Friday, February 11, 2011


The roar of democracy will shatter the window panes of the Presidential palace and the ear drums of the regime, scream protesters at the Al-Tahrir square. It is people power versus the President in Egypt. The embattled president Hosni Mubarak has once again sidestepped the overwhelming demand to step down. He is giving up power drop by drop, talking about delegating some responsibilities to the vice president Omar Suleiman. But this has angered the protesters even more. There was a massive build up to the presidential address. The secretary general of the national democratic party Hossam Badrawy indicated the president had been advised to step down. The supreme council of the armed forces met and a spokesperson said the peoples' demands will be met. Thousands and thousands rushed to the Liberation Square - all wanting to be a part of history being made. They wanted to be there and experience change. They were bitterly disappointed. I spent a week at the Al-Tahrir square and it is an island of democracy in midst of a sea of uniform.

In unity lies their strength. And more and more people are pouring into the Al-Tahrir square to boost the morale of those camping there for the past 18 days. All eyes are on the all powerful Egyptian Army, an institution well respected by the masses. While covering the Friday - Day of Departure protests - last week at the Al-Tahrir square in Cairo I had met and interacted with an Egyptian army colonel. There was a major general personally supervising security arrangements and several other senior officers standing by. They were at ease - smiling and receiving friendly salutes from the masses. Little children begged to have pictures taken with them.

A Major of the Egyptian Army Parachute Regiment and two other officers walked into the Square and were almost lifted on the shoulders by the pro-democracy protesters. The army permitted the protesters to sleep on the tank tracks as a symbolic gesture to ensure the tanks do not move. Will the army continue to stand by tonight and in the days to come? The army’s supreme council has told the people it will ensure smooth transition to democracy and wants the people to go home. The vice president Omar Suleiman has said the same thing. One thing is clear the army is the establishment in Egypt.

Will the protesters take on the army ? Can there be a Tiananmen Square at the Tahrir Square? As of now it appears not just unlikely but nearly impossible. Why? Egypt is no China. They might have an authoritarian regime but the masses have well and truly smelt the sweet smell of freedom. It is intoxicating. The whiff of Jasmine will anyday overcome the smell of burnt gunpowder. The people are certain that their own army will not open fire on them.

The people are fighting against president Hosni Mubarak and not the army - even though for many they have been two sides of the same coin. The army has stakes in the country and will ensure it does not go to the dogs. They will not let mobs rule the streets of Cairo - not even at the Qasr el Nil or 6 October Bridge. The army will stand by and watch the masses protest peacefully. The army, it appears, will tire them out. The army too appears to be realising Mubarak is not Egypt. Ultimately the army will choose Egypt over the man who ruled it for 30 years. The roar of democracy will shatter whatever illusions remain. The revolution is successful. Egypt has arisen and the world is watching.

Even if the protesters go home, or are made to go home they have achieved their aim. It will not be back to business as usual for the ruling elite. Change will come.

Freedom will come to the people of Egypt. The question now is not if but when.

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