Mubarak officially steps down; Egyptians erupt into cheers

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February 10th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – As the world watches the historic events in Egypt unfold, Omahans gathered for some perspective Thursday night at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Egypt's Tahrir Square packed with protestors at the beginning of the 18-day-old revolution, which has now succeeded in bringing down a dictator (Photo courtesy publicintelligence.net)

The world watched as thousands of people gathered in Egypt’s Tahrir Square Thursday, waiting for a live address from President Hosni Mubarak. He was widely expected to step down from power, as the people of Egypt have demanded for the past three weeks during massive protests around the country. But Mubarak said he would stay in office until the next elections in September, where he would not run again – something he had already conceded. It was only Friday morning when Mubarak finally announced he would step down, and the Egyptian protestors learned they had succeeded in their revolution to overthrow the long-standing dictator.

The historic uprising will no doubt have consequences throughout the Middle East region and the world. Thursday night, the University of Nebraska at Omaha hosted a panel discussion on the unfolding events, in an attempt to place them in historical context. UNO Professor of History Moshe Gershovich presented at the panel.

“Egypt is so… important for regional politics and international politics,” he said in a preview of the discussion. “The ramifications of events in Egypt affect the entire world, including this country.”

Gershovich said the uprising is long overdue, as Arab countries have existed under the rule of dictatorships for generations. The region has watched, he said, as communism and dictatorship fell all around the world.
“The Middle East seem to always be the one left behind all these developments,” he said. “In a sense… the Middle East is now catching up with the rest of the world. And as things like that tend to be, the democracy bug seems to be contagious.”

Gershovich said the global economic collapse that began in 2008 led to rising unemployment and frustration in Egypt – key factors that have made this revolution possible. And another: a rising class of young, educated people who are connected to the world in entirely new ways.

“These are literate people, who are well connected to the world of the internet,” he said. “And the internet of course connect[s] them beyond borders with people that they’ve never seen… or people who live very far away, but still share some of their concerns.”

“All this is translating into the notion of rejuvenation and frustration mixed with hope.”

Gershovich said he’s optimistic about the future of Egypt. But, he said, the revolution could go either way. There’s a strong presence of radical Islam in the country, in the form of the relatively well organized Muslim Brotherhood. He says that group could potentially rise to power in a democratic election. The world will continue to watch as the events in Egypt unfold, nobody really knowing what will happen next..

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