In a special Saturday edition, Democracy Now! airs a two-hour broadcast. Highlights include:
- Live Reports from Cairo with Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat.
- Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif on how life in Tahrir Square "is truly democracy in action."
- Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi on the impact of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings on the Middle East.
- Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the Committee to Protect Journalists on the continued attacks on journalists by supporters of the Mubarak regime.
- Khaled Fahmy, professor at the American University in Cairo, on reports that Hosni Mubarak has resigned as head of the ruling NDP party.
- University of California-Santa Barbara professor Paul Amar on the military’s role in a post-Mubarak Egypt.
- Stanford Professor Joel Beinin on the Egyptian labor movement and the historical roots of the Jan. 25 uprising.
- Egyptian American activist Mostafa Omar on the role of Egyptian youth in the protests.
- And we play the "video that started the revolution"–Asmaa Mahfouz’s Jan. 18th message calling for protests in Tahrir Square on Jan. 25. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today marks day 12 of the uprising in Egypt. Egyptian protesters continue to hold Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the 12th day of their uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. A large crowd remains hours after hundreds of thousands turned out for what was called the Day of Departure against the Mubarak regime. Thousands also gathered for parallel rallies in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and Giza. The protests in Alexandria are also continuing today.
The massive turnout comes in bold defiance of pro-Mubarak loyalists, who violently attacked the protesters Wednesday and Thursday. The death toll from the violence in Cairo has reached at least 11, with more than 5,000 people injured. There are reports top Egyptian officials are in talks to force Mubarak’s resignation or limit his presidential authority, but there’s no confirmation that Mubarak is on board or that the talks hold weight.
The Egyptian government meanwhile continues its crackdown on activists and journalists. The satellite network Al Jazeera says its Cairo bureau chief and a correspondent were both detained today. The arrests come one day after Al Jazeera’s offices in Cairo were set afire. Meanwhile, a reporter for a state-owned newspaper died Friday from gunshot wounds sustained a week before. The victim, Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, was shot while filming state security forces confronting protesters near Tahrir Square. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, journalists have been attacked at least 101 times over the past week.
In another development today, a major gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Desert has exploded into flames. The Egyptian government initially blamed saboteurs, but the head of Egypt’s natural gas company said a leak occurred.
A number of human rights workers remain missing after being arrested in a government raid. Around 35 people were detained Thursday when security forces stormed the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo. Amnesty International says two of its staffers have been released, but there’s still no sign of any of the jailed Egyptian nationals. Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty condemned the arrests.
SALIL SHETTY: We suspect that this is a very premeditated attack from the government and the authorities, because they don’t want Amnesty International to record human rights violations, they don’t want to be held to account, which is what Amnesty does, and they want to distract us from what we are doing. And, you know, rather than focusing on the substance of what’s happening in Egypt, they want us to do — you know, spend all our time figuring out where — what’s the security and safety of our staff.
AMY GOODMAN: In his latest public remarks on the Egyptian uprising, President Obama renewed his call for a transition to a new government.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have had two conversations with President Mubarak since this crisis in Egypt began. And each time, I’ve emphasized the fact that the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians. It is not us who will determine that future. But I have also said that in light of what’s happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work.
AMY GOODMAN: Egyptian officials say the country has suffered at least $3.1 billion in economic losses since the uprising began. Businesses across Cairo have been shut down, and stores are running low on food and supplies. On Friday, Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan said the economy has come to a standstill.
SAMIR RADWAN: It’s too early to put the loss in terms of pounds and pennies, but certainly it is huge. It’s going to be huge. There is no need to deny that fact. What we know for a fact is the loss due to the exchange — to the closing down of the stock exchange. That we know for sure. The rest of the real economy, the destruction of property, the tourism — one million tourists have left the country already. This alone — this is the height of the tourist season in Egypt, as you know. So, they are not coming in in the numbers we want. There are many ramifications for the economy of what’s going on.
AMY GOODMAN: According to some estimates, Egypt’s economy is losing around $310 million a day. There’s speculation Mubarak is attempting to wait out the protests until major economic collapse undermines the massive turnout.
And this just in from Al Arabiya. We have not been able to confirm it ourselves. They are saying that President Mubarak has resigned as head of the ruling NDP party. Again, that is Al Arabiya news saying that President Mubarak has resigned as head of the ruling NDP party. Al Jazeera is also reporting President Mubarak’s resignation as head of the party.
And those are some of the headlines. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
We begin our special two-hour broadcast in Cairo with Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, joining us on the phone.
Sharif, welcome back to Democracy Now! This latest news that we are getting — again, we have not confirmed it, but Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya are reporting that President Mubarak has resigned as head of the NDP. Explain what that would mean.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Amy, I’m seeing the same report, as well, not confirmed yet. I’m also seeing it on Al-Hayat, as well. It’s unclear what that means, to be honest. I don’t know if that means that he would step down as president, or — you know, a lot of his cabinet has been taken out. His son was replaced, as was Safwat el-Sharif. So I’m not sure how this will play out. Just a couple of hours ago —- today is a cold, rainy day in Cairo, and protesters nevertheless have filled Tahrir. I tried to get in earlier today, but there is a long, long line to get in now. The tanks have blocked the beginning of the Kasr al-Nile Bridge, and so there’s one checkpoint that never used to be there. And now, to get in, they have erected razor wire, there’s soldiers with helmets and visors on, and they’re letting people in very, very slowly. So some people had been in the line for three hours, and they hadn’t gotten in. And this is compared to when you could just walk in after maybe 10 minutes. Now -—
AMY GOODMAN: And haven’t things changed, Sharif? Before, it was the anti-government protesters themselves who had set up checkpoints, but now you’re talking about the military, the Egyptian military, that stood by as the pro-Mubarak forces beat up and killed, etc., the anti-Mubarak demonstrators. But now it’s the military itself that’s setting up these checkpoints?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, let me — I mean, the military has always been there. The military always had tanks at some points blocking the entrances to Tahrir, and they would have at least one person checking. But most of the more thorough checks were done by the citizens themselves. What is happening now is that the military setup is really controlling access to Tahrir. That’s what’s happening. And when I left the bridge to come back here to do the interview, people had started chanting on Kasr al-Nile Bridge, saying, "We’re not going home. He has to leave. We’re not going anywhere," showing that they’re not discouraged by this tightening of access to Tahrir.
A couple of hours ago, the head of central command of the army addressed the protesters in Tahrir. He got up on stage, and there’s a mic. And he asked them to clear the square today. I was talking to a friend at the time. He held up the phone so I could hear the chants that were the response, and they — it was a resounding chant: "We’re not leaving. He’s got to leave," which is one of the common calls there.
So I think — well, with regard to this latest news, I really can’t speak to it yet to know exactly how that will play out or what that means, but again, the protesters’ demands have not changed since day one. And that is, the removal of Hosni Mubarak from power, the removal of this regime from power. And so, you know, he did all these things. He appointed a vice president. He shuffled around his cabinet. He basically — you know, he got rid of all these corrupt businessmen and replaced them with authoritarian military people. These are not the demands that the people wanted. You know, in the words of Malcolm X, if you stab me in the back and you pull out the knife six inches, we don’t call that progress. So, you know, the people still want what they originally wanted, which is the ouster of the regime.
But, you know, Hosni Mubarak’s strategy of giving these so-called concessions and, you know, promising not to run and all of that did divide some people, among some of the protesters. I would call it a minority of the protesters. And, you know, some of them said that this is enough. But after what he did on Wednesday, after what was this violent and brutal attack on the protesters, that actually brought a lot more people back into Tahrir on Friday. And a lot of people I spoke to said, "Oh, I was kind of wavering on whether this would continue, but after that, you know, who knows what he has up his sleeve?" But, you know, we know that this —
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, I just wanted to interrupt with this latest news, as it sort of breaks as you are speaking. Al Jazeera is saying Egyptian TV has reported Mubarak has resigned. Al Jazeera is saying the leadership of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party is resigning, including Gamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni Mubarak. The new secretary general of the party is Hossam Badrawi, seen as a member of the liberal wing of the party.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s right. Hossam Badrawi, he’s a doctor. He has a hospital here in Cairo. He is a more moderate member of the NDP. But he is a member of the NDP, you know, the party that — its headquarters are a blackened shell, that were burnt out after the protests, you know, last week, when this all started.
So, it remains to be seen what’s going to happen going forward. I’m going to personally head back to Tahrir. There are reports — some people believe the military is going to try and clear the square today. Tomorrow is supposed to be a full working day in Cairo. You know, everything has been closed here — the banks, many shops, most businesses, the stock market. So, tomorrow they’re trying to get back to what they call normalcy in Cairo. And some believe that they’re going to try and take back the streets of Tahrir and force the protesters onto the sidewalks and the grassy areas, and take back the actual traffic of it. So, we’ll have to see what happens.
But, you know, again, the demands have not changed. The demands have not been met so far, as far as I can tell. I’m not sure, with this latest news. But, you know, Egyptians have not been able to pick their own leader in their 7,000-year history, and that’s what — this is a moment where it looks like we can get to that. And so, many of them are still holding firm.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif Abdel Kouddous, thank you, and we hope to reach you again throughout the show in this two-hour special that we’re doing on the uprising in Egypt. Sharif, you’ve just been remarkable on the ground there in Cairo, in Tahrir Square, staying in Tahrir Square overnight and bringing us these remarkable reports. As the rest of the media had their satellites shut down, you were sending the full video reports out, as well as one of the top tweeters in the world, your tweets being read all over. So thank you so much. We’re going to come back to you very soon.
Khaled Fahmy is on the line with us right now, chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo.
Professor Fahmy, we have just gotten this news from Al Jazeera, from Al Arabiya — Egypt TV is reporting it — that President Mubarak has resigned as head of the NDP, that the whole party leadership has resigned. Can you talk about the significance of this?
KHALED FAHMY: I have to say that this is the first I hear about this. I just came in from Tahrir Square myself, where there was a very interesting scene of the head of the chiefs of staff of the army taking to Tahrir Square itself. And he — this is the first time that we see such a high brass officer going to meet the demonstrators themselves.
