Democracy Now! senior producer reporting from Cairo.
Egyptian pro-democracy activist
Violent clashes continue in Egypt. The most recent reports out of Cairo show that seven demonstrators have been killed and more than a thousand injured. Many of the pro-Mubarak agitators have been shown to be undercover security forces. In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising, thousands of Egyptians remain peaceful and defiant. We get a live report from Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is on a rooftop near the 6th October Bridge, and from Mona El Seif, an activist who has remained in Tahrir Square since yesterday. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Mona El Seif, who we brought you at the beginning of the broadcast, longtime Egyptian activist, was in the square overnight as the pro-Mubarak forces moved in on attack, on camels, on horses, with guns, with knives — still there now.
Mona, what is the latest?
MONA EL SEIF: Right now, the numbers have grown very, very noticeably. We are a couple of hundred thousand. The mood is really good. The morale is good. Everyone is in a very strong state. Although on the — like, Tahrir Square itself is probably one of the safest spots right now in Cairo, although on the outskirts of it it’s not safe at all. We’ve had many reports of thugs attacking protesters as they try to come in with supply of food or medical supplies, and confiscating their supplies.
We’ve just had an urgent call right now that the army police, with thugs, blocked the way to two of the very important organizations we have — Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights — and they have confiscated the mobiles of the lawyers there, and they have arrested them, while at that same time, with the help of the thugs, they have falsely accused them in front of the people in the neighborhood of being spies for Iran and Hamas. So people turned against them and actually chanted for the thugs and the police as they were dragging them into a micro bus and left. We do not know where they are now. Hisham Mubarak Law Center is one of — is probably the leading center for law and human rights, and we are still trying to track them. And my dad might — my dad is probably among them.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mona, your sense of whether more people will be able to get into the square, or basically whether the cordon around the square now is only to assure that more people leave and no one else comes in, basically to try to gradually empty it?
MONA EL SEIF: I’m not sure if I heard you right, but I will answer to what I probably heard. I don’t think they are going to try to empty it. I mean, we are really hundreds of thousands, and people are still coming in. All of the entrances to the square are not safe. We’ve had girls get — being sexually harassed at one of the entrances, from — by thugs. We only have one entrance left, which is the one through Kasr al-Nile Bridge, and that’s the only safe one. That’s how we can get our people in, our supplies in. And people are still coming in despite all of the dirty tricks the government is still trying to do and put on us.
AMY GOODMAN: Mona El Seif, please be safe. Thank you very much for being with us, speaking to us from Tahrir Square.
Sharif, we’re going to end with you. We have this report from Sandmonkey, Egypt’s most famous English-language blogger, arrested on February 3rd while attempting to deliver medical supplies to Tahrir Square. About an hour later, his blog was suspended. The obvious conclusion, his arrest was not at all random, that Hosni Mubarak’s security forces were following him online and planned his arrest. The Sandmonkey tweeted he was on his way to deliver medical supplies. Sandmonkey’s last blog post: "The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay 'because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people,'" unquote. "This is a losing battle," he went on to say, "they have all the weapons, [but] we [will] continue fighting until we can’t." He said he is headed to, with medical supplies. He said, "We are bringing everybody out, [and] we will refuse to be anything else than peaceful." Tell us what is happening now, Sharif.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, let me just say — let me just add one thing, in that what happened last night, this brutal assault by the Mubarak regime, was the true face of Hosni Mubarak. The only difference was, was that the world was watching it live on TV. For years, for decades, the United States government and pundits have talked about Mubarak as a moderate Arab leader. This has been the repression documented by human rights groups for many, many years. And the only difference is, is that everyone is watching it now unfold live.
And let me describe to you the scene that I’m seeing right now. I completely agree with Mona. You feel completely safe inside Tahrir. In the main square, everyone is so friendly and still handing out food, making sure everyone else is OK. Here on the outskirts, a battle is ensuing. I’m seeing an army truck — sorry, an army tank inching up 6 of October Bridge. And let me just remind you, this is the heart of downtown Cairo. This is the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world. I grew up here. And this was — you know, it’s very strange to see these streets here turn into a war zone. The popular uprising of the pro-democracy forces took these streets. They took them peacefully. And they have occupied Tahrir Square. The Mubarak regime last night launched a coordinated campaign of violence to try and take back the streets, but they have failed. And he has turned downtown Cairo into a war zone. Right now it’s unclear what’s going to happen in the coming hours, in the coming days, but right now it appears that the people are defiant, and they’re holding their ground.
AMY GOODMAN: We have — Vodafone says that the Mubarak regime hijacked its phones and is sending out pro-Mubarak text messages to tell people to leave the square, Sharif.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: I haven’t seen a text message come in yet, but there have been text messages in the past. You know, SMS is cut off for everyone here, and there’s no way to text each other. The only text messages that I have received on my Egyptian cell phone have been from the Mubarak regime. So, I believe that that could be very true.
And let me just say another thing about, you know, attacking foreigners and so forth. A lot of these thugs yesterday were cursing Mohamed ElBaradei as a U.S. collaborator and so forth, which shows just the sheer stupidity of these people. You know, this man stood up to the Bush administration in his run-up to the war in Iraq. And meanwhile, they are defending and rioting for a dictator who receives billions of dollars in U.S. support. So, things are completely flipped around here.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, thank you for being with us. Please, please be safe. We will continue to post your reports at democracynow.org. Sharif’s tweets are essential to the world. He’s among the top four tweeters in the world right now. Critical information from Tahrir Square, Democracy Now! senior producer. Sharif, please be safe, and to everyone who is there.
Democracy Now! is produced with Hany Massoud and Mike Burke and Aaron Maté and Steve Martinez, Nicole Salazar, Hany Massoud. The latest word from the doctors is that at least seven people are dead, more than a thousand wounded. We’ll keep you updated at democracynow.org.