will be a turning point for American Empire in the region. And there was no turning back.
Hisham Ahmed, 22, summed it up nicely in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on February 11 on the streets of Cairo: “The history of Egypt begins today. Egypt is like camel meat: It takes a long time to cook, but when it does, it’s sweet.”They owned the situation-the situation no longer owned them.
The people had spoken-the people had acted, and the people were heard.
As Egyptian blogger and activist Wael Abbas declared triumphantly: “Mubarak has left the building!”
Laila El-Haddad is a freelance Palestinian journalist and blogger based in Maryland, and author of the book Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between. She blogs at www.gazamom.com.
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