But to answer your question —- I mean, I can talk about this if you’re interested, but to answer your question, let me just say that, again, this shows how slow the regime is in responding to people’s demands. People have been asking Hosni Mubarak to resign from the presidency of the ruling National Democratic Party for now 10 years, if not more. People were saying, "You either remain as president of the state and republic or the president of the NDP. You cannot maintain these two positions." So it takes him such a huge revolution and, you know, 10 years later, he starts responding to this demand. Now, at the same time -—
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to clarify that Reuters, as well, has joined with Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya — even Egypt state TV, which doesn’t report on the protests, is saying this, that Hosni Mubarak and the leadership have resigned the leadership of the party. But does that mean he has resigned as president of Egypt?
KHALED FAHMY: No, no. No, no, no. This is something else. This is unrelated. There’s no constitutional link between heading the NDP and being president. You can maintain the presidency while renouncing the chairmanship of the NDP. These are not related things. At the same time, the people that they are bringing as the new leaders of the NDP are from within the NDP itself. We’re not seeing new blood being injected in the NDP.
The NDP is a foul and corrupt institution. What we saw on Wednesday with these thugs appearing on the streets with machetes and swords and whips and so on, these are NDP MPs. These are NDP — these are people who have been employed and hired and effectively driven by NDP members of parliament. This is how corrupt this institution is. It’s a powerful institution. It’s an institution that allows the state to control especially the countryside, especially in the south. That is true, but it is far from being a political party in the official sense of the word. This is a type of thing that allows a corrupt people to have access to the presidency and to the resources of the state. This is a huge patron-client network that has nothing to do with ideology, principles, rule of law or legality. So, it’s a corrupt system, and changing some names at the top doesn’t really change much of how this regime conducts its business.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Professor Khaled Fahmy, chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo. Sharif Abdel Kouddous is still on the line, as well, will be joining us throughout the show. And we’re getting these reports. Professor Fahmy, you have just come from Tahrir Square. Al Jazeera is reporting General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army’s central command, has just spoken to the masses in Tahrir Square, urging them to leave the square. They are chanting back at him, "We are not leaving. Mubarak is leaving. We are not leaving. He is leaving."
KHALED FAHMY: Yes, I was there when — I actually thought it was someone else. I thought that he was the head of the chiefs of staff, but because I couldn’t really see him. In either case, it was very obvious that what we were witnessing was a visit by a very high official. And I heard what he said. I didn’t see him, but I heard him through the loudspeakers. And his speech fell on completely deaf ears. Or, actually, it wasn’t deaf ears. They booed him down. They shouted back, and they forced him to leave, because at one moment he said, "The economy is suffering because of what you’re doing. You have to go back home." They booed him and started shouting slogans against Mubarak.
And then, what really, really tipped the scene completely against him was when he started saying that they had been fooled and that they had been infiltrated by an unpatriotic element and that they had been misguided in their protest. This was too much. These are people who defended the square with their lives. These are people who are hardline, convicted democracy activists, who have been taking to the streets for two weeks now and who have suffered enormous casualties. Many of the people who were there today had bandages on their foreheads as a result of wounds they had received by NDP vigilantes. So, for this fellow to come and tell them that they are misguided, this was just too much. So they started shouting. People want change of the regime. People want the downfall of the president. People want the trial of the president. And he has nothing else to do except to pack and leave. And he left.
AMY GOODMAN: Gamal Mubarak, is — he is there now in Egypt? There were all these reports that he had gone to England. And will he play any role? The reports that we are just seeing right now, that Hossam Badrawi, who became the party’s new secretary general, also took over a position held by President Mubarak’s son Gamal.
KHALED FAHMY: Yes. No, Gamal Mubarak is burnt. He has no future whatsoever. Gamal Mubarak is in Egypt, because when Christiane Amanpour had this interview with the President a couple days ago for ABC News, she said that Gamal Mubarak was sitting in the room with his father. So this was the end of the rumor that was circulating that he had fled to London.
As far as the NDP is concerned and his position in the ruling party, that was of course a very important vehicle for him to rise. We have seen the attempt of his father, the attempt of the elite, and most probably also the attempt of his mother, to groom him up to take the — to resume — to take over his father. And that attempt flew like a lead balloon. It just got nowhere. Even before the present crisis, Gamal Mubarak had failed to placate the people, had failed to reach out to them, had failed to inspire them. He had some contacts with the business community. He had no trust — the military establishment had no trust in him whatsoever. And his only vehicle was to cling to his NDP position as the head of the Policies Committee, as it was called. Now, losing that means that his political life is over. He has no presence in Egypt’s political establishment right now.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Sharif Abdel Kouddous. Professor Fahmy, you mentioned the interview that Christiane Amanpour did with President Mubarak. Sharif, your comment here?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, you know, Hosni Mubarak, in that interview, claimed that it’s not him who launched the attack on the protesters and that he doesn’t know who did it, and, you know, it was some other force. Well, Mubarak has consistently used this line, that without him there would be chaos, without him there would be disorder, and the reason to keep him in power is stability. Well, he can’t have both. He either has control of the country, whereby there are no camels and horses flying into Tahrir Square to attack protesters, and Molotov cocktails and guns and rocks; or he doesn’t have control. So, you know, he can’t have both sides of the coin. And a lot of people were very angry about that interview. So, and a lot of people also were angry at the fact that he did an interview with Christiane Amanpour and didn’t even address the nation. So, again, I think he has lost all credibility. He has lost it for — he hasn’t had credibility for a long time. And a lot of these promises that are made, these so-called concessions that are made, are hollow, coming from him. So, again, you know, that’s why the protesters believe his ouster — if he resigns as president, then eventually the entire system that he is the head of will crumble with him.
AMY GOODMAN: Khaled Fahmy, I want to thank you very much for being with us, chair of the History Department at American University in Cairo. I’m Amy Goodman in New York. Sharif Abdel Kouddous is hosting from Cairo, Egypt, just came from Tahrir Square. We’re going to go to break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk more about what is happening in the leadership, but most importantly, what is happening on the ground. We’re also going to speak with the Committee to Protect Journalists about the latest news of journalists, reporters, even the tech people, the cable layers, who have been attacked — CPJ says over a hundred. One Egyptian reporter has died. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif Abdel Kouddous is joining us in Cairo. We are co-hosting for this two-hour special broadcast. The latest news from Egypt: Hosni Mubarak has resigned as head of the ruling NDP party, but he remains president of Egypt. this comes as the New York Times reports the Obama administration and some members of the Egyptian military are now trying to nudge Mubarak from power. According to the Times, the country’s newly named vice president Omar Suleiman and other top military leaders are discussing steps to limit Mubarak’s decision-making authority and possibly remove him from the presidential palace in Cairo. Under this plan, Suleiman would head a transitional government. We also recently got news, actually out of Munich, but it was about Suleiman in Cairo, that there was — we’re going to get to that in a minute.
To talk more about what a post-Mubarak Egypt would look like, we’re joined by Paul Amar, associate professor of global and international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
With this breaking news, Professor Amar, what is your observation?
PAUL AMAR: Well, this is very interesting. Really, in the last three or four days, we’ve seen already this uprising or this transition move through phases that would take years in a normal transition phase. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the police as the dominant responder to the uprisings. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the internationally linked, you know, kind of crony, privatizing group of businessmen around Gamal Mubarak, rise and fall with the news 10 minutes ago that Gamal has left as secretary general of the party, being the end of that group, and also with the attorney general — excuse me, the public prosecutor in Egypt now freezing the assets of the head of the privatization of hotels and the head of the privatization of the steel industry. We’re seeing what I think this shift in the ruling party, just in the last minutes, represents is, in a sense, a rise of certain businessmen that are affiliated with national development, which are linked to the military, which is also a very important economic actor in Egypt. I can comment on that a little bit if I have time.
AMY GOODMAN: You do. Go ahead.
PAUL AMAR: OK. So, who is now the new secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party is Hossam Badrawi. He has the glorious honor of being the founder of Egypt’s first HMO in 1989. He basically founded the movement to privatize Egypt’s healthcare system, which was universal and free. So, that is something we Americans know a lot about. So he runs a kind of official state human rights agencies. So, of course, to be an official state human rights agency under Mubarak implies a lot of contradiction. So he is an interesting man. He’s a businessman, a nationally respected businessman linked to national healthcare capital in Egypt.
Also, recently, this morning, we had a list of demands, or a plan, a transition plan, laid out by Naguib Sawiris, also — probably the richest man in Egypt, who has many of the contracts in tourism, development, infrastructure, communications, building. And his plan is basically to have the transition be governed by a bunch of, you know, very old businessmen and with some technocratic and scientific members, to give it this — what Timothy Mitchell would call the "rule of experts" kind of coalition of conservative businessmen, with the business wing of the Muslim Brothers and some scientists. So that’s interesting.
I think what we’re seeing is, this began 12 days ago as a protest led by labor unions, by — many of them women-based labor unions in the manufacturing cities of Egypt, where new Russian and Chinese investment stimulated the return of factories, the return of working-class jobs, often by women and sweatshop workers. This started out as a national, nationwide basically labor protest with human rights component — anger about the police, about police brutality — and now it’s shifting in a kind of a businessman and the kind of businessman’s wing of the Muslim Brothers movement, in order to kind of just step a little bit outside of the neoliberal or kind of globalization-oriented mode into a kind of national capital development strategy with the military backing it. So it’s very interesting. It’s happening very fast.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, tomorrow the banks are going to reopen. That is the plan. And, Professor Amar, the issue of if there are divisions in the military, and could you see, perhaps, with the shifting role of the military, a kind of military takeover? Is that at all possible at this point?
PAUL AMAR: Well, the military is — has several different branches to it that we’re now seeing as kind of interesting, confused expressions of this kind of paternalistic populism, protecting the people, and doing — you know, doing a very important of basically displacing the police and protecting the people. This has a gendered component, and as you’ve seen, the reason why you have so many male protesters now is part of the way the military understands its protective role, is to exclude women and children from political activity. So that’s not a good sign. But the military has certainly been better than the horrible security services and police.
