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Protests in Egypt Hit Close to Home

After 18 days of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11 after 30 years of ruling the most populous country in the Middle East.

The protest movement, mostly centered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, began after the January uprising in Tunisia, one of Egypt’s closest neighbors. The protests, originally consisting of a small number of people, grew to include thousands of protestors by the first week of February.

Although the protests were mostly peaceful, Egypt’s police force used tear gas and other crowd control methods in an attempt to disperse the protestors. Mubarak’s supporters often became violent, throwing stones and firebombs and injuring anti-government protestors.

Egypt’s military refused to break up or use violence against the protestors, and after Mubarak stepped down, they took control of the government. The military will continue to control the government until elections are held in six months.

Because of the volatile conditions of the protests, many Egyptians tried to leave in search of a safer location. Arabic teacher Samar Moushabeck’s sister and her family, who live in Cairo, left the country for the US shortly before Mubarak stepped down.

“The demonstrators’ numbers increased along with efforts to control them. The internet was shut down and I was no longer able to reach my sister; not by phone or email,” said Mrs. Moushabeck. “I turned to Twitter and the internet media from here to see what was going on there.”

Mrs. Moushabeck says that her sister and her family have every intention of returning to Egypt. “They left with a suitcase of clothes and their important papers thinking that they will be back soon,” she said. Like many people around the world, she hopes that the Egypt to which her sister returns will be a democracy.

“At this point I am hoping that Egypt will end up a free nation with a democratic government that is run by its people,” she said.