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Middle east Africa

Reporter's notebook: Unappeased by president's speech, Tahrir Square protesters vow to fight on

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2011-02-02

Egyptians flocked to central Cairo on Tuesday to protest against embattled President Hosni Mubarak, with demonstrations at Tahrir Square lasting into the night. FRANCE 24’s special correspondent reports from the scene.

Just hours after the end of a massive anti-government protest that drew nearly one million Egyptians out onto the streets, roughly 10,000 demonstrators remained at Tahrir Square in central Cairo into the night.

Equipped with tents and sleeping bags, several hundred of them – including women and young children – prepared to sleep outdoors. “I’ve been coming to the square every day for a week,” Hamdy, an unemployed 49-year-old, said. “Tonight I’ll sleep here, amid my compatriots, because it has been a memorable day.” Hamdy thinks that the movement could take a violent turn on Friday after morning prayers if the government does not heed the will of the people.

There is a strong smell of smoke in the vast square, as people lit fires to stay warm. But the nighttime cold was quickly forgotten when protesters heard the news that President Hosni Mubarak would soon make an announcement.
Mubarak’s voice resounds across the square

At around 11 pm, Mubarak’s voice resounded from loudspeakers and radios brought by the protesters. His announcement that he would not seek re-election but would remain in the presidency until his term expires in September drew reactions of fury and anguish from the crowd. Some people dropped to their knees and held their heads in their hands. Others hid their faces behind flags.
“He doesn’t want to leave, but he will leave. We’re staying!” several protesters shouted. Another group, led by Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers, chanted demands that Mubarak be “sentenced to death”. Foreign journalists, cameras on their shoulders, ran throughout the square, eager to capture the crowd's reactions.

‘He doesn't listen to the people’

Rawan, an international business student from Alexandria, came to Cairo to experience “a historic day”, as he put it. Now he is disappointed. “Millions of us were in the street today throughout Egypt to demand that he leave, but Mubarak doesn’t understand, he doesn’t listen to the people,” Rawan said.

Omar, a philosophy student, expressed similar frustration and said that he feared the repercussions of maintaining the status quo. “If Mubarak persists, the protests will continue. Our economy and our future will be threatened,” he said, adding that the president should step down and let an interim government modify the constitution and organise a new presidential election.
‘Even more of us will come tomorrow’

Others were already talking about the protests planned for Wednesday. “We’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll stay a week if we have to, or a year,” Karim, a 21-year-old hairdresser, said. “Mubarak has been in power for 30 years, after all.”

Karim was beaten with a wooden baton by a police officer during the January 28 protest, and his forehead still bears the marks. “We’re suffering,” he said, “and we will not be able to make it as long as this corrupt regime is in place.”

Karim, who has been selling cigarettes in the square over the past few days, told his customers that he would see them tomorrow. “You’ll see, even more of us will come tomorrow,” he said, before disappearing into the crowd.

At 3 am, the voices of protesters could still be heard across Tahrir Square – also known as the “Square of Liberation”.



Date created : 2011-02-02

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