Egyptians Furious as Defiant Mubarak Refuses to Step Down
At first, the crowd of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in historic Tahrir Square in Cairo was ecstatic. Word on the street– literally– was that Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak would announce he was finally stepping down when he addressed the nation in a televised speech late this evening. But when Mubarak took to the airwaves, elation turned to seething anger as it quickly became apparent that the tyrant had no intentions of relinquishing power.
Calling himself Egypt’s “father” and the protesters his “sons and daughters,” Mubarak’s speech was an exercise in condescension, defiance and stating the obvious. He said he was proud of the protesters, who represent “a symbol of a new generation of Egyptians that is calling for a better change.” He promised that the hundreds of slain demonstrators, whom he called “martyrs,” will not have died in vain and that those responsible for their deaths will receive “severe punishments.”
Calling the demonstrators’ demands “legitimate and right,” Mubarak said he heard the protesters’ voices and “my response to your voice, to your message, to your demands, is an irrevocable commitment and I am determined strongly to pledge what I have promised you with all seriousness and frankness.”
But real frankness would seem to demand that Mubarak recognize the fact that the protesters won’t be satisfied with anything less than the removal of the dictator from power. That’s not something he is currently willing to do. He repeatedly referred to himself as the country’s president and offered up some weak concessions in an unsuccessful attempt to placate the seething masses thronging the streets of Cairo and other cities.
Even before his speech was finished, the crowd in Tahrir Square was angrily chanting “out now!”, “leave! leave!”, and “Down, down, Hosni Mubarak!” “We won’t allow him to steal our revolution,” one protester said. “Tomorrow we’re going to the presidential place and to all other public buildings in the country. We have to force him to leave office,” promised another.
What happens next is uncertain. The only thing that is for sure is that for Egyptians, the only tomorrow that is acceptable is one without Hosni Mubarak as their leader.