Is it victory? The mere news that Mubarak might step down or aside triggered celebrations in Egypt’s streets, especially in demonstration sites. Concerns about possible grim scenarios of military coup or martial laws were temporarily brushed aside.
It was time to relish a well-earned victory, or at least a possible one.
The 17 days that led to this were a rollercoaster of emotions and unprecedented stirring of political stagnation. First there was the unification in protesters’ calls for the president to step down. Pictures from Jan. 25 to Jan. 31 were tainted by the blood of those who died, but sprinkled with blissful comradeship.
The rift that followed divided Egyptians and even families. A colleague said this had Omar Suleiman’s intelligence work written all over it. Mubarak became synonymous with stability as state TV systematically vilified the pro-democracy protesters.
Once-safe streets became dangerous for journalists, as pro-Mubarak mobs spread like wildfire.
It was infuriating and at times too depressing to even write.
But then there was hope. Activist Wael Ghonim, administrator of the Facebook group that helped mobilize demonstrations, was released on Feb. 7 after a 12-day detention. His emotional TV interview, which saw him break in tears when seeing pictures of some of the 300 killed in protests, revived hope in the nation. But most importantly, it unified it.
Momentum feared to have been lost was reignited and numbers of protesters on streets surpassed those of earlier days. Labor strikes breathed life into calls for regime change.
A Friday march commemorating the martyrs was expected to draw the largest number of protesters, the country had ever seen.
Even though people were cautious in their happiness as news about Mubarak’s possible departure spread — fearing a grim alternative of martial laws or military law — it was evident that joy had taken over. The scenes of people celebrating — incomparable to street fests following popular football victories — revealed strength, willpower and love of life that would only grow stronger, regardless of what Mubarak had to say.
This moment — before Mubarak gave a confusing speech that disappointed and infuriated protesters — was victorious.
Friday might seal that victory, but it even at dawn it was too early to judge.
A version of this ran in Italian in the Corriere Della Sera.