After 18 days of relentless, passionate and gruelling protests on the streets, the people of Egypt have finally managed to force Hosni Mubarak to resign as President. The army have taken control of the nation, whilst the incredible citizens of that Middle Eastern nation, that cradle of civilisation and history, celebrate their successes.
It has been an amazing two weeks and the Egyptian people have shown themselves to be brave and defiant, in the end more defiant than their corrupt former leader. It started with an act of self-immolation in Tunisia, and has lead to to the toppling of the government of what was once considered the most stable nation in the Middle East. The events of these past weeks have taught us many things and changed the face of global politics. Firstly, the people of Tunisia and Egypt have proved that the patronising Western view that Arabs "cannot handle" democracy is unfounded and wrong. Secondly, we have seen a quite astonishing shift in the foreign policies of Western powers. The United States' position changed frequently; their line varying in degrees of tone. They began, like Britain, by saying that it was not the place of the West to meddle in the affairs of Egypt. Then, as the situation got hotter, their public statements inched further and further to an almost anti-Mubarak stance. Ultimately, America was forced to place democracy before stability; and the pressure they put on Mubarak behind the scenes has, perhaps, played a large part in his standing-down. These developments are shocking. For years, the West has been a firm ally of Mubarak - a man who was considered a beacon of stability in the volatile Middle East - whilst conveniently choosing to ignore his terrible human rights record and the subjugation of his people; the price paid, apparently, for political constancy. Other Middle Eastern countries with similar set-ups as Egypt, such as Jordan and Yemen, now look on nervously - perhaps the support they receive from America is also conditional.
The protests in both Tunisia and Egypt have also shown that people can never be permanently oppressed. Sooner or later, corrupt, police states will get their comeuppance - the people of those nations will not eternally accept the way they are forced to live, for the embers of liberty and freedom are ones that glow softly inside every human heart, and it takes the smallest of sparks to ignite them. The domino effect is a very real thing - Tunisia lead to Egypt; and the events in Egypt, the most populous of the Middle Eastern countries and largely considered to be the cultural and economic capital, may just lead to further revolutions across the region. And we must hope for that, because democracy and the freedom of people the world over are ideals we should all advocate. We cannot and should not force it on anyone; but we can hope for and lend our unequivocal support to democratic change.
However, we mustn't now think it good to rest on our laurels, safe in the knowledge that Egypt is fine and dandy. No, that would be a mistake. Democracy has not yet been established in Egypt. Parliament has been dissolved, the President has left and now the army has taken control of the nation. No one knows what will now happen, although a promising, but far from definite, statement from the Egyptian army was issued earlier. Hopefully, the constitution will be re-written, allowing free and fair elections to take place. Hopefully, the Egyptian people will elect their government and have a say in how their country is run. But none of this is certain. I suppose we will just have to wait and see; indeed, that's all we can do. It would be wrong on many levels for the West to interfere.
But pessimism would be futile and unhelpful. The Egyptian people gathered together, in cities across the country, in protest at their Draconian politicians and one-party-state. They have not once given up; not once lost hope and tenacity and vision. They are, quite frankly, amazing. Their sheer strength of spirit is universally admirable; their unremitting fight for freedom is something that has left me and many others in awe. I have every hope imaginable in these people, and indeed in all the peoples of the Middle East. The Egyptians will not allow a return to the status-quo; they are now on the path to democracy. These protests and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak have sparked something momentous - the birth of a new Egypt.