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Freed young Egyptian energizes protests
“Ghonim cannot be a leader by himself, unless he is elected by a committee elected and composed of different groups that represent all these people,” said Shayma Ahmed, a 20-year-old student among the Tahrir crowds.
Ghonim as well appeared to be dismissing talk of himself as a leader.
“I’m not a hero. I was writing on a keyboard on the Internet and I wasn’t exposing my life to danger,” he said in the interview. “The heroes are the one who are in the street.”
The protesters say they will not begin negotiations with the government over future democratic reforms until Mubarak steps down. Vice President Suleiman has tried to draw them into talks, promising extensive — but still unclear change — and many protesters fear he aims to fragment the movement with partial concessions and gestures.
There were demonstrations calling for the president’s ouster around the country as well with 18,000 people cramming into the main square of Egypt’s second largest city in Alexandria. Some 3,000 service workers for the Suez Canal also demonstrated in Suez city, while 8,000 people chanted anti Mubarak slogans in the southern city of Assiut.
Even after nightfall, thousands remained in Tahrir, with larger numbers camping out the night than previously — including significant numbers of women and children — entertained by popular singers giving concerts.
AP correspondent Hamza Hendawi contributed to this report.
A young Google executive who helped ignite Egypt’s uprising energized a cheering crowd of hundreds of thousands Tuesday with his first appearance in their midst after being released from 12 days in secret detention. “We won’t give up,” he promised at one of the biggest protests yet in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Once a behind-the-scenes Internet activist, 30-year-old Wael Ghonim has emerged as an inspiring voice for a movement that has taken pride in being a leaderless “people’s revolution.” Now, the various activists behind it — including Ghonim — are working to coalesce into representatives to push their demands for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
For the first time, protesters made a foray to Parliament, several blocks away from their camp in the square. Several hundred marched to the legislature and chanted for it to be dissolved.
In Tahrir, the massive, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd’s ranks swelled with new blood, including thousands of university professors and lawyers who marched in together as organizers worked to draw in professional unions. The crowd rivaled the biggest demonstration so far, a week ago, that drew a quarter-million people.
Some said they were inspired to turn out by an emotional television interview Ghonim gave Monday night just after his release from detention where he sobbed over those who have been killed in two weeks of clashes and insisted, “We love Egypt … and we have rights.”
“I cried,” a 33-year-old upper-class housewife Fifi Shawqi said of the interview with Ghonim, who she’d never heard of before the TV appearance. She came to the Tahrir protest for the first time, bringing her three daughters and her sister. “I felt like he is my son and all the youth here are my sons.”
Tuesday’s huge turnout gave a resounding answer to the question of whether the protesters still have momentum even though two weeks of steadfast pressure have not achieved their goal of ousting 82-year-old Mubarak, Egypt’s authoritarian leader for nearly three decades. Vice President Omar Suleiman on Tuesday made a new gesture, declaring a panel of judges and scholars to recommend constitutional changes within a month.
By John R. Bolton
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