We have seen this before in East Germany, Hungary, Poland and in all of Eastern Europe. People, tired of subjugation, overthrow tyrants. In East Europe, there was a happy ending. Not so for Iran under the Shah, where religious fanatics and bigots became bigger and more fearsome tyrants. The question for Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen is what will follow?
Egypt protests: Fresh protests could leave Egypt on brink of revolution
A fresh wave of mass protests could leave Egypt teetering on the brink of revolution on Friday after police warned the president they could soon lose control of the demonstrators demanding his overthrow.
7:14AM GMT 28 Jan 2011
Hosni Mubarak's grip on power was slipping on Thursday and momentum appeared to be shifting rapidly in favour of pro-democracy activists.
Undeterred by a violent police response and the deaths of at least seven people after three days of clashes in Cairo and other cities, organisers said they planned to make today's marches the biggest yet. Yesterday police shot dead a protester in north Sinai.
They were given a further boost after Mohamed ElBaradei, one of Mr Mubarak's fiercest critics, returned to Egypt from Vienna to join the protests, providing opponents of the regime with a potential figurehead to rally around.
Desperately trying to avoid a repeat of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolt, which saw President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ousted from power earlier this month, Mr Mubarak's ruling party convened in emergency session.
The interior ministry declared on Thursday night it would take “decisive measures” against anyone protesting on Friday.
In a further blow to his attempts to retain the office he has held for nearly 30 years, sources in Egypt said Mr Mubarak, who is 82, was told by police commanders that any demonstration attracting more than 70,000 protesters could not be contained.
A page announcing Friday's protest on Facebook, one of the social networking websites that has played a leading role in mobilising opposition supporters, drew over 56,000 supporters in 24 hours.
However early on Friday morning, many internet connections went down across Cairo, leading some to accuse the government of cutting them to prevent social networking sites being used to coordinate protests.
While many of those are likely to stay at home, analysts say the regime's failure to break the protests will only embolden more Egyptians to join them. Yesterday, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt's largest opposition group – also threw its support behind the protests, which have been mainly secular so far.
Its supporters could give the protests a major numerical boost.
"It's over, I think, for the Mubarak regime," said Maha Azzam, an Egyptian-born associate fellow at the think-tank, Chatham House.
"It may take a couple of months or longer, but I think there will now be a consistent challenge to him." If the police are unable to quell the demonstrations, Mr Mubarak will be left with no choice but to turn to the army. Although Egypt's generals have been unquestioning in their loyalty to the president, they may baulk at the prospect of ordering their troops to open fire at unarmed protesters and turn against him. It was the loss of the army's support in Tunisia that prompted Mr Ben Ali to flee.
"If there is a situation where they are forced to kill people, top generals will put their foot down," said Hisham Kassem, a prominent Egyptian publisher and analyst.
In what could be a sign of things to come, some army units in Suez, the eastern city that has seen some of the worst of the violence, reportedly refused orders to disperse protesters yesterday.
Seeking to escalate the pressure on the president, Mr ElBaradei, who is a former chief of the UN's nuclear watchdog, offered to lead a transitional government.
"If people, in particular young people, if they want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down," he said.
Although he has been a leading Western ally, Mr Mubarak was also facing growing international isolation as the United States and Britain both called on him to heed the grievances of his people by instituting reforms.
So far, there has been little sign that the president – who has not been seen in public since the protests began â " is listening.
His security forces have arrested nearly 1,000 people and injured hundreds. There were further deaths, too, as police shot dead a protester in Sinai yesterday, a region of the country that had previously been quiet.
The growing unrest has unnerved investors and the Cairo Stock Exchange was briefly forced to close after share prices fell by more than seven per cent. London-listed shares in gold miner Centamin Egypt and Egypt-focused Circle Oil also fell.