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Dancing, tears in Australia after Mubarak's fall

world Updated: Feb 12, 2011 15:29 IST

Hundreds of people danced and chanted at rallies in Australia on Saturday to celebrate the momentous fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak after nearly three decades in power.

Tearful members of Australia's Egyptian community gathered in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane just hours after the president's dramatic resignation, when he finally bowed to weeks of nationwide protests.

"On the 25th of January, the Internet generation, our generation, said 'enough'," Nour Eldin Tarraf, from the Sydney Egyptian Revolution Solidarity Committee, told the crowd in Sydney, referring to the initial protest.

"Egyptians took to the streets from all walks of life -- men, women, Muslims and Christians, old and young, rich and poor," said Tarraf, as he fought back tears.

"All of them hand in hand, wanting their freedom. They wanted their dignity back. The Egyptian people led by the youth."

The rallies were organised as part of a global wave of protests to urge Mubarak to quit, but turned into victory celebrations after the strongman fled Cairo and handed power to the military.

The gatherings echoed joyous scenes in the North African country, where tense protests erupted into ecstasy late on Friday. Further events had been organised for a swathe of European cities and the United States.

Perihan Salam, who also addressed the Sydney rally, said Egyptians were "unfree" just a day earlier.

"But today, I am more than honoured across seas and oceans, across lands and skies, to reach out my hand and ask you to hold mine," she said.

"I shake hands with you as free and full of hope in the name God."

Farid Farid, a PhD student at the University of Western Sydney's Centre for Cultural Research, said microblogging site Twitter had played a key role in Mubarak's downfall.

"In these gatherings, there's always speeches and I've heard a lot of speeches," Farid said.

"And the best, most eloquent, articulate speeches that came out of Egypt were in the form of 140 characters."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called events in Egypt "remarkable" and urged the country's new leaders to announce a timetable for democratic elections.

"Together with many other concerned nations, Australia calls for fundamental reform that will ensure the opportunity and freedoms that ordinary Egyptians have been calling for," she said in a statement.

"Australia calls for constitutional reform and a clear timetable towards free and fair elections and a representative civilian government that will govern for all Egyptians."

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, who is Egyptian-born, also attended the Sydney rally and called for prison terms for Mubarak and his supporters.

Habib was arrested in Pakistan as a suspected militant in 2001 before being released without charge from the American 'war on terror' prison in 2005.