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Moment that mattered: President Hosni Mubarak steps down

An Egyptian woman celebrates with other people after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military at Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday and handed power to the military. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“I was still in Tahrir Square when I heard there was a demonstration in front of the presidential palace, just five minutes from my house. The palace is a long way from Tahrir Square – five hours on foot – but people had never dared to take to the streets where Mubarak lived and I was desperate to be in my area and to see protesters there for the first time ever, so I decided to eat something and join the others marching towards to the palace.

We knew there would be an announcement later on but we were afraid it would be as disappointing as the previous night’s, when Mubarak refused to resign, but suddenly I heard people screaming. A few seconds later I saw this waiter running towards me, waving his hands and shouting “he’s gone!” I dropped everything and started running, crying my eyes out and hugging everybody. I was still crying when the BBC called me to hear my reaction. I’ll never forget that day. I think it was greatest moment of this century and it completely changed the image of and defied the stereotypes about the Middle East. It’s going to reshape not just the Middle East but the whole world. We even inspired people in Wisconsin to march.

But there were some really terrifying moments. On 2nd February, after Mubarak’s speech when he pledged to step down at the next election, a lot of people were convinced and they were thinking, “Let’s give him a chance, he’s going to be gone in September.” And then I was in Tahrir and saw the pro-Mubarak demonstrations – the thugs and the camels storming in – and I honestly thought, ‘we’re going to die here’. Even now that Mubarak has stepped down, there are still reports of people being arrested and tortured by the military police and that is not represented in the media as much as it should be. They are allowed to do this because the emergency law is still in place, despite our demands to have it lifted. When we stormed the State Security Investigations Service’s buildings we found underground torture chambers. Although a lot of the documents had been destroyed, a friend of mine found a CD with photos of hundreds of SSI officials, including one who had tortured him. That same person was appointed at a high position in the interior ministry even after Mubarak left.

Things like this prove that while we took out the head, the body is still there. The rest of the regime didn’t go away; the business elite and those who were close to Mubarak are now fighting for their interests and are trying to create chaos so they can impose authoritarian control as a necessity. The old regime doesn’t want to give the power to the people. We know they are not going to give it up easily so we have to fight for it and not let the revolution be hijacked. We have the opportunity to build a great foundation for democracy from the bottom up. And this is not a chance everybody gets.”

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