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Egypt: reflections from the author of "Down the Nile"

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The younger people I met, most of whom were unemployed, had spent their entire lives under Mubarak's martial law. They seemed both resigned to it and frustrated about the prospect of change in their country. Mubarak's government has never allowed public political discourse and certainly not public political opposition.

The overwhelming sense I had was that the people felt they had no real freedom or power over their own destiny and no faith in the government's interest in their needs. They had no choice but to yield to and obey the police and the military.

A man could be thrown in jail for supposedly showing disrespect to a foreign tourist, whether or not the tourist had any evidence of such. The government was more a force to be endured rather than one to be appealed to for assistance.

Q: A lot of Egyptians live outside the big cities. Is their world a lot different? How do you think that might play out?
In a population of 90 million people it's never possible to find a truly unified voice.

The people demonstrating in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria are young educated professionals, government workers, business people, civil servants. Because they're educated and informed they take their democratic rights and responsibilities seriously. They understand what democracy should be. They have enough faith in the democratic process and enough hope for the future that they finally dared to say no to a government that has for years not only disrespected their rights as citizens but disregarded their basic needs.

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