CHICAGO (CBS) – Egyptians and supporters of the Egyptian cause were stunned by what they witnessed Thursday, but still hopeful that change is coming to Cairo and their entire country.
Staffers at the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago shook their heads in dismay after watching Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announce he will not step down.
“I was incredibly disappointed, personally,” CAIR staffer Amina Sharif told CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli. “I’ve been hoping for him to step down, and he sounds delusional to me.”
Nehad El Gamal is just back from Egypt. He spent a night in Tahrir Square calling on Mubarak to step down. Thursday’s announcement was especially frustrating.
But El Gamal says people power will prevail and the strongman who’s ruled Egypt for 30 years will be forced to step down.
“Eventually he will leave,” he said. “I know it, for sure.”
But many activists and Chicago area Egyptians fear that the next phase of the revolution will exact a heavy toll in human life.
“I’m hoping he doesn’t resort to violence,” Sharif said. “He said in his speech today that he will punish those who’ve been committing the violence, but we’re all fairly sure that it was arranged by the government. So, I don’t trust him at all.”
An Egyptian-born professor of international law at Chicago’s DePaul University, M. Cherif Bassiouni, says Friday’s chapter in the revolt will be crucial.
“If the demonstrators hit the city of Suez and the workers in the Suez Canal go on strike, the Suze Canal is blocked,” he told CBS 2′s Mike Parker. If that happens, “There’s no oil going to Europe. Do you know what economic crisis this would create in Europe? Enormous.”
What about the army? Many of the insurgents believe that before long, the Egyptian military will join the revolution and overthrow former General Mubarak and his vice president, former military officer Omar Suileman.
Businessman Muhummad Khalil hopes for that. “That could happen,” he said. “They’re the only ones who can.”
“They’re a band of brothers, in the military sense,” he said. “They have a sense of honor, a sense of loyalty. They’re not going to abandon him.”
Egyptian activists plan to rally this weekend to once again call for the ouster of Mubarak.