The military is now in power. We have Suleiman, which is not from the army. He’s from the intelligence services, which is nominally part of the military but is a much less deep institution, has much less legitimacy with the kind of regular Egyptian folks on the street. He’s more tied to, you know, Israel and the U.S. and international negotiations. And day before yesterday, Suleiman’s interview on national TV in Egypt was kind of like the Glenn Beck stroking your bunny moment for Suleiman. He really was just nuts. He blamed the protests on a combination of Hamas and Israel and al-Qaeda and Anderson Cooper, and everybody just thought that was just creepy and weird. So, Suleiman is — again, things are changing fast. Suleiman is already losing his legitimacy, and maybe there was an assassination attempt today. So, it’s very interesting.
But in terms of the military, again, the more protective, populist branch of the military is very powerful and is counter-balancing the police, in a good way. But of course, these military leaders are businessmen. The military run most of the shopping malls in Egypt. They run many of the beach resorts in Egypt. They make a lot of money through economic ventures, because they develop their military bases into tourism resorts and shopping malls and things, which is an interesting development. So that’s why we have the military basically split between the question of its popular legitimacy and its economic interests. They want the protesters to love them, as the military, and they want to love the protesters back, but they want to get the protesters off the streets so tourists will come back and their businesses will flourish.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the — well, now vice president, appointed so just in the last few days by President Mubarak — blamed the media in part of the rant.
PAUL AMAR: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined by Mohamed Dayem, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, who is with the Committee to Protect Journalists. Mohamed, this issue of the number of journalists who have been targeted and the latest news of an Egyptian journalist dying, can you talk about what’s happening? And you, yourself, are Egyptian.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Sure. The government continues to target journalists through these plainclothes police and through these hired thugs. And it’s really quite astonishing that we have the President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister expressing various degrees of regret, ensuring both the Egyptian public as well as international journalists they’ve spoken to that these attacks will cease, that they will do everything in their power to stop these attacks from taking place, while those attacks are taking place on the street. Those attacks have continued. They’re still taking place today. Before coming to the studio here, I was on the phone with journalists. I’m trying to verify something like 20 additional attacks on journalists that took place today. So, while the intensity and the frequency of those attacks have gone down slightly, I have to emphasize that they continue to take place.
And the Egyptian state-owned and state-controlled media are no longer engaged in the business of news. In fact, they’re no longer engaged in the business of propaganda. They are right now being used as an arm of the executive branch. They are there to propagate things that are simply not true. And let me just say real quick that the Committee to Protect Journalists, as a matter of policy, is actually not in the business of analyzing or evaluating editorial lines or the quality of news; we’re in the business of protecting journalists. But state-owned media has ceased to be media, as it were, and is now becoming something a couple of notches below propaganda, frankly.
AMY GOODMAN: One top reporter at Nile TV, Egyptian state television, just threw it all in. She walked out and joined the protesters in Tahrir Square. She said she should have done it long ago.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Correct. Shahira Amin, who’s an anchor on Nile TV, finally said, "Enough is enough," and simply walked out and joined the protesters in Tahrir Square. I’ve been trying to get a hold of her. I want to talk to her. But yes, and she’s not the only one, by the way. There are numerous presenters on Arabic-language programs that have done the same, have either resigned or have walked out. They have not gotten the same level of international attention, simply because they broadcast in Arabic. I know Shahira personally, and she broadcasts in English, and so her story has made headlines.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about her.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well, she’s been working for Nile TV for a long time. She has long complained, perhaps privately, about the editorial line at some of these stations. But again, I mean, prior to this crackdown against demonstrators and against journalists, the editorial line was perhaps inaccurate, but one could still refer to it as news with a straight face. Over the past 11 days it has simply ceased to be news as you and I would describe it.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, an Egyptian journalist named Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud died from gunshot wounds. Egyptian security agents have detained Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Abdel Fattah Fayed and journalist Ahmed Yousef. Pro-Mubarak supporters also stormed the offices of Al Jazeera and Alhurra. Talk about the journalist who died.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well, the journalist who died was actually filming confrontations between uniformed police, because this was, I believe, on the 27th or 28th of January, and there were actually still uniformed police on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. And he was filming, from the balcony of his home, confrontations between those uniformed police and demonstrators. In fact, according to Al-Ahram, he was hit by a sniper bullet while filming from the balcony of his own apartment. He was taken to the hospital, and he was in a coma for a number of days before he died yesterday in the hospital. And this marks the first fatality in this uprising that is now on its 11th day. And it’s actually quite unfortunate — 12th day of this uprising, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud was a journalist working for Al-Ta’awun, the newspaper which is published by the state-owned Al-Ahram Foundation?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Correct, yes. He was working for that newspaper.
AMY GOODMAN: Have they spoken out?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well, Al-Ta’awun doesn’t have a website, or at least doesn’t have a website that hasn’t been taken down by hackers yet. So I have not been able to look at that specific publication. But Al-Ahram has written about it.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Mohamed Dayem, Committee to Protect Journalists, here in New York. He runs the Middle East and North Africa program. Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo, Sharif, you have been reporting for the last week, bringing us video reports when the networks were only on the telephone. It has been truly remarkable. And when you couldn’t do that, you were tweeting, even when the internet was totally down. But talk about journalists on the ground.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Amy, let me just say, Mohamed is exactly right. I mean, the crackdown on journalists here is severe, and it is continuing. When we first arrived here, we were proudly announcing we were journalists where we would go, and it was fine, and we’d carry our cameras and go in. Now, that is not the case at all. We hide our cameras when we’re walking around. Today, when we got past an initial checkpoint, they did not let my colleague Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films in with a flip camera. But we managed to get it in anyway. And so, there is a real crackdown.
And we also almost got taken in the other day. When we were coming back from within Tahrir, you know, a Mukhabarat-looking guy along with an army guy started asking us questions, asking us for our journalism credentials, which we’ve never been asked before. And we were very, very close. I heard the army guy in Arabic say, "Take them in." And it was only — you know, we kind of talked our way out of it.
So, I’ve also heard of — I’ve also spoken to a cameraperson who has been detained twice. And the second time, they went through all his footage and started deleting stuff from his cards and copying other footage and copying photos. So, there’s a sense of a crackdown on journalists, a crackdown especially on Western journalists, and on Westerners in general. I mean, the vibe here is — the atmosphere is darkening. And, you know, this is typical of the Mubarak regime. It’s the kind of clampdown on any kind of coverage at all. I think they realize that the fewer eyes that they have here on what is happening, the better, and damned be their reputation in the international community. They are just doing this regardless of who it is. I mean, I heard that Christiane Amanpour almost came under attack one day, so — and she’s a very well-known figure. So, it is getting more and more difficult to report from Cairo.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Dayem, the U.S. government, have they been in contact with you? I mean the call of many of the protesters to stop supporting the Mubarak regime, and then you have many American journalists who have been attacked.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yes, well, we have been in touch with the U.S. government. We have provided the U.S. government with the most comprehensive list that we can of the names of all the journalists, both local and international, that have been detained, harassed, beaten or otherwise prevented from reporting the news. It is my understanding that they are in constant contact with the Egyptian authorities and that they’re advocating on this issue.
AMY GOODMAN: And before you go, Al Jazeera’s offices attacked repeatedly, if not physically attacked, which they were, even yesterday, even when they were saying that now things are peaceful, also taken off the air, not allowed — you know, wasn’t being broadcast. And then, though, you have the media blackout in the United States. Al Jazeera English, you cannot get it, unless if you live in Toledo, Ohio, or Burlington, Vermont, and your cable station will run it. This could mean a breakthrough for Al Jazeera in the United States, since so many people are desperately trying to get information from it.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yeah, it may very well be. I’d like to focus on the actual attacks on Al Jazeera. The Egyptian government has done really everything they can to get Al Jazeera off of the air, and fortunately they have failed. And they’ve done this to a lesser extent with other international media. They’ve attacked the journalists on the streets. They’ve detained some of these people and held them in secret locations.
AMY GOODMAN: By the way, we just got news that two of Al Jazeera’s journalists in Cairo have been released. They were detained by Egyptian authorities.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Correct, yeah. They were released about an hour or two ago. And they’ve continued doing that. And they’re sort of looking at Al Jazeera and these international outfits as one end of the spectrum, and they’re looking at the state-owned media as the other end of the spectrum. On the state media, as we speak right now, there are people on TV and on radio describing an American-Israeli-Hamas-Hezbollah-Iranian conspiracy. I mean, it just doesn’t add up, no matter what planet you live on, frankly. This does not add up. It just doesn’t work. And it’s not working, and people are not buying it. People now — I’ve been talking to people in Cairo, and when they’re exhausted from the news, they switch to Egyptian state television to have a quick laugh before they go back to real news. That’s actually what’s happening on the ground in Egypt right now.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, then come back. Mohamed Abdel Dayem, thank you so much for being with us, coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Committee to Protect Journalists. Sharif Abdel Kouddous on the line with us from Cairo, as he has been for — well, for more than the last week. When we come back, we’re also going to be joined by Professor Rashid Khalidi, talking about the significance of the uprising in Egypt, in Tunisia, for the whole Middle East, particularly, though, Israel and Palestine.
And we welcome all of the thousands of people who are watching right now at democracynow.org, who are joining us from Pacifica Radio, from Link TV, from Free Speech TV. And I hope you’ll join us on Facebook and send us where your radio station or television station is broadcasting Democracy Now! Big shout out to our friends at MNN, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, that’s broadcasting this full two-hour special. Tell your stations to run Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Uprising in Egypt, a special Democracy Now! two-hour broadcast. I’m Amy Goodman in New York. Sharif Abdel Kouddous is with us in Cairo. As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Friday, continue to be there today, solidarity rallies were held throughout the Middle East and around the world. Thousands marched in countries including Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Malaysia. In Tunisia, hundreds gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in the capital Tunis. Meanwhile, in France, dozens of people protested outside the Egyptian embassy in Paris to call attention to the Mubarak regime’s crackdown on journalists. Some activists breached a security barrier and hung a banner from the embassy reading, "We are killing news here."
