Little Egypt Outraged Mubarak is still in office

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Residents of Astoria’s Little Egypt went from happily awaiting a historic revolution to furiously condemning business as usual after President Hosni Mubarak refused to cede his power in a televised speech Thursday at 4 p.m.

“I’m so angry. I’m shocked,” said Sayed Moustafa, surrounded by other bitter Egyptians moments after the Mubarak concluded his defiant press conference. “He should go. Tomorrow there will be 15 million people calling for him to go.”

Although Steinway Street did not compare to the multitudes gathered in Tahrir Square, Egyptians spilled out of hookah lounges and coffee shops along the strip to denounce the president of their home country — and the president here as well.

“Tell President Obama to stop supporting dictators,” Ayman El-Sawa shouted on a sidewalk near 25th Avenue, holding an Egyptian flag. “[Mubarak] would have never said that unless he got the green light from our government here. I’m talking as an American more than an Egyptian.”

El-Sawa’s cries of “Egypt! Egypt!” drew others into the street outside Egyptian Coffee Shoppe at 25-09 Steinway St.

Yasser Noureldin, a 34-year-old Astoria resident, led an Arabic chant that translated as “he’s leaving. He’s leaving. We don’t want him. We don’t want him.”

Noureldin later said that it was important for the neighborhood’s Egyptian diaspora to show their opposition to Mubarak.

“We need to support our people in Egypt,” he said. “Mubarak must go. We can be so much better.”

Anger hung in the air like the hookah smoke in many cafes, but other Egyptians were more worried for their families still in Cairo.

“I feel bad for my family,” said Mamdouh Abdelghani, who believed that the army would crack down on the protesters and arrest them —  an ordeal he knows all too well. “Mubarak put me in jail. I was arrested in 1980 for talking about the government in a coffeeshop.”

But the day started out on a note of hopefulness amid widespread reports that Mubarak was expected to step down.

“I’m so excited,” said Mohamed Soliman who formerly lived in Alexandria. “I came here 20 years ago because I started to see his corruption.

By the end of the day, Soliman was hoarse from forcefully denouncing Mubarak’s speech.

“Tomorrow is going to be the biggest day yet,” he said, shouting, “we will all go back to get rid of this corruption.”

Mubarak said that he will begin a transition of power to the army and his vice president, Omar Suleiman

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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