BANGOR, Maine — Though it happened half a world away, the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Friday was a huge deal for some people here in Maine.
Celebrating Friday’s development were Bangor pharmacist Eaman Attia, her husband, Dr. Ahmed Rahman, and their three children, who range in age from 3 to 9.
“We have been glued to the TV, I’m telling you,” Attia said Friday evening. “Our children have memorized the chants of the protesters,” who she said transcended religious, social, economic and educational lines.
“This is history in the making,” she said. “I broke down in tears — tears of joy.
“I have a sister who now lives in Cairo and she’s been giving us eyewitness reports [regarding the mood of the people],” Attia said. “They are happy. They are ecstatic they are now going to be free. When you are raised in a democracy, it’s hard to understand a dictatorship.”
For too long, she said, Egyptians have been robbed by their government leaders, who amassed great personal wealth despite the fact that 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Attia, whose parents moved to Ontario 40 years ago so her father could complete his doctoral studies, said Friday that she was born in Canada but her family maintains close ties with relatives in their native Alexandria and visit as often as they can.
After marrying Rahman, an Egyptian-born physician who works at Eastern Maine Medical Center, the family began visiting Rahman’s family in Cairo, along with their three children.
Though many have been asking what’s next for Egypt, Attia said, those who live there or who have ties to the country have this to say: “Let us savor the moment.”
“Egyptians know that this is just the beginning,” she said. Now its citizens face the daunting task of building a democracy from the ground up, a task that will include developing policies and political parties and choosing new leaders.
“The hope is that nobody who wants to be the next dictator takes advantage” of the situation, Attia said.
Attia said Friday she’s particularly proud that the revolution was a peaceful one.
“There was no animosity. There was only love,” she said. “Millions stood side by side with a common goal.”
Attia, who said their last visit was two years ago, is eager to return.
“I was telling my husband we need to get back to the new Egypt. We have to take our kids back to the free Egypt.”
Also keeping tabs on the latest developments in Egypt were members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
“It is imperative that this transitional moment, brought about by the people’s thirst for democracy and rule of law, give way to a peaceful and orderly transition that allows Egyptians to participate in their own governance through free and fair elections,” U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said Friday.
“The ultimate goal in Egypt should be a nation at peace with its neighbors and legitimate to its own people, providing for far greater transparency, distribution of power and respect for human rights,” said Snowe, who is a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“The unrelenting determination of the Egyptian people to bring about change in their government has been extraordinary,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
“Today marks the beginning of a transition to what we hope will be a democratically elected government in Egypt that is accountable to the people,” she said.
“This process will be difficult, as with the notable exception of the Army, Egypt under Mubarak’s repressive rule has not developed the secular and democratic institutions to fill the power vacuum that now exists,” Collins said. “As Egypt moves toward a free and democratic future that incorporates long overdue reforms, it also must continue its vital role as a cornerstone of peace in the Middle East.”
Also weighing in on the developments was U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.
“Today marks the end of a 30-year saga for the Egyptian people. The revolution that we have witnessed over the last 18 days has demonstrated that the resolve of the people will always outlast repressive regimes,” Michaud said.
“While a lot remains to be seen at this point, I am hopeful that there will be a peaceful transition of power that results in free and fair elections. My prayers and support are with the Egyptian people during this time of great change, and I will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds.”
Those interested in hearing more about the popular revolt may do so Monday, when University of Maine graduate student Sherief Farouk of the department of computer science shares his perspectives during a 3 p.m. presentation in Room 115 of the Donald P. Corbett Business Building.
Farouk, who is Egyptian, will offer a technological and personal perspective on the upheaval, coordinated over the past few days through Facebook and Twitter.
His talk will cover the political history of Egypt leading to the current revolution and how social networking websites were used to coordinate logistics before and during the protests, as well as the government’s responses and attempts to censor the movement — including temporarily severing Egypt’s connection to the Internet.
The talk is free and open to the public.