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Local Egyptian reacts to news in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Anti-government protesters react with anger and sadness to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's televised statement to his nation in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Thurs., Feb. 10, 2011. Mubarak says he's handing some power to VP Omar Suleiman.

Like so many of us, I am on the edge of my seat as I watch the news unfold in Egypt. Dramatic moments such as these are the stuff a news journalist's dreams are made of. But there's so much more at stake for people who have friends and families in Cairo. Microsoft software salesman Alaa Badr is one of them. I reached him this afternoon right after Mubarak's speech.

"I'm just extremely upset and frustrated and resentful about Mubarek -- even more so now than ever before," Badr says.

Badr and his compatriots have been calling for Mubarak's resignation for more than two weeks. 

He had gathered with friends in Bellevue, who were all hoping for a celebratory meal. They watched the speech on their iPhones and laptops.

Badr says hearing the news, they lost their appetite. So much hope has now turned to fear. He thinks the army might break into two factions: one that wants to protect the protestors and one against them. 

I don't know if that's a realistic fear - it's just one man's perspective - but I know NPR's foreign desk has been doing a great job covering these events. They pointed out this afternoon that everyone is required to serve Egypt's army, so it's different than our system in the U.S., and that the army is supposed to protect the state but not necessarily a specific regime.

Badr says just recently he got a bunch of new pictures on his Facebook profile from the friends in Cairo that that he grew up with. He says the images paint a picture of Tahrir starting to feel like a big open air festival. But that's changed abruptly. 

"People have been putting on euphoric parades and comedy shows and concerts and making that reflects the mood of the demonstrators. And now, I'm definitely more concerned."

Badr's the son of a diplomat and has lived all over the world. He settled in Issaquah a few years ago.

I started talking with him a couple of weeks ago, after I saw a tweet about a support rally planned for Bellevue. Since then, he's led two weekend gatherings at Westlake Square.  

Badr says he's still planning to go to Cairo next week, to be in Tahrir Square. But he'll be watching the situation closely this weekend and will decide what to do when it's clearer what's happening.

Remembering Another 'Tipping Point'

This reminds me of the time I spent in Berlin and east Germany in 1989. It was the fall after the violent demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in China. I arrived in Berlin for a scholarship year that started in early September. I spoke fluent German and ended up working as an interpreter for Chris Hedges and then later for NPR's Deborah Amos and Tom Gjelten.  

We traveled in eastern Germany and were in the protests in Leipzig, later called the "city of heroes" because no one knew if tanks would roll there as they had in Beijing just a few months earlier.

It was a tipping point, as we're seeing now in Egypt. You can hear a reporter's notebook I did for KPLU about this by clicking here.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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