The Egyptian Revolution: A Democracy Now! Special on Mubarak’s Resignation
As news of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation breaks, Democracy Now! broadcasts live reaction from Tahrir Square and beyond with Senior Producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Correspondent Anjali Kamat. "People are holding their hands up in victory," reports Kouddous. "This will be a day that no one will ever forget." We are also joined on the phone from Cairo by Egyptian activists Mona El Seif and Salma al-Tarzi, blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, feminist Nawal El Saadawi, acclaimed writer Ahdaf Soueif, and Egyptian Historian Khaled Fahmy. Mohamed Abdel Dayem with the Committee to Protect Journalists, discusses the new freedom of the press. We also hear from veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk and Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi about what is next for Egypt.
As news of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation breaks, Democracy Now! broadcasts live reaction from Tahrir Square and beyond with Senior Producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Correspondent Anjali Kamat. "People are holding their hands up in victory," reports Kouddous. "This will be a day that no one will ever forget." We are also joined on the phone from Cairo by Egyptian activists Mona El Seif and Salma al-Tarzi, blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, feminist Nawal El Saadawi, acclaimed writer Ahdaf Soueif, and Egyptian Historian Khaled Fahmy who tells Amy Goodman, "I never really thought I would see this glorious moment in my lifetime." Mohamed Abdel Dayem with the Committee to Protect Journalists discusses the new freedom of the press. We also hear from veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk and Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi about what is next for Egypt. "Many people in Washington would love a neoliberal future for Egypt," says Khalidi. "But the two things that are essential are Egypt’s geo-political alignment with this country and its acquiescence in Israeli regional domination."
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, and we have very important news to announce. For those who are just tuning in, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. Or more accurately, the people of Egypt have forced Hosni Mubarak out. The dictator is gone. The announcement was made by the hastily chosen vice president, hand-picked by Mubarak himself, named Omar Suleiman. He has a bloody history himself, and we will go into that in this hour. But right now, we want to go to the streets of Cairo, specifically to Tahrir Square, where so many hundreds of thousands, in fact millions, are celebrating throughout Egypt. The announcement that vice president Omar Suleiman made was that the Supreme Military Council will take over the governing of Egypt, so it’s unclear what will happen next. But what is clear is the level of celebration throughout Egypt right now. From Suez to Alexandria to Mahalla to Cairo, where millions of people have turned out, every walk of life, every sector of society, are celebrating. Let’s go directly to the streets of Cairo, to Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat.
ANJALI KAMAT: I can’t explain to you what the mood is like here. It’s indescribable. People are just crying with happiness. They’re jumping up and down, so proud to be Egyptian, so proud of what they’ve achieved over the past two weeks. Everyone’s talking about how they did this in nineteen days. People are just ecstatic. They’re doing cartwheels in the middle of the street. They’re jumping up and down. Whole families are coming from across Cairo. I’m just walking a little bit out, and the traffic is unbelievable. Everyone’s honking their cars; it’s like a wedding party. It’s an unbelievable celebration, the biggest goodbye party ever. Everyone is so thrilled that Mubarak is resigning.
AMY GOODMAN: Anjali, tell us where you were when you got the news.
ANJALI KAMAT: I was in the middle of Tahrir Square. I was just walking in the middle of the crowds, and you know, just wondering where is this all going to go, what’s gonna happen next. There’s hardly any military, there’s just a lot of people just milling around. All of a sudden someone said something in the loud speaker. I couldn’t really hear what they said, and the crowd erupted into cheers and celebration. And from talking to people around, it became clear that there had been an announcement that Mubarak was resigning.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s truly amazing when you think of this being repeated all over Egypt. Just describe what you’re seeing around you right now. Describe who you see, what people are doing right now, right there in Liberation Square.
ANJALI KAMAT: There’s about 10,000 flags flying in the air. There’s men jumping on each other’s shoulders banging on drums, singing and cheering. There’s women walking through the square in tears, just crying. Everyone is saying, “Mabrook! Mabrook! Mabrook!” to each other, which means “Congratulations!” People are, complete strangers are coming up to each other and hugging and kissing each other in congratulation. It’s absolutely unbelievable. People are hooting and cheering. The main chant is: “al-Sha’b … isqaat al-nizaam,” which means, “The people have brought down the regime.” The chant in previous days was, “The people want to bring down the regime.”