The Palestinian Authority continues to ban solidarity rallies for Egypt in the occupied West Bank. In other news from the region, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he intends to begin talks with Palestinian officials on tapping large gas reserves off the Gaza coast. Netanyahu discussed the plan in an appearance with Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair. Critics have speculated that Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza beginning in December 2008 was in part motivated by an intent to cement control over the reserves.
Meanwhile, in news from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced he won’t seek re-election when his second term ends in 2014.
We’re joined right now by Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at the Department of History, Columbia University.
Professor Khalidi, welcome to Democracy Now! The significance of this uprising?
RASHID KHALIDI: It’s good to be back. You guys are doing a wonderful job.
This is the end of a very long, dark night in the Arab world. I mean, we have suffered through decades of autocracy, kleptocracy, absolute monarchies, and it sometimes seemed like it would never end. And thanks to the Tunisian people, thanks to a man who set himself on fire six-and-a-half weeks ago, suddenly there’s a viral contagion of a desire for freedom, a desire to end this old decrepit Arab order. It’s quite remarkable. We don’t know, of course, where it’s going to go. It may, of course, be very messy. But the passions that have been unleashed, I think, are going to be very hard to put back in the bottle. Something fundamental seems to have changed in the Arab world.
AMY GOODMAN: Sen. McCain, the former presidential candidate, senator from Arizona, is calling what’s happening in Egypt, what’s happening in the Middle East, this rolling rebellion, a "virus."
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, I would not call it a virus. I would call it something that’s contagious, because freedom is contagious, because the sense that you can liberate yourself is contagious. I mean, we have a generation in the Arab world of people under 30 who form the overwhelming majority of the population in the Arab countries, that count about 300 million people. These people have never known — most of them — a free regime. They’ve never known equality of opportunity. They’ve never known freedom of the press and so forth. And they have — they’re hooked into the rest of the world. They know how other people live, and they know that it doesn’t have to be like this. But there was a sense of despair. There was something that was holding people down, and somehow this is beginning to lift. I would call it contagious, but in the best possible sense, like contagious joy. And that is the feeling people are having. Friends of mine tell me, "This is the first time I’ve been this proud to be an Egyptian." Tunisians say, "We’re so proud that we have started this process." And I think that feeling is rippling across the Arab world, that it is possible to change these awful, awful regimes, probably as a collection the worst in any part of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go on with Senator McCain’s comments. He said, "This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in—of our entire involvement in the Middle East," he says, "at least in modern times. Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel and are governed by radical organizations." Professor Khalidi?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, we have Senator McCain and so many people on the right re-raising the bogeyman of Islam, which is going to eat us all up if dictatorial regimes using electrodes on people’s delicate parts are not allowed, with American support, to keep the people down. That narrative, for 10 or 11 or 12 days, finally has gotten some competition in the American media, in the American political sphere, from people who understand that you cannot build an order on the secret police and on people beating other people up. That is no way for the United States to operate, though it has been operating that way for decades in the Arab world, and it’s no way to build any kind of stable structure, whether between Israel and the Arab countries or in any other respect. That is an entirely false narrative, that if you let these people free of police state regimes such as rule most Arab countries, the Islamists will take over. We’ve been sold a bill of goods, as far as that’s concerned. Yes, there will be an Islamist element in the politics of this part of the world, partly because the regimes have pulverized the secular opposition even more than they’ve tried to destroy the Islamists. In fact, they’re happy to have the Islamists there, because they provide the bogeyman, which justifies in their scare tactics, vis-à-vis their own middle classes, their own civil society, the police states that they have erected.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the response right now in Israel and in the Occupied Territories.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, let’s start with Israel. Israel has benefited enormously from the speaking in Arabic, this decrepit Arab age that we’ve been living through for decades, because these are weak regimes without legitimacy. These are regimes dependent on the United States. These are regimes that do the bidding of Washington. I’m talking about Egypt. I’m talking about Jordan. I’m talking about Saudi Arabia. I’m talking about the Gulf countries. I’m talking about virtually all of them. And Israel has erected a structure of dominance over the region, which is in part dependent on the existence of regimes that have no popular legitimacy and that Israel can continue to castigate as being autocratic, which of course they are, and continue to contrast itself with, by saying, "We’re the only democracy in the region."
Moreover, these are regimes which in many cases are locked into Israel by treaties that guarantee Israeli superiority. The Egyptian army is maintained at a small size by the treaty, Egypt is prevented from sending troops into Sinai by the treaty, things like that. Jordan is similarly constrained, either by its relationship with Israel by treaty or its relationship with the United States. This is an order that was built on sand but has lasted for decades now. The Egyptian-Israeli treaty has been in force since 1979. This Israeli one is more recent — the Israeli-Jordanian one is more recent.
So the Israelis are naturally concerned — or Israeli security managers, let’s say, are naturally concerned that this structure of dominance that they have erected, together with these regimes — I mean, Egypt and Israel are cooperating in the siege of Gaza. It’s a joint endeavor, with the United States and Europe playing a supporting role. This is not an Israeli siege. It’s an Israeli-Egyptian siege. So, Israeli security managers are naturally unhappy that this terrible structure that they have held up for so long is beginning to crumble.
AMY GOODMAN: We now got this news of the Suez gas pipeline, it may have been a leak, blowing up in Suez, the latest news of Netanyahu announcing talks with the Palestinian Authority on Gaza’s gas reserves.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, before I came on, I noticed that Saeb Erekat, much in the news because of the Palestine Papers last week —
AMY GOODMAN: And remind people what the Palestine Papers are.
RASHID KHALIDI: The Palestine Papers were leaking of documents, I think from the security unit — sorry, the negotiations unit of the Palestinian Authority by Al Jazeera and by The Guardian in Britain, which showed stuff that most people who are experts on what was going on already knew regarding the PA’s position, the Palestinian Authority’s position vis-à-vis Israel, and actually more embarrassingly showed Israel’s refusal to take yes for an answer and showed the despicable role that I think American diplomacy has played throughout, since the time I was involved back in the early ’90s and until this day.
AMY GOODMAN: And particularly talk about Jerusalem, what it showed with Saeb Erekat.
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it showed some quite awful things vis-à-vis both the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to concede all of the Israeli — illegal Israeli settlements that have been established in East Jerusalem, whereby hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been introduced into occupied Arab East Jerusalem in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and live in areas which basically block off the Arab areas of the city from their hinterland in the West Bank. I mean, it’s a colonial structure designed to absorb East Jerusalem into Israel. The Palestinian Authority basically accepted that, as well as arrangements — there’s a debate over exactly what was intended — for the Haram-al-Sharif, for the area of the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, which would have apparently involved some kind of international supervision. Both of these are positions that most Palestinians would probably abhor.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you have Saeb Erekat using the Hebrew word, saying, "We’re giving you Yerushaláyim." And you have Livni Tzipi saying no.
RASHID KHALIDI: Tzipi Livni said no.
AMY GOODMAN: Tzipi Livni saying —
RASHID KHALIDI: Tzipi Livni said no, exactly. The point I was trying to make was that Saeb Erekat, who has been revealed by these leaks to have been very complacent vis-à-vis, today was reported to have rejected, categorically, Netanyahu’s offer. The Jazeera-Guardian leaks have forced the Palestinian Authority to take a tougher stand. And we’re going to see this into the future, because they’re being undermined, on the one hand, by the weakness of the Egyptian regime, as it faces its people for the first time. The Palestinian Authority is not just a client of Israel in Ramallah; it’s also a client of the United States, but also a client of Egypt. And they are very much affected by the fact that the Egyptian regime is in some danger right now.
AMY GOODMAN: What about reports, Professor Khalidi, that the Palestinian Authority shut down a protest in Ramallah in support of the Egyptian protesters?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, that is completely consistent with the line that they’ve followed. I mean, they are allies of Mubarak. Abu Mazen, President Abbas, was one of the first people to call Mubarak and offer solidarity in the wake of the January 25th —- huge January 25th protest. So he put himself on the side of -—
AMY GOODMAN: The latest leader to do that is Berlusconi in Italy, encouraging Mubarak to remain.
RASHID KHALIDI: They’re in wonderful company — Senator McCain, Mubarak, Berlusconi and Abu Mazen.
AMY GOODMAN: But the significance of that and the crackdown, and what you think this could mean? Do you think there will be further protest that’s either repressed or allowed to express itself?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow in Ramallah, but what I can say is that there is a wave going through this region. Police state regimes for the first time have reason to fear. It may take a long time. I mean, in Syria, absolutely nothing happened when people called for a day of protest the other day —- yesterday or the day before. In other countries, it’s clear that there’s an effect: in Jordan, in Yemen, today in Iraq. The Iraqi prime minister halved his salary, realizing that having a salary of several hundred thousand dollars in a country where many people don’t have jobs doesn’t look so good. And as you reported, he’s agreed not to run again for the office. So, this is affecting everybody. It may affect the PA more slowly. Remember -—
AMY GOODMAN: Would there be protests against the PA?
RASHID KHALIDI: There may be. But remember, in the West Bank, you have two security services: one created by us, by General Dayton, and the other, the Israeli army, both of which control the situation. So it’s not like they just face a dictatorial police state, which they do, whether that of the PA in Ramallah or that of Hamas in Gaza; it’s also, in the case of the West Bank, that they have to face the Israeli army, which comes in any time it pleases to all of these towns and cities that are nominally under the control of the PA.
AMY GOODMAN: Unclear if Suleiman will be lasting with the announcement of the resignation of the whole leadership of the party, but his significance in all of this, the man who has been named vice president? We just have 60 seconds.
RASHID KHALIDI: Omar Suleiman is a key figure in the torture mandated by the United States through extraordinary rendition. He is a key player in the relationship between Egypt and Israel. He is the manager of Egypt’s policy against the Gaza Strip. He is a man who is very unpopular among many, many people in the Arab world because of these things. And as your own reporters have suggested, he does not represent the wing of the army that is in touch with the people. He represents the Mukhabarat, the military intelligence. And so, the fact that Omar Suleiman is the one that Washington wants doesn’t necessarily speak well for Washington, but I don’t think that necessarily means that he’s going to be there for very long.
