'We Want What You Have: We Want our Freedom'

Embeded with protestors in Cairo, ABC News' Christiane Amanpour reports.

January 31, 2011, 5:37 PM

CAIRO, Jan. 31, 2011— -- Up until today I've been struggling with whether this is going to go the way of the revolution in Iran in 1979, when millions of people came out on the street and overthrew the Shah -- or protests we all saw in Iran in 2009 when the so called "green revolution" was quickly put down.

But today something happened that I think was very significant.

The Egyptian army went on state television and read a statement in which they said they accepted people's right to peacefully express themselves and that the army would never use force against the Egyptian people.

So the one question that everyone has been asking since the beginning, "What will happen if the army is given the order to fire?" was answered. They will not fire on the people.

The other significant announcement was that the new vice president said he was asked by President Mubarak to begin immediate dialogue with all members of the opposition.

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But when we were in the crowd in Liberation Square earlier, it seemed that nothing the president could do would placate the people. They want him out, they said, "now."

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The protestors have called for a million people to turn out Tuesday in cities across Egypt. I am waiting to see if these protests grow bigger.

Right now, they have settled into an almost carnival atmosphere, with people gathering downtown in the square in full view of the soldiers on tanks, who have not interfered at all. The protesters have set up their own ad-hoc ID checks to make sure the police don't come in.

The police are blamed for much of the violence in the early days of the uprising. The people have also formed their own cleanup crews, and the square looks almost pristine, as they spend almost 24 hours a day there in defiance of the curfew.

There were many things people wanted to tell me on Tahrir Square today. An ANC chief was among them, and said, "We want what you have. We want our freedom. We want to be able to say what we want, gather where we want and freely elect our leaders."

'They Have Never Been Able to Speak Like This Before'

They told me they want to build a better country, a "better Egypt." At one point, some women literally screamed that they didn't want Mubarak anymore. It was almost a primal scream.

What we were hearing was 30 years of pent-up frustration and rage. They have never been able to speak like this before. They have never been able to carry signs that say "Game Over Mubarak -- Go!" right under the barrels of tanks, right under the noses of soldiers with rifles and bayonets.

And climbing up on the tanks, patting the soldiers, were men and women in full Islamic garb and western clothes, all telling me, "Please tell America that this is not a religious revolution. We are not Iran, we are Egyptians. We are Christians and Muslims, we are old and young, we are rich and we are poor. Everyone is here."

You can't help but feel their yearning.

Today, we went searching for the leaders, and I think we've found that it is really a grassroots uprising. But one also wonders what will fill the vacuum.

There are still many people here who are suspicious, even though the Muslim Brotherhood -- which is a banned Islamic party and has 28 percent of the vote -- years ago renounced violence, the people are suspicious. They know that the way parties behave while trying to gain power can be much different than the way they behave when they are in power.

But right now, the Muslim Brotherhood has joined with the secular opposition groups to choose the very secular Mohamed ElBaradei as their representative to negotiate with the government.

He told me Sunday that Egypt does not want an Islamic revolution and that fears of one are "bogus." But he also is mindful that there needs to be an orderly transition, although he is calling for Mubarak to go and for there to be a national salvation government.

I've known ElBaradei for years and I've interviewed him and spent time with him. This is the last place I would have imagined seeing him.

He is a distinguished, elderly gentleman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, not particularly charismatic and until now, he has not had a tremendous grassroots following. But he says he has come here because he believes somebody has to face down this regime. And for now, his is the public face of the opposition.

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