AMY GOODMAN: You know. Everyone is saying, “Mubarak steps down,” but it’s not really as voluntary as it sounds, of course. The people brought Mubarak down.
ANJALI KAMAT: Yes, of course. I mean, this would not have happened, this is unthinkable, were it not for these protests, these unprecedented street protests, where millions of Egyptians came out in such enormous numbers for the first time. You know, people talk about the fear barrier falling for the first time, and it’s true. Living in a dictatorship, a police state, for thirty years, people have really been living in fear, and for the first time everyone is coming out and giving up their fear, and are so happy to be out here, and so happy I think after all the sacrifices they have made, not just for the past two weeks, but for the past thirty years, to see what they’ve wanted actually begin to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So Anjali, tell us a little about yourself. You didn’t just fly into Cairo. You have a deep connection to Egypt. Can you tell us about when you first went to Cairo?
ANJALI KAMAT: I’ve been going back and forth to Cairo for about ten years now. I first came to Cairo in 2001 just for a visit when I was living in Jordan where I was studying Arabic and then I came back and spent a year and a half in Cairo in 2003 and 2004, which incidentally was around the time when a lot of movements started picking up, the people’s movements. It was just before the time of Kefaya!, ‘Enough!’ The people’s movements started picking up just when I was leaving, and I met a lot of those activists at that time and remember speaking to a lot of the same activists that I’m talking to now, who are in the square, about five or six years ago. And really they’re sense of, you know, doing this alone for years and years, trying to push towards a more democratic society, trying to push towards a more free society, and how hard it was and what a struggle it’s been. And at that point there wasn’t very much hope. I mean just going out to protests, you’re always penned in by a far larger group of police and security. And now speaking to those same activists, I mean the power they felt when they came out on to the streets on January 25th and saw for the first time that they outnumbered the security forces is just incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how people existed during the regime, what it is that was understood you could do and you couldn’t do.
ANJALI KAMAT: I mean to the best of my understanding if you, as long as you weren’t very politically active, most people felt like you could sort of go by and eek out an existence. But the problem came with the definition of what means political activism. A lot of the people here today aren’t political activists, but they’re people who felt that their freedoms have been curtailed for years, and that could have happened in a lot of different spheres. A lot of people who might have been religious, who might have been devout followers of Islam, a lot of men who had beards felt under pressure from the regime. A lot of working-class men I’ve spoken to during the protests talked about how they were picked up, detained, and tortured for months on end for no other reason except that they were very religious men. One part of it. Another part of it is of course the economic repression that people felt and the complete lack of opportunity for men and women of all classes, people who had college degrees, people who are well educated, there is very little room to get a good job, very little room to actually move forward. Unless you’re from a handful of elite families, this kind of repression—people usually talk of Egypt as a dictatorship, but it was a dictatorship that didn’t just restrict political freedom, it also didn’t give its people any economic or social rights, which is why it’s a dramatic combination that erupted here over the past month.
AMY GOODMAN: And Anjali, now, talking to the young bloggers, the people from the April 6th movement, the youth movement, the role that they played, I don’t think this has been very well chronicled, people like Asmaa Mahfouz, who put that video out on April, on January 18th to say, “Go join me in Tahrir.”
