Friday, February 11, 2011

The Friday of Martyrs


Yesterday's eagerly-awaited speech by Mubarak was a complete let-down. After the military came out and issued "Communique #1," everyone thought that a military coup was about to take place. That wasn't what Egyptians wanted - they are protesting to create a secular democracy, not a military dictatorship. But it was a step forward. Mubarak was at least going to step down. And that was something to celebrate.

And celebrate they did. Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, laughing and dancing and waving flags. The days of Mubarak - who was the only leader many of the under-30 demonstrators knew - were coming to an end.

Then Mubarak spoke. And the demonstrators knew that this was no end. It was the beginning. The beginning of another period of sacrifice and struggle against this man whose ego is so big it is covering the reality that sits in front of his eyes. The people of Egypt have had enough of 30 years of corruption, paternalism, and state terror. Raising their shoes as he spoke (the ultimate insult in Egyptian culture) they made it clear that they have had enough of Mubarak. He has to go. And the Egyptian people are willing to let their blood spill to make that happen.

Blood may well spill. Today, after Friday Prayer, Egyptians had planned what they called the "Friday of Martyrs." This march is supposed to be a memorial for the over 300 men and women who died in the last 18 days of revolution. But with Mubarak's denial to step down and his promise to punish those who caused "disorder" in Egypt, today's "Friday of Martyrs" may be named after all the protesters who will die as they move to surround (and perhaps storm) the palace, the parliament, and the state-owned television and radio building. With the army stationed there to protect those areas, it is unclear what will happen.

In fact, the army is the tipping point in this revolution. The big question on the streets and news stations is: where does the army's loyalty lie? Th army's "Communique #1" and it's promise that the protester's demands will be "fully met" made people believe that a coup had taken place yesterday. It seems that was not the case. Was the army just helping Mubarak play his last trick on the Egyptian people? Or is there some sort of power-jockeying going on behind the scenes, with the army's "Communique #1" an attempt at pressuring Mubarak to step down?

Today, we will find out. As one Arab commentator said, the people will test the army this afternoon. This highly-regarded institution can no long make vague statements that allow it to sit on the sidelines. The Egyptian people will make its true intentions come to light as they march on the symbols of Mubarak's regime. Either the army will unite with the people, making this "Friday of Martyrs" a celebration of the freedom people have died for, or the army will back Mubarak, making this day live up to its name with horrifying amounts of blood spilling and bodies falling to the ground.

It is up to the army now. We can only pray that this instutution so highly treasured by Egyptians lives up to their, and our, expectations.

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