AMY GOODMAN: Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University here in New York. We’re doing a two-hour broadcast today. This is concluding our first hour, welcoming all the TV and radio stations on board and those watching at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Egypt. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to our broadcast, "Uprising in Egypt."
CHILD PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTER: [translated] Down, down with Hosni Mubarak!
AMY GOODMAN: That child saying, "Down, down with Hosni Mubarak!" And there is so much more. It’s day 12, as we continue our broadcast special. There are reports that Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as head of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party but remains Egypt’s president. Hossam Badrawi, who’s known as a moderate within the NDP, has been named the party’s new secretary general. He also replaces Gamal Mubarak, Mubarak’s son, as head of the NDP’s political bureau.
Protesters meanwhile continue to hold Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the 12th day of their uprising against Mubarak’s regime. A large crowd remains in the square hours after hundreds of thousands turned out for what was called the Day of Departure, D-Day, against Mubarak’s regime. Thousands also gathered for parallel rallies in the cities of Alexandria, Mahalla and more. The protests in Alexandria are also continuing today.
The massive turnout comes in bold defiance of pro-Mubarak loyalists who violently attacked the protesters Wednesday and Thursday. According to Egyptian officials, the death toll from violence in Cairo has reached 11, with more than 5,000 people injured. There are reports top Egyptian officials are in talks to force Mubarak’s resignation or limit his presidential authority, but there’s no confirmation that Mubarak is on board or that the talks hold weight.
Joining us now from Cairo is Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat. She has just returned from Tahrir Square, "Tahrir" which means "Liberation."
Anjali, it’s great to have you with us again. Talk about what’s happening in Tahrir Square.
ANJALI KAMAT: Hi, Amy. It’s great to be on.
Just got back from Tahrir Square. It is indeed a liberated space, and people are not going to leave Tahrir. It’s a very symbolic space to hold onto. Many of the people I spoke to today talked about the importance of why they’re still in Tahrir Square, what it means to them, the symbolism of liberating what’s called — what’s known as Liberation Square. One man talked about the kind of solidarity being forged in that space, the politics being waged there. That’s the future that he wants to see in his country. That’s the kind of Egypt he wants to live in. A young woman talked about how being in that space, seeing — being inspired by the thousands and millions of Egyptians who have come to the streets in the past 10 days, really inspiring her and leading her to imagine for the very first time that she might be able to bring children into this world, that this is the kind of Egypt she could bring children into. Another man talked about, you know, for the first time he’s tasted freedom, he’s smelled freedom, and he’s not going to give up now.
I mean, we’re just hearing that Hosni Mubarak resigned as the head of the NDP. That’s not going to satisfy these people. This is not enough. People want Hosni Mubarak to resign, but that’s not the only demand. Yesterday, when we were in the square, we were up atop a building where they dropped a giant banner that stayed for the rest of the day that listed a number of demands of the people, and the resignation of the president is only one of them. It does involve the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, but also an end to the draconian emergency laws, the formation of a transitional government, changes to the constitution to allow free and fair elections, and also, very importantly, the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths and the violence over the past 10 days. This is something that nobody in the square is going to forget. You know, people laughed when I asked if they thought, you know, Hosni Mubarak would be able to stay in power. And they said, "We don’t know what he’s thinking." How are people in Egypt going to forget what he’s done just over the past 10 days, even if they’re able to forgive his crimes of the past 30 years?
AMY GOODMAN: Anjali, we are getting reports right now that BBC World is saying Egyptian state TV reports, monitored by the BBC, suggest President Mubarak did not quit as party leader after all. Now, that is Egyptian state TV, but it’s BBC reporting it. Anjali, they’re also reporting, BBC, that Swedish broadcaster SVT has confirmed that reporter Bert Sundstrom was stabbed in Cairo. He’s now being operated on. That’s, I think, a couple of days old, but it goes to the issue of the reporters that are under so much danger. More than a hundred have been hurt or harassed. And of course today, the latest news of an Egyptian reporter who has died as a result of his wounds.
ANJALI KAMAT: That’s right. I mean, there’s really two parts to this story. On the one hand, the incredible harassment of anyone who looks like a journalist, particularly a foreign journalist, but of course the journalist who succumbed to his wounds and died was an Egyptian journalist. There’s been incredible harassment. And I know you spoke earlier with someone from the Committee to Protect Journalists about what’s been happening in Egypt, this kind of harassment. Even today, it was very difficult to get into the square. I had to conceal my flip camera, but I was able to get in with the flip camera. But, you know, even while using it towards the end, I started to get nervous, because the people — most of the people within the square are incredibly friendly and supportive and want their stories to get out to the world, but there are also a lot of people wandering around, big men with cell phones — with cell phones, and pointing their cameras in your face as you’re filming. And I heard different reports that these might be pro-government thugs. And at a certain point, there were three such men filming me as I was recording an interview with someone else, and on their cell phones, as well. So there is this environment and atmosphere of intimidation that people inside Tahrir Square are trying very hard to stamp out in a very peaceful manner.
I mean, the other part of this is what you just mentioned about Egyptian state TV. I’m not sure what actually happened with Hosni Mubarak, but a lot of people inside the square are very concerned about the kind of reports being shown on Egyptian state television, because this is the media that most of the country is getting. And most of the country is not getting a true picture of what’s happening in Tahrir Square. Most of the people who watch state television are not getting a real picture of what’s happening at these protests. There is rampant false information being spread about people organizing the protests being foreign agents, being infiltrators, agents of Iran or Israel, just absurd accusations. But, you know, people who are not at the protests and who might just want life to go back to normal might be inclined to believe this.
And I think people within the square, one of their main demands is also for — you know, to make — to have more independent media. And in fact today we spoke to some of — there’s a media tent inside Tahrir Square that’s been set up for the past week. And they’re disseminating — collecting stories of people with in the square, people who were wounded, people who were attacked, people who were injured, and just ordinary people who are within the square, asking them why they’re there and creating an archive of this and trying to distribute it all over the world so that people get a true picture of what’s going on inside, even as international journalists are being cracked down on and not allowed to get in.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Anjali Kamat, Democracy Now!'s Anjali Kamat, in one part of Cairo, just back from Tahrir Square, and joined for this two-hour broadcast by Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who's been broadcasting for the last week. Sharif, would you like to add to Anjali’s description of what’s going on right now? You going to Tahrir Square earlier today, though you had stayed the other night, and actually not being able to wait to get in.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, I just wanted to add that there certainly are these people that are around that are trying to intimidate people. There’s no question that they’ve got infiltrators inside the square who are filming. You see them walking around with cell phones and very kind of methodically filming different faces. I actually approached one, who had just — who was filming me very closely and moved on. I asked him, "Why are you taking a picture of me?" And he just kind of scurried off. And we later, I believe, saw him being dragged off to be handed to military custody. So there is this kind of atmosphere there, but the people in Tahrir are trying to fight back against this.
And they really want to speak out. It’s amazing, the days, you know, when you show — when you pull out your camera, how many people want their voices to be heard. They’ve been stifled for so long, it’s been such a clampdown for so many years, so many decades, that when you do pull out a camera, people are just scrambling to try and get their voices heard, to say their part.
And also, to the point that Anjali made about what the public is seeing, the Mubarak regime has launched what is turning out to be an effective campaign of propaganda, blaming the protesters. Well, first of all, they have this whole crazy conspiracy, Iran-Hamas stuff, going on, which is just ludicrous. But also, you know, everything has been closed. The banks have been closed. This revolution started near the end of the month. People haven’t been paid their salaries. There’s bread shortages. So, what the Mubarak regime is trying to do is to antagonize the public and make the public suffer. And what many in the public I’m hearing is they’re starting to blame the protesters for these woes, instead of when it’s actually Hosni Mubarak they should be blaming for these problems. And so, you know, as Mohamed said in the earlier hour about Egypt state TV going even beyond propaganda and just being an arm of the executive branch, I think that’s exactly right.
AMY GOODMAN: We are getting many comments, questions on Facebook. Thousands are watching us at democracynow.org and on the satellite networks, Link TV and Free Speech TV. Michele Kumi Baer just posted this question on Facebook. Anjali, she’s asking, "What’s the role of women in the revolution? Why aren’t we seeing more of their voices and faces in mainstream media?" I think Democracy Now! is showing more women than I see anywhere else on the networks, perhaps combined, you know, really articulating what’s happening in Tahrir Square and other places.
Anjali, are you there?
ANJALI KAMAT: Can you hear me, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
ANJALI KAMAT: I just said that Tahrir Square has thousands of women and children. It’s not just a male space. And it’s got men, women and children from all classes of Egyptian society. It’s not dominated by any single class. And it’s very inspiring to see people from a variety of social strata interacting with each other, trying to discuss with each other how to work with each other to build a new political future for themselves and their country.
As to why there aren’t more women, Egyptian women’s voices being seen in the mainstream media, I can’t really speak to that. But I’ve certainly spoken to a number of women over the past few days, and all of them have been very strong in their opposition to Hosni Mubarak, very strong in their opposition to the entire regime. And, you know, their grievances with the regime range from unemployment, lack of opportunity to advance in their lives, lack of freedom, having family members who have been tortured, who have been harassed, and just wanting to taste freedom for the first time in their lives.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, you’ve been speaking to many women. I’m going to see if we have a clip of one of the women who you spoke to in Tahrir Square who really has a message for President Obama.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Do you have any message to the Obama administration?
SELMA AL-TARZI: Yes, I have a message to the Obama administration, which is, on behalf of all the people that are being killed here, stop addressing Mubarak like he’s a valid person who would find a solution. We don’t want a solution from Mubarak. Mubarak will not find a solution. And it’s outrageous that you still talk about him as if he should sit and talk. He should not sit and talk.
AMY GOODMAN: Anjali Kamat, continue there. And also talk about what it’s like to walk around outside Tahrir Square. Do you feel the atmosphere is changing? Do you think there’s a kind of closing in that’s going on?
