People power defeats tools of Mubarak control

CAIRO,  (Reuters) – The protesters whose uprising  against President Hosni Mubarak forced him to step down defeated  all the weapons his administration deployed against them.

Their victory over Mubarak’s tried and tested tools of  control is a source of great pride among the protesters, united  by a sense of purpose that grew as the protest wore on.

It also sends a message to governments around the region who  govern in a similarly autocratic way.

“The people are stronger than anything else,” said Mohammed  al-Sheikh, a 22-year old protester at Tahrir Square, the heart  of revolt against Mubarak.

First, the government sent in the riot police. Not only did  they fail to quell the protests, but, massively outnumbered,  they simply disappeared from the streets. With its main tool focrushing protests blunted, Mubarak was immediately left exposed.

Then, it cut mobile phone lines and the Internet, hoping  that by disabling the means used to organise to protests, they  could weaken them. But that failed too: ever more Egyptians  arrived, including many who had never been online.

Then, the government sent F-16 fighter jets to buzz the  protesters, an attempt to intimidate them that backfired by  further hardening their resolve. In Egypt and abroad, it seemed  a crude attempt to bully the demonstrators.

When all else failed, Mubarak loyalists unleashed another  method to crush opposition, deploying men in plain clothes, some  of them members of the police force, to attack the protesters.

Known as “beltagia” in Arabic, or “thugs”, they also failed.

The protesters rallied to defend their positions in Tahrir  Square, repelling two days of attacks by men armed with sticks,  knives, guns and petrol bombs, some of them charging the  protesters from the saddles of horses and camels.

The battle of Tahrir Square, which claimed a number of lives  and more than 1,500 injured, was seen as a crucial moment in the  uprising. Being dislodged from the square would have been a  major blow to the protesters’ morale.

Instead, increasingly confident the military would not act  against them, they came back stronger again. The offensive  triggered more sympathy for the protests, the deaths drawing  more demonstrators to the square.

“They came at us with everything they had,” Sheikh said.  “We didn’t have weapons, but we had the will. Rulers must  understand that the dignity of the Egyptian citizen is more  important than anything,” he said.

“The regime gave the impression that it was strong, but it  was weak,” said Khaled al-Sheikh, 45. “They had weapons, power  but we were victorious because we had principles,” he said.

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