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The Globe and Mail

In Ottawa, expatriate Egyptians add their voices to call for change

Six-year-old Amr Mohamed gamely waved a hand-painted Egyptian flag as the crowd of much taller people around him joined in chants of, "Freedom, freedom, freedom now," on the slushy sidewalk across from the Egyptian embassy.

His father, Aftef Mohamed, who immigrated to Canada from Egypt 10 years ago, could not contain his smile.

"I brought my young son because this is the most important thing we have been waiting for - for more than 30 years. And we are happy. This is our test," he said, beaming at Amr.

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The protest on the normally quiet street in downtown Ottawa was one of several such events organized in at least three of Canada's major cities Friday. While half a world away Cairo was descending into chaos with firebombs and battles between police and protesters, the Ottawa demonstration was a decidedly optimistic affair.

"This regime will go out," Mr. Mohamed said of besieged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "This is the success of Egyptians."

The roughly 80 protesters were mostly young adults - students from the nearby University of Ottawa who took turns leading the chorus of denunciation aimed at Mr. Mubarak and his government. At one point they broke into a spontaneous rendition of the Egyptian national anthem.

The mood was upbeat. But there was also a sense of urgency.

Ahmed Kotb, 20, said his mother, Zahira, had called him earlier in the day to say she planned to take part in the demonstration because it was the least she could do for her county. Mr. Kotb decided to join her.

"The people in Egypt have been living under tremendous amount of oppression for the past 30 years under Hosni Mubarak and the moment they decided to take a stand, they have been shut down and attacked and arrested," he said.

"I am very hopeful that it's going to work because they have also managed to divide Muslims and Christians for long enough and we are all united now."

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Amal Awad, who is 62 and has lived in Canada for 25 years, was holding a sign that said: Listen, the people have spoken.

"I think Egypt will not be the same after this. Something has to happen," she said confidently.

Ms. Awad acknowledged that there is a huge potential for violence in Egypt. "This is the price we have to pay for freedom," she said as the young people shouted in unison around her.

One of those young people was Yasmin Abdul Gawad, a 20-year-old University of Ottawa student who arrived in Canada from Egypt three years ago. Her voice could plainly be heard over the din.

"I have friends and family back home," she said. "These people have been in the streets for three consecutive days. They are trying to make change. They are trying to bring our system of government down. So let's hope they do make a change. I have always been an optimist. This time they are going to do it."

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