Posted: 11 Feb 2011 05:38 PM PST
CAIRO, Feb 12 — Egyptians declared triumph over their "Pharoah" yesterday when President Hosni Mubarak stood down, and huge street parties took the place of the protests which had demanded his downfall for the past two weeks.
"We have brought down the regime, we have brought down the regime," chanted the hundreds of thousands packed into Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of protests that toppled Mubarak in a show of people power unprecedented in Egypt's modern history.
They waved flags, cried, cheered, embraced and ululated when the news reached them through a public address system. Fireworks burst over Tahrir Square as Egyptians wept in joy and disbelief at a day some never thought would come.
"We have done something unprecedented in 7,000 years, we have brought down the Pharaoh. Egypt is free, it will never go back to what it was, we won't let it," said Tareq Saad, a 51-year-old carpenter in the square.
Egyptians from all walks of life, Muslims and Christians, liberals and Islamists, poured into central Cairo to join a street party that ran late into the night. Cars choked the streets, honking in celebration and flying the Egyptian flag.
The two weeks of protests have united the many Egyptians who have long harboured deep grievances against Mubarak, from young people who have never been to be able to find a job to activists who have faced political oppression and others who have suffered brutality at the hands of the police.
Many said they finally saw hope of a better future in a country which they feel has lost its place as the political, cultural and economic heart of the Arab world.
"Corruption and 30 years of injustice are over," said Alaa al-Naggar, a 23-year-old. "I felt we had no value as humans. Now, Egyptians are proud of their country," he said.
"The Egyptians got their dignity back. We did it, that's what counts," said Fatima Mahfouz, a psychologist. "It's amazing, I am in disbelief," said the 32-year old, one of many Egyptians who remember no president other than Mubarak.
"I am proud to be Egyptian, that's the only way I can say it ... We are finally going to get a government we choose, perhaps we will finally get to have the better country we always dreamed of," said Rasha Abu Omar, 29, a call centre worker.
Cars and music filled the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt's second city. "Game Over!" and "Checkmate" read some of the banners in Tahrir Square.
The square, which takes its name from the Arabic word for "Liberation", turned into a sea of red, white and black Egyptian flags. Some chanted: "God alone brought down Mubarak." "I'm so happy with what happened to the Egyptian people," said Tareq Ismail, an engineer. "God willing we will become the emerging African tiger, we will become one of the great nations," he said.
"I'm one of the ones who helped take him down. I've been out here for 17 days. The future of Egypt is now in the hands of the people," said singer Hani Sobhy, 31, celebrating in the square.
"We can't believe it. This is the end of all the injustices," said Mohammed Abu Bakr, 17, a student. Mubarak handed power to the army, ending his three decades at the helm of the Arab world's largest nation.
Outside Egypt's state television building, protesters shook hands with soldiers who had been stationed there to protect the building. Some jumped up on to their tanks.
"I can't believe I am going to see another president in my lifetime!" said Sherif el-Husseiny, a 33-year old lawyer. "Nothing can ever stop the Egyptian people any more. It's a new era for Egypt," he said.
"This should have happened a week ago," said Hassan Abdel Halim, a retired sports coach. "The only problem is that it's now military rule. I would have liked a smooth transition through elections. Now it has to be military rule but hey, that's what the people want," he said,
Saad el Din Ahmed, a 65-year-old tailor, said: "I only have two words to say: 'Nightmare gone!'." — Reuters
Posted: 11 Feb 2011 05:27 PM PST
Volleys of gunfire and fireworks erupted in the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Gaza Strip and the Yemeni city of Sanaa, while in the wealthy conservative Gulf states people quietly savoured the toppling of a second Arab autocrat in a month.
"It's a beginning for democracy in the Middle East," said Gazal bin Mahfouz, a Saudi. "People have a limit. It has been too long where leaders thought if they keep their people busy that nothing will happen."
Mubarak's 30-year rule was brought to a tumultuous end yesterday after weeks of protests across Egypt. His departure followed the fall of Tunisia's long-time leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali four weeks ago.
While the turmoil has alarmed leaders from North Africa to the Gulf, it has captivated many ordinary Arabs who never imagined they might hold their own destiny in their hands.
In the downmarket al-Azamiyah suburb of Damascus, Syrians lit fireworks. "We're celebrating the triumph of the will of the people," one resident said.
He declined to say whether Mubarak's overthrow could affect Syria, ruled by emergency law for nearly five decades and led by a president who succeeded his father in power.
In the Gulf, home to workers from poorer Arab countries including Egypt and Syria which struggle to provide jobs for their young populations, the news was met with hope.
"I'm so excited to see Mubarak step down. It's the beginning of a new era in our region," said Baraa Bakkar, originally from Syria, who was visiting Dubai from Saudi Arabia.
"Governments in Syria and Saudi Arabia will change, but the background will be different. There will be no demonstration, but the regimes themselves will realise that it's time to go."
"This is a new dawn, new stage. This is a new future painted by bloody hands of Egyptians and Tunisians that knocked on the doors of freedom," said Zaki Bani Rusheid, a leading Islamist figure in Jordan, where King Abdullah sacked his government 10 days ago after weeks of protests.
"After today we can say we are Arabs with honour and pride."
Hundreds of people gathered in Beirut's Shi'ite southern suburb, a stronghold of Hezbollah which had tense ties with Mubarak. Loudspeakers played songs praising the Cairo protests and celebrating the departure of Egypt's "pharaoh".
In Gaza Palestinians let off fireworks and shot into the air in celebration. The Islamist group Hamas called on Egypt's new rulers to change Mubarak's policies which included tight control over movement of goods into the coastal enclave.
At the Egyptian embassy in Yemen's capital of Sanaa at least 500 Yemenis and Egyptians marched with banners saying "Long Live Egypt". "Wake up rulers, Mubarak fell today," they shouted, hooting car horns and firing shots in the air.
"A dictator falling is always great news," said Salim Alouane, a 34-year-old engineer in the Algerian capital, where government opponents are planning a protest on Saturday (today). "I am very happy for the people of Egypt."
Amid the rejoicing, some expressed worries. "We are going to suffer because there are too many people who want a piece of the cake, too many who want to seize power," said Mohamed Gameel, an Egyptian in Ajman, part of the United Arab Emirates.
In Iraq, where President Saddam Hussein was toppled by a US invasion eight years ago, many welcomed Mubarak's departure. But for some it revived memories of the sectarian bloodshed which followed Saddam's overthrow.
"It is true that Hosni Mubarak had many faults. But it is also true that Hosni Mubarak succeeded in building a country," said Wael Jassim al-Azawi, a shop owner in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad.
"We wish that no deterioration will happen in Egypt and no power vacuum will happen, as happened after 2003 when the US army entered Iraq." — Reuters
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