ANJALI KAMAT: I mean, Cairo is really now split into Tahrir Square and the rest of Cairo, is what it seems like to me. And while — you know, the curfew hours have been eased in the days since I’ve gotten here. The day I got here, curfew began at 1:00 p.m., whereas today it just began at 7:00 p.m. And nobody in Tahrir, obviously, is following the curfew. It’s absurd to even call it a curfew, because the square is overflowing with people at all times of day and night.
But outside Tahrir during curfew hours, it’s very difficult to move around, particularly if you don’t have a car. Walking through places, there is a sense of fear and intimidation being waged by the thugs being unleashed by the state. There’s always a lot of rumors about thugs hanging out on different bridges, different pathways, so getting from one part of Cairo to the other can be very difficult. There’s no public — very difficult to find public transportation during curfew hours. So, walking back late at night has been a bit of a challenge.
You know, there’s — Sharif has talked about in previous broadcasts — the popular committees, the neighborhood committees that have been set up in every neighborhood. You know, they’re literally 50 to 100 yards. Every 50 to 100 yards, there’s a small group of men, usually — in certain areas of the city there’s also women — with sticks, with knives, with rifles, shooting rifles, with flower pots, with really anything they can find to kind of guard their area. And for the most part, they’re very polite and apologetic about stopping and searching people.
But in certain areas, it also — you know, I think this campaign of fear and intimidation by the state is having a very negative impact on people, and people are becoming very fearful and don’t want any outsiders into their neighborhoods, I mean, don’t want — forget about foreigners, just nobody from a certain other neighborhood of Cairo is allowed into their neighborhood. In certain areas, if your ID card doesn’t say you’re from that neighborhood, it’s very difficult to enter. So this makes it a very different sort of Cairo than it was before. It’s also what it feels — you know, it feels like people are trying to take over police functions and maybe are becoming a little overzealous because of the government’s propaganda of fear. It’s a complete contrast to the openness and freedom that one feels inside Tahrir Square.
AMY GOODMAN: Anjali Kamat, just out of Tahrir Square. I wanted to ask, Anjali, before we move on, if while you were there today in the square — Tahrir, which means "Liberation" — were you getting these news reports that — we have all sorts of conflicting reports — that President Mubarak has resigned as head of the party, and what the response was inside?
ANJALI KAMAT: Well, we just heard that he had resigned as head of the party, you know, which was not enough for people, by any means. And that’s just when I left the square. But I didn’t hear anything beyond that.
AMY GOODMAN: Anjali, thanks so much for being with us. Stay on, and we’d like to hear other things that you have to say.
We are joined now from Stanford University by Joel Beinin. He has actually just returned from Israel, where he gathered material on a small but growing resistance movement composed of young Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to nonviolence. His parents also live in Israel. Joel Beinin is professor of Middle East history at Stanford University, former director of Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo and author of several books on Egypt.
Before we talk about what’s happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Professor Beinin, talk about your reaction to what’s happening now in Egypt.
JOEL BEININ: This is absolutely thrilling. I can only join with my friend and colleague Rashid Khalidi’s comments, which were on earlier, that this has been a very, very long time coming, and it’s a very great thing. And I hope, along with him, that this spreads far and wide throughout the Arab world as soon as possible.
AMY GOODMAN: And I do want to add that Professor Rashid Khalidi is with us, and he’s going to be joining us in just a minute, as we continue this discussion. But first, your thoughts on Egypt, Professor Beinin?
JOEL BEININ: I think one of the things that people haven’t mentioned about Egypt, because there has been so much attention to the demonstration effect of events in Tunisia and also a lot of attention to the role of social media, is that there has been for the last 10 years or more a whole series of mobilizations around political issues — support for the Palestinian Intifada which broke out in 2000, opposition to the American invasion of Iraq, support for freedom of the judiciary in the spring of 2006, and most important of all, since 1998, over two million workers have engaged in well over 3,000 strikes, sit-ins and other forms of collective action. So this has been building up for 10 years. Various sectors of the population have learned that they don’t have to be afraid of the security apparatus of the regime, which is indeed quite terrifying. But workers did win economic demands. People learned that if you struggle, you may in fact win something worthwhile. The regime was prevented from repressing collective actions by workers as it routinely did in the 1980s and '90s, because it wanted to appear open and democratic to foreign direct investment, which did in fact come in in very large amounts during the first decade of the 21st century. So I would put a lot of emphasis on what people learned over the last decade as contributing not in a direct way that can easily be measured, but in an indirect and cumulative way, to what's happening in the last 12 days in Egypt.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Amar is still on with us, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. Your comment on the issue of labor struggle, that people aren’t really focusing very much on, when it comes to the beginnings of this massive uprising from January 25th?
PAUL AMAR: Well, yes. Just as Professor Beinin was underlining, I think people are forgetting that there was a national strike last year that shut down the whole country, and then just, I believe, the day before or the day of, when protests started, the first national labor federation was formed. And again, there’s a huge shift in just the past year. There’s been, I think, five or six free trade zones opened by Russia and Russian industries in Egypt, full of factories. There’s a lot of Chinese investment coming in. There’s been new military industries being set up, in partnership with the military, with Russian and Chinese and Kazakhstani investment. So, there’s really a new industrial and manufacturing base being built in Egypt, a global economy, with of course terrible working conditions, but however creating a structure in which workers have been able to organize.
In the informal economy, small shops that are funded with small micro loans, there’s been a lot of women’s protagonism and entrepreneurship there. However, these women are often facing kind of police operating as loan sharks. Since there’s no collateral, banks usually don’t go directly to these micro businesses. They kind of use the police to operate as loan sharks. So there’s been women fighting the police, then on a micro level as entrepreneurs — women and men.
But so, there’s new factories, there’s new businesses, from the ground up, that creates a different economic and social structure, a foundation for tension and revolt, but also for really interesting organization. And also, not the same old player; it’s not the IMF, the E.U. and the United States, but these global investors from Brazil, from Turkey, from China, from Russia, from Dubai. So that creates a whole new kind of dynamism. It’s very interesting.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break. I want to thank Professor Amar, Paul Amar, associate professor in the Global and International Studies Program at University of California, Santa Barbara. We are continuing with Joel Beinin at Stanford University, just back from Israel, and with Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. When we come back from break, we’re going to go directly to Cairo to speak with Ahdaf Soueif, who is a well-known novelist, Egyptian novelist. She has been a regular at the Tahrir protests. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We bring you this two-hour special called "Uprising in Egypt." I’m Amy Goodman in New York. Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Anjali Kamat are in Cairo. And we have professors joining us of Middle East studies from around the country. But right now, I want to turn to Ahdaf Soueif. She is the acclaimed Egyptian novelist, has been in Tahrir Square for the last days.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Describe what’s happening on the ground now as we get these conflicting reports of whether President Mubarak has resigned as head of the party, going back and forth throughout today.
AHDAF SOUEIF: It’s a pleasure and an honor to be with you and to be on Democracy Now!
Well, what has happened is that the secretariat, or part of the secretariat, of the party has resigned, and they’ve since appointed somebody else in there. I’m not really sure whether this is meant to be some kind of, again, a token, a placebo, for the protesters to say that part of the apparatus of the party is gone, or whether it is actually people jumping ship. It’s too early to tell, because the news only officially went out about an hour ago.
AMY GOODMAN: And tell us, for people who are not there around the world who are watching right now, what the atmosphere is like there and what this means for the people of Egypt, for you.
AHDAF SOUEIF: OK. Well, Amy, the atmosphere on the square is absolutely brilliant. I happen not to be there right now, because I’ve been running around doing media stuff. But I was there this morning. I was there until after midnight last night. And I know so many people who are there who are constantly tweeting. And the atmosphere on the square is amazing. And yesterday, we were saying that this is truly democracy in action.
What is happening is, people have settled down. They’ve been there now for — what is it? — eight days. Some people leave and come back, and others are just permanently there. There are all sorts of different groups and different activities, all of which sort of, you know, kind of contact each other and are fluid. It looks as — I mean, people look like they have rediscovered themselves. They look like they’re having some kind of vision. And they articulate things like — they told us we were extreme. They told us were fanatic. They were dividing one from the other. But here we are. And this is about Egypt and about Egyptians.
And what’s happening is that, well, for the first time in my adult life, I am listening to people who are discussing politics openly, discussing systems of government, discussing what might work and what might not, technicalities of arriving at what we want, which is basically free and fair elections. You get people just walking along, talking about this. You get groups sitting round. If you go into the square, if you kind of look at the square from above, you will see like hundreds of little circles of people sitting and discussing.
We were just sort of standing near one last night, and people said, "Come and talk with us. Come and talk with us. We all need to listen to each other." And we just joined it and sat down. And one guy was a museum guard. One guy was a cook. One woman was a nurse. And we sat there, and people were talking about what they wanted to see in their country. And what happens is that when an idea gains a certain consensus, then other groups are invited to talk about it. And eventually, if it becomes strong enough, it reaches one of the [inaudible], one of the microphone systems. Then it’s sort of talked about over that, and people will either boo it or they will cheer it. And that is how an opinion is being formed on Tahrir Square. It is incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking with Ahdaf Soueif, acclaimed Egyptian novelist who, interestingly, will come in to New York, at least that’s the plan, to give the Edward Said lecture at Columbia University. Professor Khalidi with us from Columbia. But we’re talking right now, and there is so much that will be happening in this month. I wanted to ask you, Ahdaf, about your brother-in-law, Ahmad Saif, director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center, which was raided earlier this week. What do you — what’s the latest on that?
AHDAF SOUEIF: The latest is that they were released. He and all his colleagues were released, in fact, today. They say that once they were actually with the military police, they were treated well, and that it was — the military police were having chats with them, one on one, and sort of saying that the country was going through a very difficult phase and so on.
But they were — the frightener, and what was clearly very intentional, was that when they took them away — basically, they operate out of an office on the fifth floor of a building in downtown Cairo, and everybody knows it. And the floor below them has another human rights organization. So, basically, the police went there, and they dragged them out. And they had already spoken in the street and inflamed the street and said that they had caught Iranian and Hezbollah agents and foreigners who were working to destabilize the country, and they were going to bring them out. So, and there was actually an American Human Rights Watch person with them. And so, they took them out, and as they were taking them out, they were dragging them out, and people were hitting them. And they were saying to them, "Look, look, see what people will do to you. We’re protecting you from these people." And so, they had that little experience, and then they were bundled into a micro bus. And then once they were handed over to the military police, they retreated with respect, and everything was kind of done correctly.
