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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2011

Ohioans rejoice as Egyptian regime falls

"At first, we didn't believe it," said Mr. Hassab-Elnaby, a native Egyptian who lives in Sylvania. "We thought it was wrong until we heard it over and over and then my son and wife were in so much joy that tears were in our eyes. We were so happy."

Mr. Mubarak handed over power to the military after 18 days of protests started by a small core of activists who organized chiefly on the Internet and social network Web sites. With the news, fireworks burst over Liberation Square in Cairo. Many people from Egypt now living in northwest Ohio rejoiced and even cried as pro-democracy protesters finally succeeded in toppling the Mubarak presidency.

Mr. Hassab-Elnaby, a University of Toledo professor who was in Egypt last month just as the protests began, said the social, economic, and political corruption in Egypt has been overwhelming for the country's people.

"Egyptian people stood up for democracy peacefully and got what they deserve," Mr. Hassab-Elnaby said. "It is a first step but it is a very important step and we still have a lot of uncertainty about the future."

Like many, he said the protests in Egypt were inspired by neighboring Tunisia's overthrow of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and that other Arab nations will follow in ousting their dictators.

"Egypt is a key country for stability in the area," Mr. Hassab-Elnaby said as a 24-hour news network blasted news of the Egyptian revolution behind him. "I believe other countries will follow, like Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon, and Jordan -- possibly in less than a year those dictators will be gone or removed by the people."

Zeinab Khalil, 19, of Ottawa Hills had been keeping constant watch on news reports from Egypt and was also moved to tears.

After Mr. Mubarak spoke Thursday night, handing over some powers to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but not stepping down, Miss Khalil was crushed that he seemingly would remain. Then came news of his stepping down.

"It was absolutely phenomenal what the Egyptian people have accomplished," said Miss Khalil, who was born in America to Egyptian-born parents.

"They are teaching the world how revolutions are done and one thing that is beautiful about this is that it is authentically Egyptian," she said. "There are no foreign interventions and people are calling it revolution because it was organized through Facebook by young Egyptians."

Some of those young Egyptians protesting and essentially camping for days in Liberation Square included Miss Khalil's cousins.

"I have been so emotionally invested in this the past 17 days," Miss Khalil said. "This is only the beginning. The most trying and difficult part of the revolution is what comes after, but I have faith the Egyptian people will make their new future and a new Egypt."

Abdel-Wahab Soliman of Perrysburg was called by his brothers from Liberation Square when the announcement of Mr. Mubarak's resignation was made.

"I was afraid the army or police would start shooting at the people, so I was very relieved," Mr. Soliman said. "Mubarak was a tyrant, a dictator all of his life. He stole the money of the country, which is totally corrupted, and the people lost their dignity; he imprisoned them, and he created a gang structure that terrified the people."

Mohamed Youssef, who grew up in the Egyptian city of Luxor, said the people of his native country have suffered for decades under Mr. Mubarak's rule.

"Our youth finally did it with a beautiful revolution," said Mr. Youssef, who lived in Toledo for 25 years before moving to Perrysburg.

"I hope personally there is going to be a complete democracy that is good for Egypt," he said. "Egyptians have been suffering for a long time, so I pray for every Egyptian to now calm down until we heal a little then we can do what needs to be done behind our army and our educated people."

Mr. Youssef, a retired chemical engineer, visits Egypt annually. He said the people there were pushed into the protests that swelled and turned violent over the 17 days.

"Usually Egyptian people are not vicious," he said. "They are very calm, mostly educated, and I don't think it is going to take a long time for things to return to peace there."

-- Ignazio Messina



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