Monday 21 January 2019

Egypt rejoices to sound of freedom

Cries of "Egypt is free" rang out and fireworks lit up the sky as hundreds of thousands danced, wept and prayed in joy.

After 18 days of protests President Hosni Mubarak surrendered power to the military, ending three decades of authoritarian rule.

Ecstatic protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square hoisted soldiers onto their shoulders and families posed for pictures in front of tanks. Strangers hugged each other, some fell to kiss the ground, and others were stunned.

Chants of "hold your heads high, you're Egyptian" roared with each burst of fireworks overhead.

"I'm 21 years old and this is the first time in my life I feel free," an ebullient Abdul-Rahman Ayyash, born eight years after Mr Mubarak came to power, said as he hugged fellow protesters in Tahrir Square, where crowds remained all through the night.

An astonishing day in which hundreds of thousands had marched on Mr Mubarak's palaces in Cairo and Alexandria and the besieged state TV was capped by the military effectively carrying out a coup at the pleas of protesters.


After Mr Mubarak's fall, the military, which pledged to shepherd reforms for greater democracy, told the nation it would announce the next steps soon.

Those could include the dissolving of parliament and creation of a transitional government.

Mr Mubarak's downfall at the hands of the biggest popular uprising in the modern history of the Arab world had stunning implications for the US and the West, Israel, and the region.

The 82-year-old leader epitomised the complex trade-off the US was locked into in the Middle East for decades: support for autocratic leaders in return for stability, a bulwark against Islamic militants, a safeguard of economic interests with the oil-rich Gulf states and peace -- or at least an effort at peace -- with Israel.

The question for Washington now was whether that same arrangement will hold as the Arab world's most populous state makes a potentially rocky transition to democracy.

At the White House, President Barack Obama said: "Egyptians have inspired us."

He added: "I'm confident the people of Egypt can find the answers."

Neighbouring Israel watched with the crisis with unease, worried that their 1979 peace treaty could be in danger. It quickly demanded that post-Mubarak Egypt continue to adhere to it.


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