Now, they know who the person is in the street who actually even paid for the expenses of that raid to take place. And he is a [inaudible] in spare parts, car spare parts, who is a member of the National Democratic Party. And this was him doing a favor to the party.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahdaf Soueif, I wanted to turn to a video recording that was posted to Facebook on January 18th and then went viral across Egypt. It was recorded by a young Egyptian named Asmaa Mahfouz. In the video, the veiled 26-year-old activist appeals to her fellow citizens to join her in protest at Tahrir Square on January 25th to demand their rights.
ASMAA MAHFOUZ: [translated] Four Egyptians have set themselves on fire to protest humiliation and hunger and poverty and degradation they had to live with for 30 years. Four Egyptians have set themselves on fire thinking maybe we can have a revolution like Tunisia, maybe we can have freedom, justice, honor and human dignity. Today, one of these four has died, and I saw people commenting and saying, "May God forgive him. He committed a sin and killed himself for nothing."
People, have some shame.
I posted that I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square, and I will stand alone. And I’ll hold up a banner. Perhaps people will show some honor. I even wrote my number so maybe people will come down with me. No one came except three guys — three guys and three armored cars of riot police. And tens of hired thugs and officers came to terrorize us. They shoved us roughly away from the people. But as soon as we were alone with them, they started to talk to us. They said, "Enough! These guys who burned themselves were psychopaths." Of course, on all national media, whoever dies in protest is a psychopath. If they were psychopaths, why did they burn themselves at the parliament building?
I’m making this video to give you one simple message: we want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25th. If we still have honor and want to live in dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25th. We’ll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights. I won’t even talk about any political rights. We just want our human rights and nothing else.
This entire government is corrupt — a corrupt president and a corrupt security force. These self-immolaters were not afraid of death but were afraid of security forces. Can you imagine that? Are you going to kill yourselves, too, or are you completely clueless? I’m going down on January 25th, and from now 'til then I'm going to distribute fliers in the streets. I will not set myself on fire. If the security forces want to set me on fire, let them come and do it.
If you think yourself a man, come with me on January 25th. Whoever says women shouldn’t go to protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25th. Whoever says it is not worth it because there will only be a handful of people, I want to tell him, "You are the reason behind this, and you are a traitor, just like the president or any security cop who beats us in the streets." Your presence with us will make a difference, a big difference. Talk to your neighbors, your colleagues, friends and family, and tell them to come. They don’t have to come to Tahrir Square. Just go down anywhere and say it, that we are free human beings. Sitting at home and just following us on news or Facebook leads to our humiliation, leads to my own humiliation. If you have honor and dignity as a man, come. Come and protect me and other girls in the protest. If you stay at home, then you deserve all that is being done, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. And you’ll be responsible for what happens to us on the streets while you sit at home.
Go down to the street. Send SMSes. Post it on the net. Make people aware. You know your own social circle, your building, your family, your friends. Tell them to come with us. Bring five people or 10 people. If each one of us manages to bring five or 10 to Tahrir Square and talk to people and tell them, "This is enough. Instead of setting ourselves on fire, let us do something positive," it will make a difference, a big difference.
Never say there’s no hope. Hope disappears only when you say there’s none. So long as you come down with us, there will be hope. Don’t be afraid of the government. Fear none but God. God says He will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. Don’t think you can be safe anymore. None of us are. Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights. I am going down on January 25th, and I will say no to corruption, no to this regime.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, that video posting by the young Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz. It went viral across Egypt in the week before the unprecedented protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and now across all of Egypt, part of the April 6 Movement. Many have credited the video as being the call to action that started the uprising on January 25th.
We’re also joined here in New York by Mostafa Omar, an American Egyptian activist and writer who lives in New York. In fact, Asmaa posted another video right after January 25th.
MOSTAFA OMAR: She actually did. And it’s really important, Amy, because women in Egypt bear the brunt of the economic crisis. They have to run their families on very small salaries. They have to face sexual harassment. They’ve never been protected by the police. The other thing, real quick, your guests have talked about the labor movement and the strike movement. Women actually have been a big part, if not the majority, of the people who have actually gone out on strike in the last few years, urging the men to be militant. I would like your viewers to keep that in mind.
She actually had a wonderful video on 27th. She had just returned from Tahrir Square after a big day of protest. And she was very excited, very exhilarated. And she actually told a fantastic story. She said, "For the first time in my life" — there was about six or seven hundred thousand people in the square. She said, "For the first time in my life, I’ve never been sexually harassed. And all the young men in the square treated me as a human being." And this is a major, major step forward, especially for people that don’t understand that women in that part of the world are not just sheep.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahdaf Souif, with us from Cairo, the acclaimed Egyptian novelist, did you know of these videos? And what about the concern that is continually being raised by commentators in the United States that what this could lead to, if Mubarak leaves, is a fundamentalist government like that in Iran?
AHDAF SOUEIF: This is completely untrue. This is Egypt, not Iran. And Amy, if you saw the square, the Muslim Brotherhood are there, and I would say they’re about seven to 10 percent of the people who are there. And they are being completely open and completely inclusive and completely accepting. They are part of the texture of Egyptian society. And for us to have true democracy, we, the seculars, the leftists, we need to accept them, as well as insisting that they accept us. And that is what we want, and that is what is happening on the square now.
I had a little — there was this, well, obviously Brotherhood chap sitting next to me, and he had a beard, and he had a wife in a full veil. And he was talking to her about how he had wanted to pray and he had given a bottle of water to a passerby and said could he pour it for him so he could wash. And that passerby turned out to be Christian. And they embraced. And this is Egypt. Now, whether this story happened or not, it was the story that he wanted to tell. And that is very significant. And then he said — saw me looking at him, and he said, "You’re looking at me because of my beard. You know what?" he laughed, "I wasn’t born with a beard. I just couldn’t afford the price of a razor. When this regime goes, I can buy as many razors as I like." That’s the kind of humor and the spirit that’s in the square.
And all the young women are saying, and we can all feel it, that there is no harassment whatsoever. And I really think that all the young men who have been using their machismo in harassing women have now found a proper channel for it. And everybody is kind of reveling in being the best that they can be. And it is totally, totally wonderful.
But what’s happening, Amy, and I want to tell you this, you know, before I — you know, before you have enough of me, as it were, is that the weapon that the regime is using now is to actually go completely against this by spreading rumors that it is foreign agencies who are making all this happen, that they are blaming the Islamists, they are blaming Hamas in Gaza, they are blaming Hezbollah, they are blaming Israel, they’re even blaming America. They’re saying people are getting meals of Kentucky Fried Chicken in the square. Just anything apart from Egyptians. And they’re starting to really use — of course, they have all the state media at their disposal, Egyptian television, radio and so on. And they are sending out an incredibly dangerous and divisive message. They are telling people that the foreigners in their midst are agents.
And I’ve just come down from my apartment, and I’m actually talking to you sitting in my car in the garage, because I am not planning to sleep at home tonight, because I had an Indian TV crew come to do an interview with me. They’ve been told that they couldn’t film in their hotel, and they phoned — I didn’t know this. They phoned me. They said, could they come to my home instead? And I said, "Sure." And they came to my home, two women and a man, with their cameras and everything, and they came upstairs. And they were followed by the daughter of the super. And she said to me, "Who are these people?" And I said, "What do you mean? They’re my guests." And she said, "Are they journalists? Are they media? What are they? Because they’re foreign." And when I kind of looked like I couldn’t believe what she was saying, she said, "The secret service has been around all the apartment buildings. They’ve been asking who’s been living there. They’ve been asking about foreigners. They’ve been asking about Palestinians. And we have orders to report to them if any media or any foreign people are in these apartments." So I said, "Look, they’re my friends. They’re not staying long." And in fact, I kept them, and I left the apartment with them. She was — the super’s daughter was apologetic. She said, "You know, we have to follow orders. We have to — you know, it’s no problem. You can have them stay in your apartment. But I would just have to tell the secret service." And so, in fact, I have decided not to sleep at home tonight. And I think — I mean, this is like our family home. This is where we came to live when I was seven years old. And it is — I just never thought that they would do this. But this regime will actually set the country against each other and tear it apart before they will do the decent thing and leave.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahdaf Soueif, thank you so much for being with us, speaking to us from Cairo, just back from Tahrir Square. And we hope to have you on with us on Monday, as well, when we resume the weekday broadcasts of Democracy Now!, the acclaimed Egyptian novelist. Thank you so much for being with us.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Thousands more viewers have joined us at democracynow.org. And again, welcome to all the television and radio and satellite TV viewers and listeners. When we come back, we’re going to talk about the significance of this for the overall Middle East. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: "Uprising in Egypt," our special two-hour broadcast, welcoming all the viewers, listeners to democracynow.org, and all the stations, networks, TV, radio, that are viewing right now. Tell your friends. Go on Facebook. Tweet this broadcast, as we try to bring you voices on the ground and reaction from around the world.
The latest news we have at this point — we’ve been getting all sorts of news about whether President Hosni Mubarak has resigned as head of the party, not as president, but the latest news is he has not even done that yet, that also General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army central command, spoke to the masses at Tahrir Square a few hours ago, telling them to leave the square, as they respond, "We are not leaving. He is leaving. We are not leaving. He is leaving."
We are getting hundreds of comments at Facebook. And one of those comments I want to put to our guest Rashid Khalidi, the professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. It’s a question from William Metzgar Offill, who asks, quote, "Has anyone made the connection with Sen McCain’s comment about the pro-democracy movement in the region being a 'virus' that must be countered, and Henry Kissinger’s remark forty years earlier regarding Salvador Allende’s [Chile] as a 'virus' that might infect others?" Of course, Salvador Allende died in the palace, September 11, 1973, when the U.S.-backed, Kissinger-backed Augusto Pinochet forces rose to power. That’s Salvador Allende’s Chile.
