Conflict & Justice

Massive protests in Egypt

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he will not stand for re-election in September, as protests against his rule grow. The announcement came as hundreds of thousands rallied in central Cairo urging him to step down immediately. The demonstration was the biggest since protests began last week. The World's Matthew Bell is in Cairo.

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In Egypt Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of protesters again sang patriotic songs and chanted slogans.

They were demanding the end of the nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. There were huge protests in Alexandria and Suez. But the largest one was in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egypt's army appealed to the demonstrators there to behave peacefully, because their pictures will go around the world. The protests in Cairo were generally peaceful and soldiers mingled happily with the crowd.

?The government say that we are little,? one demonstrator said. ?But we are very big, very big. So, we come here today to say that.?

Soldiers ? but mostly civilians ? pulled security duty. They checked IDs. They opened bags and frisked people as they entered the square. By Tuesday afternoon, more than a hundred thousand people had flooded into Tahrir Square.

?I'm a person who has a luxury car, two floors house,? another demonstrator said. ?I have pets and I have two kids and yet, I'm doing this for the people who can't find food for the day, because it's the responsibility of everyone.?

A group of lawyers in suits and ties pulled out black robes ? their official attire ? and put them on. The lawyers then launched into a chant against President Mubarak.
Demanding Mubarak step down

The demonstrators were from all sections of the population. But they shared a single demand, that Mubarak step down.

One man stood in the square with a ?go to hell Mubarak' sign.

?Egyptian people ? don't believe what happened. I can stand here for weeks, for months. We need Mubarak to leave,? the man said.

The once-formidable wall of fear has disappeared from people feeling they can make a difference.

The Muslim Brotherhood ? a recognized opposition group with an Islamic bent ? had kept out of the limelight, but now seems to be taking a prominent role in the protests.

Some worry that it might push a conservative brand of Islam if it has the opportunity. Brotherhood blogger Abdurrahman Ayyash said that should not be a concern.

?First of all this is not Islamist revolution,? Ayyash said. ?This is not a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. This is the first time that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken to the streets. They didn't start this, the people did, and the Muslim Brotherhood followed them. I don't believe that the Muslim Brotherhood will steal this revolution.?

Other demonstrators, like this man, had a message for the United States today. They wanted the Americans to support their cause.

?We saw the Americans support Saakashvili in Georgia,? he said. ?We saw the Americans support al Hariri in Lebanon. We saw the Americans supporting the Ukrainian revolution. And we see nothing here.?

What the protesters wanted to see was democracy. They said freedom will come only when Mubarak goes.