Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egyptians hopeful for the future

A sense of hope prevails in the streets of Cairo. Hope mixed with fear of how hard the government could crack down and uncertainty over what will happen next, but above all Egyptians have hope that maybe, just maybe, change is coming to Egypt.

For two days Egyptians have taken to the streets by the thousands, astounding both themselves and the world. Many thought the tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square on Tuesday night impossible in Egypt. Many thought Egyptians were too apathetic or too terrified of State Security.

On Tuesday, January 25, smaller gatherings converged on Tahrir Square through the afternoon and into the evening. Successive groups numbering from tens to thousands crossed the Qasr el-Nil brigde into one of Cairo’s most vital arteries. “Down, down with Hosni Mubarak!” they chanted.

They wore broad, sometimes giddy smiles.

Groups talked and laughed. Chants against a repressive regime sprouted again and again. Older men, some of whom participated in Egypt’s last great protests in 1977, discussed politics and smoked an endless chain of cigarettes.

Not all was peaceful: security forces hosed protesters with water and shot tear gas into the crowds. After midnight, Tahrir was ruthlessly cleared of any remnant of the day’s events.

Watching demonstrators press on through clouds of tear gas, watching families with young children brave the streets, hearing the raw emotion as Egyptians chant for freedom – one has the feeling of standing on the edge of something truly momentous.

But nothing is certain.

Wednesday, January 26 saw many small, disorganized demonstrations. The lack of communication meant no one knew where to go and most groups were quickly dispersed. It was also clear that no one expected the January 25 protests to be a success, because no one was ready for continued demonstrations on the 26th.

Even so, Egyptians have come to the streets in a way they have never done under Hosni Mubarak. The fear has been broken, and Egyptians are unlikely to give up and go home.

To quote one twenty-something Egyptian, “Tuesday was the happiest day of my life.”

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