ANJALI KAMAT: Absolutely, I mean people in the square are by and large young people, people under thirty. And it’s incredible the sense of ownership they feel over this moment. And yesterday, we were speaking to this young woman who, Mona Seif, whose father, Ahmed Seif, runs the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre. And she was telling me people of her parents’ generation are now coming up to her now and congratulating her because they see this as a young people’s movement. And when I ask them, “Do you consider yourself part of the April 6th movement? What do you call yourself?” And now their new name, is they’re just part of the January 25th uprising. That’s what they call themselves. A lot of them were mobilized after the brutal murder of the young man from Alexandria, Khalid Sa’id, and the creation of the Facebook page, “We are all Khalid Sa’id.” Wael Ghonim was one of the administrators of that page. I mean that really I think mobilized a lot of middle class youth in Egypt to realize, you know, that this kind of police brutality and the terror waged by the police state that Egypt had become could attack anyone, could touch anyone. No one was exempt from those kind of terror tactics. And that’s what really what brought a large number of middle- and upper-class youth out onto the streets, in solidarity with a lot of working class people who might have already felt the long arm of the state.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Anjali Kamat in the streets of Cairo, in Liberation Square, in Tahrir Square. Anjali, talk about tahrir, what it means. Do you even know why it was named that? And also, I mean, you have on the one hand this square that was a symbol of liberation, and then you have people feeling they had to go out to actually take on the symbols of state power, because Liberation Square is a symbol of people’s power, so there you were yesterday. Thousands of people you were following to state TV and they went to the presidential palace, and we talked to the blogger Alaa there today. Talk about the significance of this square.
ANJALI KAMAT: The square itself was designed in the nineteenth century by Egypt’s ruler at the time Khedive Ismail, who designed this part of his plan to make Cairo a sort of Paris on the Nile, in the nineteenth century. It came to be called Tahrir Square after the 1952 revolution that brought Gamal Abdel Nasser to power. And tahrir obviously means ‘liberation,’ and right now everywhere you go people are talking about Tahrir as a symbol. The space has become the symbol of the revolution, and it’s also I think, the kind of spirit that’s being forged in the square is quite magical and inspiring because you see, you know, men and women who might never have talked to each other, of different ages and different classes, coming together and working together for the first time to try to create a new image of the kind of Egypt they want to live in and the kind of country they can imagine a future in and want to be in. And that sentiment of the transformation that’s happening to people as they spend more time in the square is echoed by people of all classes and all ages, and it’s quite remarkable to see that. And in terms of taking that spirit of the liberated and taking it to other parts of the city and other parts of the country, I mean, I can only speak of Cairo, but you know, a few days ago we saw protesters branch out and go and set up tents and camps in front of the parliament. Out there they put a big sign over the Majlis al-Sha’b, or the People’s Assembly, that says, “Closed until the regime falls.” That’s the sign right on the gates of the parliament. They’re spending the night there. They’re spending their days there. They started off as a small crowd and now they’ve swelled to a few thousand people. Today we saw a big march to the presidential palace. Last night there was a march to the TV building. Just taking over these spaces, these symbols of the regime’s power, I think has been very important for people to kind of go there and show that the people’s power will not be just restricted to one place. They’re not going to allow the regime to be comfortable by just penning them into the space, Tahrir Square. They’re going to continue to threaten the stability of the regime and I think they’ve succeeded.
AMY GOODMAN: And that is Democracy Now! correspondent Anjali Kamat in Tahrir Square, in Liberation Square. Yes, if you are just tuning in, just a few hours ago, the announcement was made by the Mubarak regime. Make no mistake about it, it was the vice president, hastily hand-chosen successor to Mubarak, vice president Omar Suleiman. He said that it was the Supreme Military Council that would be taking over the governance of Egypt.
