As of this minute there is no embezzling president, no extraordinary-rendition-facilitator vice-president, no corrupt cabinet, no rigged parliament, no brutal emergency laws, no – regime! We have entered a new phase, says Ahdaf Soueif.
By Ahdaf Soueif
11 February 2011
The joy cries filled the air – across Egypt the joy cries filled the air.
For two weeks we'd chanted: "Come on Egypt, One more push/Freedom will be born tonight." And tonight this has come true. We don't yet know how the next stage will pan out. But we know that we will continue to do everything to protect our revolution and the spirit of our revolution.
If it had not been so dangerous it would have been comic: the spectacle of a handful of old men popping up one after the other to – to do what? To demonstrate their complete irrelevance to the people and the events they still hoped to control.
We looked at each other in amazement after every one of their performances. Were they living in an alternative reality? A kind of Truman Show?
On Thursday evening Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman and Ehud Barak were sharing a song-sheet: Egypt isn't ready, don't move too quickly, the Islamists will destabilise the region. How they wished all this were true; rather than the Woodstock-type scenes we've been witnessing in Egypt's public spaces for two weeks.
The key to understanding the regime's discourse was this: these people were not addressing Egypt at all: they were still addressing what they think of as America.
The first and necessary demand of this miraculous, human, humane, revolution was clearly expressed from day one: the removal of the regime. The regime being all the people, the power bases, the regulations and traditions that have facilitated the exploiting, the degrading of the country's institutions to serve the interests of a small clique against the interests of the nation as a whole. And to be able to do this they have maligned and misrepresented the Egyptian people to each other and to the world. They have engaged in nothing less than the destruction of the humanity of this country.
The people demanded the fall of this regime. In Tahrir Square and on the streets of Egypt the people have reclaimed their humanity. Now they will reclaim their state. By means of free and fair elections under judicial supervision. To hold these elections we need to reform the constitution the regime has so deformed. So we will need a council of senior judiciary to form a cabinet of non-political technocrats to run the country while a committee of respected public figures and constitutional experts redraw the bits of the constitution necessary to regulate elections. Six months should see this all done. And the army has declared it will safeguard the country for this to happen.
On Thursday night when the regime announced its intention to stay, the people's response was immediate: they marched. On the Nile Corniche they formed a human chain around the radio and television building: the source of all the poison propaganda against the revolution. On the airport road, they started a sit-in at Mubarak's residence – he, of course, was not there. On Friday, millions were on the move: exasperated and fed-up, but insisting "silmiyyah / silmiyyah" — peaceable, good-humoured, still cracking jokes.
And now, in a mercifully brief statement, Suleiman declared the stepping aside of Mubarak and the handover to the army. As of this minute there is no embezzling president, no extraordinary-rendition-facilitator vice-president, no corrupt cabinet, no rigged parliament, no brutal emergency laws, no – regime! We have entered a new phase. For two weeks the people have been chanting "The People/The Army/One Hand." We will now work to make this true in the most positive way possible: that the army will guarantee peace and safety while we put in place the civilian structures that will help us to articulate how we want to run our country.
In the square I had met two women in the last stages of pregnancy. They were due to give birth any day and they wanted to give birth in a free Egypt. Now they can have their babies.
The world has been watching this struggle between a tenacious, brutal and corrupt government, using all the apparatus of the state, and a great and varied body of citizens, armed with nothing but words and music and legitimacy and hope. The support of the world came through to us loud and clear, and what has happened here over the last two weeks will give voice and power to civilian citizens everywhere.
Our work will begin now: to rebuild our country in as exemplary a fashion as the one in which we've won it back. To remember our young people who died that this night might happen and to carry them forward with us into a future good for us and good for our friends and good for the world.
Look at the streets of Egypt tonight; this is what hope looks like.
Ahdaf Soueif is the author of the Booker-prize nominated novel The Map of Love and many other books. She lives in Cairo and London