I’m at Cairo airport, on my way out of the city. I’ve got to get back
to the day job. Since last night, there’s been no resolution to the
crisis; the Day of Departure has failed. Not through lack of trying,
or lack of popular support, but through the intransigence of an old
man and his self-belief. It makes me wonder: in the face of such
stubbornness, can peaceful protest work? Demonstrations don’t get
bigger than those we saw yesterday, and yet Mubarak remains bruised
The demonstrators still in Tahrir are committed to staying until
Mubarak goes. They could be in for a long wait. Ominously for them –
but good for the economy and people’s livelihoods – the country is
returning to normal. Today, most shops are open and the banks
will re-open tomorrow. Outside of Tahrir, people are going about their
business, accepting of Mubarak’s concessions and happy to muddle along
for the next few months until new elections are organised.
And perhaps the demonstrators need to follow their lead. It might be of
greater value now to focus on the serious business of organising
elections and rewriting the constitution, thrashing out the mechanics
of how all that is going to work. The greatest danger now is that
Mubarak, or his coterie, will hijack this process in some
But whatever happens, the opposition should not forget how far they
have come in just two short weeks; their unprecedented display of
people power, their remarkable unity in the face of violent
persecution, and their bravery will be an inspiration to me as long as
I live. The most ordinary people were prepared to sacrifice
everything. Commentators keep saying that ‘the wall of fear’ has been
broken. Rubbish. The demonstrators are terrified, but they’re doing it
anyway, and that is real courage.
Whatever happens, they have achieved so much; Mubarak will go, Gamal
will go, and Egypt will have free elections. And after thirty years of
Mubarak, surely the only way is up for the country.
VERDICT: Egypt will go forth, whether it waits a few months for
Mubarak to go or not.