We are joined on the phone right now by Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who was right there in front of state television standing with thousands of people when the news came down. I don’t know if you’ve recovered yet, Sharif, you a son of Egypt yourself. Your response:
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Amy, I walked over to Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians are right now, and it’s an indescribable moment. It’s been a positive day. Three weeks ago I never would have imagined that this was possible, and it was done peacefully, it was done by everybody. It was one of the most amazing revolts in modern times. I’m standing—I had find somewhere quiet to speak to you. I don’t think there’s anywhere quiet in Cairo right now. I’m standing on the border of Tahrir Square where the —-— Bridge, El Jamil bridge. It’s just like, the entire bridge is people walking across the bridge, coming into Tahrir, to celebrate and to be with their fellow Egyptians right now. Just eighteen days ago they fought on this bridge. They fought the police, Mubarak’s state security apparatus. They managed to beat them back, and to take Tahrir, and they’ve owned it for the past eighteen days. And through their will and their defiance, Mubarak was forced to step down. He threw everything but the kitchen sink at us: thuggery, and violence, and propaganda, and deception. But they held fast, they only grew stronger, and today is the night for everybody.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, tell us exactly when this happened, when you were, I think very significantly, you, a great, independent journalist, one of the top tweeters in the world, breaking through the internet blockade when the internet was completely down, your tweets, coming from Tahrir Square, were being highlighted on every network, on the top of Twitter.com. Now, of course, the whole world is listening and watching, but I thought it was most significant, where you were when you learned the news in front of this symbol of state power, which is the state media, and why so many thousands were there.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, they had, they had marched to the State TV building, because it was a symbol of the regime, a symbol of the propaganda that has divided Egyptians for so long, and has tried to do so since this uprising began, that has fomented violence and chaos, and they marched to it and they took it yesterday. They took it as they’ve taken most of, of the streets here in Cairo, peacefully. They marched past the army tanks, and they were right, I was skeptical, but they were right, the Army didn’t fire on them, and they were there and we were then, standing and people were chanting, was bigger as they always have been, which has always surprised me that, I can’t think of a protest in the United States that for 18 days, people would chant with, with enthusiasm and, and then glee, and just in defiance. And then, knowing that they’re gonna be secure, not for the cameras and not for the news, but for themselves and for each other. And then all of a sudden, there was a, like a huge cheer that, came from the back of the crowd. People started cheering wildly. I didn’t know what was going on. I kept asking people around me what was happening. And it was hard to find out, but people said he had gone. And in the beginning, I didn’t even believe it, because it had happened so many times before, and I just didn’t believe that it had happened. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t accept it. And then, it just kept happening. Everyone around us was cheering. People were hugging, and I spoke to my father. And he said that, what you just said, that Omar Suleiman, that Mubarak had left. And he did. And I was overwhelmed with emotion. I started crying when you, when I told you before. But anyway, I’m surrounded by a crowd of people right now who are watching me do this broadcast. Uh, but it’s unbelievable to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: ...Sharif, uh, as we listen to you in Tahrir Square, we may be seeing you as a dot on the screen, because we are watching live images, and we’re gonna go to those right now, live images of Tahrir Square, and what we’re watching are fireworks. They have been going off. What are these fireworks?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Uh, there were fireworks that were coming up in the, in the middle of the square. Every time one would go off, people would cheer. It’s hard to describe what Tahrir’s like. I can’t imagine that, I mean, Amy, you should see the flood of people that’s going in. I don’t see, how, where everyone’s gonna fit, but this is gonna be one of the biggest celebrations, I think in our modern history. There’s, there’s just people everywhere out in the streets. Everyone’s happy. The checkpoints are gone. The searching is gone. The barricades have broken and, you know, Egypt is free. That’s what people keep chanting now. And one of the, the chants that they’re saying is… "you’re Egyptian, lift, lift your head up. You’re Egyptian." And, the, you know, we’re proud to be here today and, everyone’s proud to be Egyptian today. And I think everyone who fights for democracy and fights for freedom is Egyptian today and stands with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sharif, we’re joined by someone you had been interviewing and talking to over these last days. Mona El Seif. It’s great to have you with us, Mona. Tell us where you are and your reaction to this news. I won’t just say that Mubarak stepped down, but the people of Egypt forced him out. Where are you, Mona?
MONA EL SEIF: I’m in downtown. I’m in one of the streets right off Tahrir Square, but all of downtown, is, has been crazy. When, when the Mubarak announced, it was announced that he was stepping down I was next to Tahrir Square, in Abdel Moneam Riyadh, totally alone. I had no one in front of me. I found myself crying in the middle of a huge crowd, random people hugging me. People are cheering me and congratulating one another. Everyone’s in tears; everyone is laughing. Everyone is screaming that Mubarak is out and Egypt is finally free! The main chant is “Raise your head up; we are Egyptians” and “We are the revolution.” And I can’t describe. You have to be here. This is the one moment, one happy nation. I have never seen anything like this before.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask to get both of your reactions. Sharif and Mona, Mona, an Egyptian activist in the streets right now of Tahrir. Um, I wanted to read you from the Guardian blog, “The departure of one man is not the end.” This is what the Guardian writes. “The repressive system that Egyptians have suffered under for three decades has not gone away, and the state of emergency remains in place. Those in power must grasp this opportunity, must grasp this opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Human rights reform must begin now.” Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, who initially defended Mubarak, saying he was not a dictator and should not stand down, said, “This is a pivotal moment in history. The transition that’s taking place must be an irreversible change.” Mona, your response.
