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2011-02-08

“People Are Determined to Stay Until Mubarak Leaves”: Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous Reports in Cairo on Day 15 of the Egyptian Pro-Democracy Protests

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The pro-democracy protests in Egypt have entered their third week as demonstrators are holding another massive protest in Tahrir Square. While Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is refusing to resign, the German magazine Der Spiegel is reporting that preparations are underway for him to possibly leave Egypt and visit Germany for an "extended medical check-up." Human Rights Watch is reporting 297 people have died over the past two weeks of protests, an estimate far higher than the Egyptian government has acknowledged. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it is day 15 of the uprising in Egypt. We go first to the phone to Cairo to Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

Sharif, welcome back to Democracy Now! Tell us what the latest is right now.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Amy, I just came back from Tahrir Square. There tens of thousands of people there. It’s packed, and there are reportedly tens of thousands more still streaming in. As I walked by on the — coming out to the museum side, people had laid blankets around the tank stationed there, and they’re sleeping in front of them, preventing the military from encroaching any further on the occupied space of Tahrir that’s been occupied by the people since January 28th. People are resilient. And there seems to be — public opinion is [inaudible], according to some people, that is starting to back them.

There’s also talk, although this is not confirmed by any means yet, of a smaller march in the coming days to the state TV building, which is essentially the propaganda arm of the Mubarak regime, to come here and stage a protest, which is just a couple hundred yards from where I’m speaking to you right now.

But again, today marks two weeks since this uprising began. There are tens of thousands continuing to stay in Tahrir. There are elaborate networks now set up of tents, and I even saw yesterday a guy giving out free haircuts. There’s a makeshift hospital. People are giving out food. It has become a mini encampment in Tahrir. People are determined to stay there until Mubarak leaves.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, in a moment we’re going to play more of the video recording of Wael Ghonim. Can you talk about this Google executive’s significance, after being released after — what was it? — 12 days by Egyptian so-called security?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Wael Ghonim is a Google executive for marketing in North Africa and the Middle East. He anonymously ran one of the key Facebook pages. It was about Khaled Said, who was a young Egyptian who was beaten to death by police and sparked protests at the time and has been a kind of a symbol, a martyr, of this uprising, as well. And so, Wael Ghonim was actually arrested on January 28th. That’s the day of rage, where tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets here and battled with the Ministry of Interior security apparatus and essentially won. He has been held since then. There was no word of him. And he was just released yesterday.

He gave a very emotional interview on TV here, on Dream TV, which had a very strong effect with many people that I’ve spoken with here. He broke down crying when she showed him pictures of those killed in the uprising. And a lot of people are talking about it. He actually just sent a message on Twitter saying he was trying to make his way into Tahrir. If he does, I’m sure it will have quite an effect, if he gets up on the stage.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sharif, we’re going to be speaking to you in just a little while on the show in studio, and we’re going to be joined by the Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English, Ayman Mohyeldin. How exactly do you pronounce his last name?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: His name is Ayman Mohyeldin. And yeah, he’s right here with me, and we’re going to be on in a few moments. He was detained by the military on Monday for a number of hours and part of the crackdown on the media that’s been happening here in Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we’ll be going to that in a few minutes, but right now, as we talk about sparks of a revolution, from Wael Ghonim to a young woman, I want to turn to a video recording that was posted to Facebook three weeks ago — that was January 18th — and then went viral across Egypt.

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