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For those who had committed themselves to overthrowing the regime, they knew that if they ceded the square then arrests, torture and even death would follow. Almost all of the young protesters who led the uprising told me they would sooner die in Tahrir Square than leave with Mubarak still in power.

The foreign press also became a target for supposedly fuelling the uprising with sympathetic coverage. Scores of journalists came under attack. Often they were just kicked and punched and had their cameras destroyed. Others were less fortunate and were hit with sticks, poles or, in some cases, with knives. 

The army was slow to intervene during these incidents, if at all. When it did, soldiers would disperse the crowd but then turned over journalists to the much-feared secret police. From my hotel balcony I watched as two journalists desperately tried to sprint back but were unable to make it. The mob beat them and then the army arrested them. They were marched away out of sight. Panic set in by that stage among journalists trying to cover these events. Who was going to protect us? The mob was out to kill us and the police wanted to arrest us. It was a small taste of what ordinary Egyptians have had to endure for the last 30 years.

Indeed, the United Nations estimated that more than 300 people died in protest-related violence since the uprising first began. Thousands more were injured. This was Mubarak's final revenge. As his ship sank, the curmudgeonly dictator was determined to make one last brutal attempt to  stay in power. 

When his supporters unleashed such extreme violence, crowds responded by swarming the square on February 4 after Friday prayers. More people than ever now bedded down, realising the importance of retaining control of Tahrir Square for the protest movement. Again, it seemed as though the movement might stagnate, only to find itself buoyed by the release of Wael Ghonim from police custody the following Monday. 

This last surge in support is what proved fatal to Mubarak. Ghonim not only represented the spirit of Egypt's youth who essentially led the movement by displaying remarkable bravery, but also appealed to the elderly who saw him as standing up for the rights of Khaled Said's parents. When Ghonim met Said's mother for the first time in Tahrir Square the day after his release from prison, the protesters rallied with renewed vigour. The head of steam that built up would prove unstoppable now and four days after Ghonim's release, both Hosni Mubarak and his Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced they would stand down. 

Egypt is now ruled by the Higher Military Council, led by Field Marshal Mohamad Hussain Tantawi, and has committed itself to free elections within six months. Outsiders are sceptical about what this will mean for Egypt and the region, given the difficulties other Arab states, including Algeria, Gaza and Lebanon have experienced with building meaningful democracies. 

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