RASHID KHALIDI: I don’t know of anyone who’s made that connection, except one of your watchers, listeners. And it’s a very shrewd — it’s a very shrewd point. But it’s exactly the same mindset. This is a sense that if there is not an American-imposed stability, operating through dictators and autocrats whom the United States props up and protects, then all hell will break loose. Obviously, that is an anti-democratic sentiment, and it goes against, I think, the wishes of the American people. But it’s one that the security managers — and people like Kissinger, of course — made the basis of American policy for many decades. And unfortunately, it is still the basis of American policy. They are trying to transition, in a managed fashion, to a security regime lite, that might allow some freedoms but will maintain the essence of the police state that has ruled Egypt for many, many decades, since before Mubarak. And that, I think, is what we should be looking at, not just whether there are some trappings of democracy, but whether this deep-rooted police state, that Ahdaf told us about, where they come to everybody’s house, where they are watching everything, whether that is dismantled and brought under control.
AMY GOODMAN: You have family in both Cairo and in Palestine.
RASHID KHALIDI: And in Alexandria, for that matter, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And what’s happening in Alexandria?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, Alexandria, there’s a much larger, proportionally, protest movement than in Cairo. In Cairo it’s vast. But in Alexandria, it is an enormous part of the population. And the security forces are somewhat less in control, or were somewhat less in control. The situation is the same in much of the country, apparently. I mean, I hear a little bit about Alexandria from my cousins there, but I hear a lot from Cairo from my mother-in-law and others. And people are torn. They are listening sometimes to state media. And as people have reported on this show, it is putting out a poisonous message. I mean, I watch Egyptian satellite channel here in New York. It is absolutely vicious, the lowest form of propaganda. And some people are unfortunately affected by it.
AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo is reporting the army is no longer negotiating to remove the protesters out of Tahrir Square. The army is still present around the square. Protesters continue to rally in the square in the cold and rainy weather.
I wanted to go to Professor Beinin at Stanford University. You’ve just returned from Israel. Talk about the youth movement there, both Israeli and Palestinian, the growing resistance.
JOEL BEININ: This is something that has actually been going on for some time. Since Israel began the construction of the separation barrier, which is largely inside the West Bank, there has been a growing movement of resistance to it. On the Palestinian side, it has been primarily local, village popular committees who have joined together all of the forces in any given village to mount sometimes daily demonstrations, sit-downs and all other sorts of protest. The most well known by now is the weekly Friday protest in the village of Bil’in. And very shortly after that began in the fall of 2002, when the barrier first began to be constructed, small and then increasingly larger numbers of Israelis came to various villages and began to join with the Palestinians in the protests.
And this is something that is on a completely different basis than any kind of Israeli peace movement or left movement — these terms should be taken with a certain grain of salt — in the past, because these Israelis are acting out of a political commitment to solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for an end to occupation and for self-determination. That is quite different than what people have said in the past, where people have said, "Oh, it’s in Israel’s interest that the occupation be ended." Well, it may be in Israel’s interest that the occupation be ended, but first and foremost we should be thinking about the fact that it is a violation of the Palestinian people’s human and national rights that there is an occupation in the first place.
So, there are organizations like Anarchists Against the Wall, which are perhaps the most persistent and the boldest in working with the Palestinians. There’s also a relatively new organization, Solidarity, which emerged in the wake of the eviction of several Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They have now expanded beyond the weekly demonstrations they have been holding in Sheikh Jarrah every Friday for over a year now and have begun to work with Palestinian citizens of Israel in Lud, in Taiba, in the Bedouin village of Al Araqib, which the Israeli security forces have destroyed now seven times over. They have also begun to work with Palestinians in other districts around East Jerusalem, such as Abu Dis. So there is the beginning of a movement of solidarity, of joint political struggle, led by Palestinians, but with the participation of a not insignificant number of Israelis, most of them young.
AMY GOODMAN: And Professor Beinin, how would you link this to the youth movement in Egypt? I mean, you’ve got a population — the majority of Egypt, of the population, is under 30, 90 percent in poverty, which is absolutely remarkable. What about this youth activism? The young woman we just played, Asmaa, that videotape calling for people to rally in Tahrir Square on January 25th, she’s from the April 6 Youth Movement.
JOEL BEININ: Well, this is actually one of the darker aspects of Egyptian public culture across the spectrum from right to left. Many of the young people who have been participating in the popular resistance with Palestinians have begun to learn Arabic. Some of them know it very well. And a number of them have wanted to come to Cairo to study Arabic and to meet people. And when I was living and working in Cairo as director of the Midle East Studies Center at the American University in Cairo, I met many of them and, in fact, told them even before they came that Egyptians wouldn’t speak with them, that it would be impossible to arrange any kind of meeting between an Israeli and anyone on the Egyptian left. And they really didn’t believe it. But it turned out to be true, and they were quite disappointed about it.
Just two or three weeks ago, a friend who actually went to jail for two years because he refused to serve in the Israeli military contacted me and told me that some of his friends were trying to arrange for him to speak at the American University in Cairo. That simply can’t happen. The American University in Cairo will not host any Israeli. It doesn’t matter what their political position is. It doesn’t matter that he went to jail for two years for refusing to serve in the Israeli military. So there is a very narrow understanding about such things across the board in Egypt.
Now, I should hasten to say that this is because, in large part, the regime has systematically undermined the capacity of people to conduct an intelligent political conversation. The sorts of conversations that Ahdaf Soueif was describing in Tahrir Square are, for the most part, entirely new outside the walls of individual people’s homes. So, public political culture has been dominated by xenophobia, all sorts of fear mongering and conspiracy theories and really improbable things, but they feed on each other and create a very narrow political culture. This, I think, is now going to begin to break down.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Khalidi, your response?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, it’s true. The security sources have created a climate of fear, and that’s beginning to break up. But let me say something about the attitudes towards Israel. In part, this is a function of the fact that the normalization between Egypt and Israel was forced through by an autocratic regime that tried to prevent the public sphere, that tried to prevent civil society from having any voice in politics. And as a result, Egyptian civil society has reacted against the treaty, which it sees as having been imposed on Egypt — not so much the principle of peace with Israel, but the way in which this peace treaty was negotiated and is implemented, its unequal provisions. The Egyptian army cannot enter Sinai. The idea of the Israeli army being unable to enter, say, the Negev is inconceivable. But that is part of the peace treaty. The Egyptian army is limited in its size by a peace treaty with Israel. The Israeli army isn’t limited in size. So, many Egyptians reject the idea of normalization — in some cases, perhaps mistakenly, but because the whole treaty, the whole relationship with Israel, is seen as part of an unequal, humiliating arrangement imposed on Egyptian people.
AMY GOODMAN: And Mubarak’s role in that?
RASHID KHALIDI: Well, President Mubarak is the one who has upheld this treaty. It was negotiated by his predecessor, but he has been the pillar of this unequal, submissive relationship in which Egypt has been engaged.
AMY GOODMAN: Mostafa Omar?
MOSTAFA OMAR: You know, a few years ago, a Jewish friend of mine came with me from New York to visit in Cairo, and she’s an anti-Zionist. And she stayed at my house. And my mother was very confused. I mean, Jewish anti-Zionist? And I told my mother that there are hundreds of people like her in the United States and hundreds like that in Israel. People in the Middle East need to see more progressive Jews, here in the United States and in Israel, speak out against racism and in solidarity with the Palestinians.
And people also have a memory. I can finish on that. My mother is 67 years old. Her best friends when she was a kid were Jews and Christians. Jews have always been welcome and protected in the history of the Middle East and the history of the Arab world. It is possible for Jews, Muslims and Christians to live in peace in the Middle East. And I think what’s happening in Egypt — and I’ve always believed that — is really key to sending a message to the people of Israel that we would like to live in peace, but peace based on justice and not based on colonialism, not based on occupation. That is the real peace. It is not going to come from autocratic regimes like Mubarak. It’s going to come from the Egyptian people, the people in Yemen, the people in Jordan, sending a message of welcoming to the Jews in Israel: please, live side by side, but let’s live based on equality.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Khalidi?
RASHID KHALIDI: And a peace not made between Egypt and Israel while Israel intensifies the colonization and occupation of Palestine. This is something the Egyptian people cannot abide, seeing their country kissing and sweet-talking Israeli leaders while they send fighter bombers into Lebanon or while they destroy Palestinian homes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end where we began, and that’s in the streets of Cairo with our senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Egypt right now. Sharif, you were three years old when Mubarak came to power. You flew in last Saturday, directly going to Tahrir Square. Your final thoughts in this special two-hour broadcast, "Uprising in Egypt"?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, like I said on the first broadcast that we had when I came to Egypt, is that, you know, I landed in an Egypt that is not Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, and regardless of what happens, it never will be again. Walking around Tahrir, you hear all these political conversations, different groups. It’s just fascinating to hear. Today I had several of my family members come over for lunch, and even the most depoliticized members of my family were engaging in full-out political debate. And that’s what’s needed and what’s been lacking, is an engaged citizenry here in Egypt. People now know that they can make a difference.
And what can never go back is that fear that pervaded, that sense of hopelessness that no one had a voice. People now here know that they have a voice. They can retake the streets, they believe, any time they want again. And so, something has changed, regardless of what happens going forward politically in these next days and weeks and months. And that’s something that so many Egyptians here, myself included — we now lift our heads with pride. And it’s something that we haven’t felt for so many years, so many decades. And so, I’m very happy to be here to be able to witness this and to be a part of it. And, you know, the people will struggle in Tahrir and in places around Cairo, around Egypt, until this regime is overcome and they win their freedom.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif Abdel Kouddous, senior producer for Democracy Now!, in Cairo, Egypt, right now. You can follow his tweets, Anjali Kamat’s tweets, the blogs, the postings of their reports, at democracynow.org, as we continue through the week. And you can order a copy of today’s two-hour broadcast at democracynow.org. We end today’s special broadcast. As we do it, there are conflicting reports on whether Egyptian President Mubarak has resigned as head of the ruling NDP party. Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy to Egypt, Frank Wisner, says that Mubarak must stay in power as president to steer constitutional changes. We’ll have more on Monday.