CAIRO – Arab activists celebrated the anti-government protests that ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Friday as the uprising raised hopes for similar change in other countries accused of having repressive regimes.
Thousands of messages congratulating the Tunisian people flooded the Internet on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and many people replaced their profile pictures with red Tunisian flags.
Dozens of Egyptian activists opposed to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade regime danced outside the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo, chanting "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him too!"
Mubarak, 82, faces mounting dissatisfaction over the lack of democratic reform and frequent protests over economic woes in the country, a key U.S. ally.
Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said he was glued to the news watching the fall of the Tunisian government and hoped that his countrymen could do the same someday.
"I feel like we are a giant step closer to our own liberation," he told The Associated Press. "What's significant about Tunisia is that literally days ago the regime seemed unshakable, and then eventually democracy prevailed without a single Western state lifting a finger."
Bahgat said the events in Tunisia would boost the confidence of opposition members in a region where leaders often rule for life.
"What happened in Tunisia ... will give unimaginable momentum to the cause for change in Egypt," he said.
Sudanese opposition leader Mariam al-Sadek said she had mixed feelings about the Tunisian riots: excitement the president was overthrown but sadness that her people haven't done the same.