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New Arab rallying cry: 'Enough'

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"There seems to be this assumption that if you're pro-democracy then you're pro-US foreign policy, and that's incredibly misleading,'' says Marc Lynch, a political scientist and expert on the Middle East at Williams College in Massachusetts.

As a secular and modern Egyptian democrat, Jihan Shabaan is the very image of the Middle Eastern citizens President Bush hopes will take to the streets and demand the freedom.

She says a lifetime without political freedoms, in which she's watched average Egyptians drift deeper into poverty, has convinced her to risk everything at the forefront of Egypt's Kifaya movement, which is demanding that President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's long-time strong-man, step down and be replaced by a freely elected leader.

Beyond just Egypt

But for Ms. Shabaan and most of her colleagues in the movement, "enough" doesn't apply to President Mubarak alone. She expects a democratic Egypt would distance itself from the US, a long-time ally, and hit out at what she calls decades of "hypocritical" US policy in the Middle East.

"If things really change here, America's illusions that its interests in the region would be advanced by democracy will be laid bare,'' she says. "A real democratic government in Egypt would be strongly against the US occupation of Iraq and regional US policies, particularly over Palestine. We are strongly against US influence."

Despite apparently genuine sentiment, Kifaya organizers say there's also practical reasons to make the distance from the US clear. The government has tried to paint democracy activists as foreign puppets in the past, alleging they take foreign money. "The regime are the ones taking American money. But they always accuse us of having foreign money whenever there are calls for democracy," says Shabaan.

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