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Insider's Account of Egypt: "A Truly Civilized, Peaceful People Who Decided to Regain Control of Their Destiny"

Olfa G. Tantawi, an Egyptian mother of two, talks about what the revolution means for her country.

"The culture of democracy is still far away."

That's what Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman told a group of the country's newspaper editors on Tuesday. It was just two days before President Hosni Mubarak reconfirmed that he had no intention of resigning until September. But on Friday, Mubarak was gone.

Suleiman had said the continued demonstrations in Cairo and across the nation were "disrespectful" of Mubarak and warned of "the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people," a threat that sounds more Transylvanian than Egyptian. But the blood of the more than 300 demonstrators who have died in Egypt was all too real.

Mubarak, Suleiman, and other holdouts of Egypt's ancien regime believed that the popular uprising could be held at arm's length, that the freedom movement was simply anger over the price of wheat.

They should have listened to the words of a middle-aged Egyptian woman named Perhaps they would have realized sooner that the culture of democracy was not far away at all, but right at their very doorstep, insistently knocking.

A few years ago, Tantawi, a mother of two, was a student of my friend Craig Duff when he taught as a Knight International journalism fellow at the American University in Cairo. Recently, she wrote him this letter, variations on which have appeared on a few web sites. I offered to keep her identity secret but she told Craig, "Please use it all and use my name; really the seal of fear is broken ... Please use it and thank you for circulating, I am really concerned that some parts of the picture are not seen nor felt."

She wrote: "The Tahrir Square story is unbelievable. Today, already thousands of people are there and more and more are flooding the streets, all my friends and relatives are either in the square or on the way to go. These are people whose relation to politics and activism used to be to read the story in the newspaper and discuss it over lunch or dinner. Everybody is there right now including my 70-year-old aunt ...

"I spent the day there, late at night I went back home. Behind the safe doors of my house, suddenly it was a vacuum of fear. We had to watch the Egyptian media's false propaganda. They told Egyptians that the protesters in the Tahrir Square are causing serious damage to the economy and endangering the safety of the country. In other, allegedly more independent Egyptian media channels, some of the most influential writers and analysts were trying to sell to the people the idea that it is time to go home, you made it people, just give the current government enough time to make it right again...

"Angry and worried I shifted to the news flowing from other international media channels. As usual, their intense focus is on the fights, the bloodshed and the terror, they ask questions about who is leading, what about the Muslim Brotherhood, and the other opposition leaders? They speak to irrelevant people, who [are not] part of the event ...

"Then again today back to the square to find that the number of those who support the uprising is increasing tremendously. The charm of the Tahrir Square is attracting more and more people; some flew all the way from the United States, Canada, Germany, London and even South Africa to be there in the square at this very moment of ultimate hope. Others are coming from different Egyptian governorates, simple people who came a long way because they believe that this is a true revolution fighting for their rights and they were determined to give it all their support.

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