The Diag was transformed into Liberation Square on Friday afternoon as members of the University’s Egyptian Student Association celebrated the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
About 20 students took to the Diag to rejoice and share their joy with others on campus. Many passed out Snickers bars and other chocolates to students walking by. LSA junior Eman Abdelhadi said it’s traditional to pass out sweets on happy occasions.
“Egyptians — and Arabs in general — have this tradition where they pass out treats at good occasions,” Abdelhadi said. “At weddings, religious occasions, Eids, like the holidays. This is an Eid. This is a holiday, for sure. And we’re just so pumped that it happened.”
After 18 days of anti-government protests that swept across Egypt and captivated the world, Mubarak resigned Friday and headed to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Egyptian military, which is now in charge, dissolved parliament yesterday and called for democratic elections within six months.
“The idea of a democracy in the Middle East, the idea of the Middle Eastern people actually writing their own destinies, actually making change come about through popular revolt is amazing,” Abdelhadi said as she handed out candy to passersby on the Diag. “Anyone who studies Middle Eastern history is just boggled by this. No one saw this coming.”
On Jan. 28, about 80 members of the University community gathered on the Diag to show their support for the protesters in Egypt. Rackham student Sameh Tawfick said he didn’t think he’d be back on the Diag celebrating so soon after protesting against Mubarak.
“Even when we were here on the Diag on the first day of the protests, I wasn’t expecting that (Mubarak) would resign or step down,” Tawfick said as he waved a small red, white and black Egyptian flag. “I was protesting, and I was thinking we just want the whole world to know what is going on in Egypt and that the people are against the government. We weren’t expecting this to actually happen with peaceful protests.”
LSA sophomore Sarah Awad-Farid said she was watching Al-Jazeera’s online stream at her job at the Institute for Social Research Friday afternoon when she found out Mubarak resigned.
“I went to my boss and said, ‘Listen, I got to go. I have to go make phone calls to my family. I have to celebrate,’” Awad-Farid said. “So I left, but they were very nice about it.”
Awad-Farid said she spoke to her family in Egypt on the phone Friday, and they were ecstatic.
“Because they live in Cairo near downtown, you can actually hear the beeping of the car horns, the celebrations and the music in the background,” Awad-Farid said. “They’ve honestly been waiting for this for so long, and they did it in such a dignified way that, if anything, they have a right to celebrate. They’re so joyous, and I’m so proud of them.”
Abdelhadi, who was also working at the ISR at the time, said she became incredibly emotional when she first heard the news.
“I was at work and I started crying,” she said. “I called my mother — she was weeping,” Abdelhadi, who was born in Egypt, said. “We grew up with this super suppressive government, and you always feel the weight of it anywhere you go in Egypt and now it’s gone.”
Abdelhadi said her whole family took part in the celebrations.
“They’re euphoric; they’re all out celebrating,” she said. “My grandfather is 82 years old. I’m so glad he made it for this.
Abdelhadi added, “People have this new found sense of ownership and inspiration and dignity, and I feel like this is my country, and I want to be a part of it again.”
— The Associated Press and Zach Bergson contributed to this report.