MONA EL SEIF: I’m just saying we, we hear this. We understand that this is not the end of the struggle. But this is definitely a new day and a victory, and we know, we know that we have to work. We do have a long way ahead of us to remove all of the damage that the previous regime has done, to make sure that we have transparency that we don’t have the torture machine of Egypt that we really build on reforming this country. We understand this and we know this. And we are going to work on this. And now the people feel empowered. They are going to be more determined to take that truth to the end.
AMY GOODMAN: And Sharif, as you listen to this, this issue, of well, it’s the Supreme Military Council that has now taken over and how this trajectory of democracy clearly, the people have decided the despot must leave, but how it continues on a democratic path.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, I think that it’s important to know that we’re all, tonight is a, tonight is a night of celebration. But tomorrow the fight continues, where we are nowhere near where we need to be. We just toppled the first and the largest the most stubborn obstacle. But there’s a long way to go to achieve real democracy here. We have to remember that they, they, we’re now in a military state. The military is running things right now. That’s not where we wanna be. But if we keep the same level of togetherness, and the same level of commitment to reform, then I think it can easily be achieved. And people now have the revived sense of themselves. Egyptians have found their voice. And I don’t think I feel it will be very hard for it to return to a repressive state if we can keep this energy up and this involvement up, and certainly, there’s the, the war is not over, but a big battle has been won today.
AMY GOODMAN: Mona, continue with your thoughts, as you’ve been out on the streets. Explain to us how this happened Mona El Seif.
MONA EL SEIF: (laughs) How this happened. It’s, I can’t believe, like, it’s a long story. It’s been 18 days. It basically happened because people understood that our power is in our numbers and in raising our voices. And every time, every time the government tried to offer us half-solutions and offer us empty promises, the people were not fooled. The people were out on the streets in bigger numbers, and they said, and they did it. They said these, they would stick to the streets until Mubarak leaves. And this is what happened. We still know that we have other demands. We still have to push for our detainees to be released and all of the other demands. But this is a big step. People now know that they have power in their voice and in their number and they are going to go on until we get all of our demands fulfilled.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to say that what I read from the Guardian blog was a head of Amnesty International was, Salil, Salil Shetty, who is the Amnesty International Secretary General, saying that this is not the end, that in order to guarantee human rights, uh, people have to be very vigilant. With the military taking over at this point. Sharif, the whole issue now of what people believe, are they even talking about the formations that will have to take place now? I wanted to read to you what Mohammed Elbaradei, speaking on Al Jazeera. His statement was about what he feels needs to happen. It’s not much different what, than what he has been saying. He said, “This is the emancipation of Egypt. This is the liberation of the Egyptian people. It’s a dream come true,” he said. But he goes on to say in terms of what happens next, what I’ve been talking about and proposing is a transition period of one year. We would have a provisional council, a transition government, preferably a provisional council including a person from the army and civilians, but the main idea would be that the army and the people would work together for a year up to the point where we could have a free and fair election. That is the words of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who ran the International Atomic Energy Agency, and came from Vienna, Austria where he had been living at the beginning of these protests, to join in the streets. Sharif?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: I mean that seems like a reasonable mechanism to move forward. I think there are a lot of ideas. There’s a lot of debates, and that’s what’s needed. Sothe people can, can try and come up with a good solution to have some mechanism to move towards a democratic system. You know, this is a revolution, and we should have revolutionary ideas about how to make change here. I can only imagine what the turnout will be in the next presidential elections. I think it will be one of the highest that the world has seen because people now know that they have a choice. My 80, she, I think she just turned 80, my 80-year-old grandmother, who has never voted in her life, said that she, she told me last week, that if she could vote, that she would in an election that mattered. And so when you hear things like that, you know that, things are gonna eventually come through if they have some, some stability, and some mechanisms to move forward for reform.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif and Mona, I wanted to turn right now to our guest in-studio, here in New York, not that he doesn’t come from where you are right now. His name is Mohammed Abdel Dayem and he is the head of the Middle Eastern/North Africa section of the Committee To Protect Journalists. Sharif, you were standing in front of state media when you got word that Mubarak had been forced out. More than 100 journalists, we don’t even know the numbers at this point, of the journalists who have been hurt just in the last few weeks, harassed, assaulted, detained. We’re going to go by the way, live to President Obama when he makes his address in a few minutes, but Mohammed, first of all, congratulations. Though you’re not in the streets of Tahrir, you are born in Egypt.
