Chicago Tribune: Chicago-area Egyptians cheer Mubarak's departure 2/11/11

Many Chicago-area residents with ties to Egypt welcomed the news that President Hosni Mubarak had resigned and handed over power to the military.

“If you had asked me a couple weeks ago if it was something imaginable, I would have said absolutely,” said Darlene Attiah, a member of the Young Egyptian Society in Chicago.

“At last, after 30 years, our demands have been met,” said the 33-year-old Egyptian, who now lives in the city’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. “It’s been a long wait with so many sacrifices. It’s time for starting over. This is our Egypt.”

Attiah’s brother, Ahmed Attiah, returned to Chicago from Egypt Monday

An importer of Egyptian goods, Attiah arrived in Egypt on business Dec. 15. But when the revolution broke out, the journey took on a new purpose. He was among the huge crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the demonstration on Jan. 25 when Egyptian police responded harshly to protestors.

“Tahrir Square, it’s a symbol of Utopia on the Earth right now,” said Attiah. “If there is a definition of a peaceful revolution it is summarized by the Egyptian revolution.”

Des Plaines resident Shady Atia, an Egyptian native with family members and friends there, said he returned to his desk after a morning meeting at Austin Bank of Chicago where he is an IT manager to find celebratory posts on Facebook.

“I saw people saying ‘Long live Egypt,’ and ‘This feels better than the World Cup,’” said Atia, 33, who overcame the initial shock he experienced at learning that Mubarak had stepped down to join in the celebration.

“I didn’t expect it and I don’t know what changed in his mind, but apparently the protestors got through to him,” said Atia. “From now on, it’s time fix Egypt.”

In a telephone interview from Cairo, Ahmed Rehab, a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, struggled to be heard over cheering throngs in the background.

“It’s a party,” he shouted into the phone. “Everywhere I walk around Cairo, people are in the streets kissing, hugging, waving flags.”

Rehab traveled to Cairo Jan. 22 in anticipation of a revolution.

“This is exciting especially for those of us who saw darker days,” he said, speaking of those protesters who he said paid the highest price for democracy. “Today, my thoughts are with the martyrs.”

The Egyptian revolution, Rehab said, should serve as a lesson to the rest of the world about revolution and the Middle East.

“Everybody acted as one, it is truly historic,” he said. “The regime is gone, and gone with them is the theft, embezzlement and corruption.”