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A young girl in Egypt stands on a relative's shoulders during a protest A young girl in Egypt stands on a relative's shoulders and leads a protest chant against the country's president. (Ben Curtis / AP Images)

Egyptians Demand Change

Hundreds of thousands take to the streets to call for a new government

By Laura Leigh Davidson | February 2 , 2011
<br />TOP: On Tuesday, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak announced he would not seek re-election in September.<br /><br />BOTTOM: Thousands have protested in the streets of Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen.<br /><br />(Remy de la Mauviniere / AP Images / Jim McMahon)

TOP: On Tuesday, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak announced he would not seek re-election in September.

BOTTOM: Thousands have protested in the streets of Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen.

(Remy de la Mauviniere / AP Images / Jim McMahon)

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE, FEBRUARY 4, 2011: Today, more than 100,000 protesters are gathered in Cairo for a huge protest called the "Friday of Departure." They demand that Egypt's President leave office now. The New York Times reports that protesters are chanting "Leave, leave, leave," with signs that read, "Get out!"

More than a quarter million protesters in Egypt have been flooding the streets of the country's major cities since January 25. They are demanding that President Hosni Mubarak finally end his 30-year rule.

On Tuesday, Mubarak announced that he would not seek re-election this year. President Mubarak said that he would spend the last seven months of his presidency overseeing a transition to a new government that would address protesters' demands.

But many Egyptians say this promise is not enough. They want Mubarak to step down immediately.

Violent clashes erupted between protesters and a smaller group of President Mubarak's supporters in the capital city of Cairo on Wednesday. CNN reports that as many as 300 people have died in the demonstrations over the past nine days.

American officials have been closely watching the situation in Egypt. In recent years, Mubarak's government has been a strong ally of the United States. Both countries have worked together to keep peace in the region.

NEW FREEDOMS FOR EGYPT?

Egyptians do not enjoy many of the rights and freedoms that some Americans take for granted, such as freedom of speech and the freedom to protest peacefully. And although Mubarak has been elected President four times, no opponent has ever been allowed to fairly run against him.

Protesters have called for free elections and a halt to unfair laws and brutal law enforcement. They are also demanding new job opportunities. 9.4 percent of all Egyptians do not have jobs—that's similar to the United States, where 9.1 percent of all working-age adults do not have jobs.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that a peaceful transfer of power in Egypt should begin now. He agreed with demonstrators' calls for free and fair elections.

"I [believe] that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren," Obama said.

The protests in Egypt have been the latest development in weeks of unrest that have swept through North Africa and the Middle East. Protests in Tunisia, Jordan, and Yemen have also brought about changes in government leadership in those countries.

SPECIAL REPORT: Click here for maps, fast facts, and breaking news about the protests sweeping the Middle East.

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