Juxtaposed with disturbing video of violent police interrogations, news footage shows Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asserting he only takes tough measures by law. But young Egyptians, fed up with Mubarak's 30-year regime, and utilizing social media and online videos, have pledged to go to Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011. There, they will spark the largest protest in Egypt's history and demand Mubarak's resignation.
In a Cairo apartment converted into a television studio, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, a young Egyptian-American journalist who has returned home to report on the revolution, points to the Square some 300 yards away. On the streets near the square, he chats with people who vent their frustration over living in slum conditions (40% of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day). Hospitals and schools are only for the rich, they say; there is high unemployment and the government is corrupt. Once inside Tahrir, cameras capture the energy of the people, who are massing here by the thousands. Men, women and children wave flags and signs, chanting, "The people want to bring down the regime!"
On the fourth day of protest, police and security forces arrive and attack unarmed demonstrators in Tahrir. When tear gas and rocks fill the air, people begin to scatter. Hundreds are jailed, including Sharif's uncle Mohamed, a wellknown journalist who has been arrested 11 times for his opposition. This time, he is released after seven hours.
On the ninth day, plainclothes police and hired thugs attempt to clear the Square, using camels and horses to push their way in. The fighting continues into the night, and many protestors are killed. The next day, protestors prepare to defend themselves, using broken-up cars as shields. On the front line, they shout, "No violence!" but Mubarak supporters begin to throw rocks. The military fires shots and tanks roll in. Sharif calls the square "a war zone." After two weeks, Mubarak is still unable to force people out.
On the 17th day, rumors spread that he will step down. The mood in Tahrir is positive. Sharif notes that despite Egypt's class-stratified society, everyone is here. At 10:45 p.m., Mubarak addresses the nation. A hush settles in over the huge crowd as they huddle over radios and cell phones listening to the speech. After learning he will not step down, protesters hold up their shoes in silent defiance.
On the 18th day - February 11, 2011 - more than a million Egyptians join the revolution in Tahrir, and thousands gather in front of the State TV & Radio Center. Late in the day, Egypt's Vice President makes a surprise announcement: Mubarak has decided to step down. Jubilation envelops the crowd, who chant "God is Great" and "Put him on trial!" On the phone to America, an emotional Sharif reports, "Everyone is proud to be Egyptian today. Everyone who fights for democracy and fights for freedom is Egyptian today, and stands with us." The next day, his uncle reminds us that the road to freedom may still be long. As we learn, Mubarak's entire cabinet will stay in place.
Directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill; Produced by Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill and Jacqueline Soohen; Edited by Patrick McMahon, A.C.E.; Original Music by Nicholas Pike. For HBO: Supervising Producer, Jacqueline Glover; Executive Producer, Sheila Nevins.