The thousands of Egyptians gathered on Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday night to protest against the army’s power grab reacted to reports of ex-President Mubarak’s death with scepticism. Many said the fate of the revolution itself was more important.
Tuesday night Cairo’s Tahrir Square was once again awash with thousands of Egyptians protesting the army’s ever-tightening grip on power.
For supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was also a chance to claim victory for their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, in the country’s first presidential election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
But then, at around 11 pm, mobile phones started buzzing. The news spread like wildfire: “Mubarak is clinically dead.”
After a few quiet, puzzled seconds, a roar shook Tahrir Square.
Veiled women started dancing, waving their arms over their heads. “They are glad Mubarak has died,” their husbands explained.
Their children, some barely ten years old, were quick to vent their frustration.
“I did not want him to die a natural death, I wanted him to be executed,” Hassan declared with a throat-slitting gesture.
Chadil, a member of the January 25 movement that precipitated Egypt’s revolution, added: “I don’t care about Mubarak dying. What matters is the revolution, not his death.”
Like many others, Chadil doubted the report was true. “We don’t even know whether he really is dead. The media lie to us so often, should we believe them? But if it’s true, we are turning a grim page of our history.”
Indeed, a few hours after the statement by the official MENA news agency, military officials denied that the former president was dead and announced that he was in fact on life support.
But Chadil’s uncle wanted to believe the news. “Good riddance!” he said. “Mubarak was at the root of Egypt’s trouble, now he is gone.”
Many Egyptians thought they were being manipulated by the army - like Ali, a middle-class resident of Cairo in his fifties. “I think the army encouraged doctors to cause his death and thus create a wave of emotion, which the army badly needs,” he said while buying a drink. “I am neither glad nor sad, because it’s all a power game.”
The shopkeeper chimed in: “Dead or alive, what’s the difference? The Egyptians feel nothing for Mubarak, we don’t care about him!”
Mostafa Elgamal, who was holding a portrait of the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, had his own theory: “Mubarak was given an injection and is going to be flown to another country, where he will live happily ever after, thanks to all his money. I know someone close to him, who told me several days ago that Mubarak had a great exit plan.”
This rumour has been circulating ever since Mubarak was taken to hospital after suffering a stroke.
Mostafa Elgamal added: “I was one of the main suspects in the attack on the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998, I was charged without evidence and imprisoned by the Mubarak regime for ten years. I was found innocent in 2010, a victim of Mubarak’s hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course I am glad we are rid of that crook!”
However, sadness floated through the shops and hotels near Tahrir Square, where many still miss the prosperity of the Mubarak era. All eyes were on Nile TV station, awaiting further news. When the news finally came through, there was mild relief. The man who had ruled Egypt for three decades was yet to breathe his last.