MOHAMMED ABDEL DAYEM: Right, thank you very much. We’ve obviously all been watching the events unfolding today. I’ve been talking to journalists. Anecdotally, people are saying they, they can finally report openly. People are not scared to take their cameras out anymore. And I was talking to one journalist standing outside the state TV building and somebody in uniform from the military. He wasn’t sure what the rank was, came up to him and said, “You look like a journalist. And we confiscated his camera from another journalist a couple of days ago, and I don’t know who he is, but here. Film, go crazy!” I mean it’s truly a momentous moment for, for Egypt and for Egyptian journalists and also for the foreign journalists who have been covering this story and have, and have done it at, at great personal risk as we’ve seen in, in the past few days where the government had, was going after journalists, but physically and in other ways, beating journalists, detaining journalists, confiscating equipment, breaking cameras, destroying entire bureaus. So we’re, we’re very happy to see this and obviously, the situation remains very fluid and, and it’s not entirely clear what will be happening next. But we, we look forward to a significant improvement in, in the press environment in Egypt. And, and we call, we call on the government to release uh, the one blogger that we know of that remains in custody, Kareem Ahmer...
AMY GOODMAN: He’s out.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: ...he’s out, okay, well that’s news. He was just released apparently.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: So I’m, I’m happy to hear that.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we just got news that he was released, a very important young blogger, who already had been imprisoned for four years.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Absolutely, he was imprisoned for four years for daring to criticize Mubarak, for daring to criticize the institutions of the state for daring to criticize the rampant censorship that existed. And he spent four long years of his life in prison, constantly being harassed by, by other prisoners who, who were, who were essentially paid to do so by, prison wardens. They used to take away his reading materials. They used to confiscate letters of support that he would receive from all over the world. So he has indeed paid a very, very high price. But I’m sure if we had Kareem on the line with us right now he would say that it was well worth it.
AMY GOODMAN: So he was let out after four years. Then on Sunday, suddenly the, while he was in Tahrir Square with everyone else, he and a colleague, as they were leaving, they disappeared. No one knew where they were. It ended up he was in a desert jail outside of Cairo. And we just got word that he has been released and that he is safe, which means that he got to celebrate with all Egyptians and with people who care about democracy around the world. But I have to ask, Mohammed, where were you when you got word? Where were you sitting or standing?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: I was at my desk at work, on the, you know, furiously dialing numbers of journalists trying to get a reading on what was going on. And when it happened, I hung up the phone, and then I looked at the screen and I tried beat back the tears. It was a beautiful moment.
AMY GOODMAN: So Sharif was at state TV when this all went down. Talk about state TV about the number of reporters and employees of state TV who’ve been streaming out of state television and joining the ranks of the protesters in Tahrir, saying they couldn’t lie anymore.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yeah, well they had enough and this happened at state TV, this happened at the journalist syndicate a few days earlier, the journalists almost physically drove out the long-despised chief of the syndicate, who is a long-time Mubarek apologist who did very, very little when journalists were being dragged out of his own syndicate by the secret police, did very little about it, went on state TV and brazenly implied indirectly that he was spending personal political capital with the now deposed Minister of the Interior to free these colleagues as if he was doing them a favor. They, clearly he’d been in that position for too long and had forgotten what the point of being the chief of the syndicate is which is to protect the journalists that are members of the syndicate, he’s done a very poor job of doing that, and a few days ago journalists finally made it very clear how they feel about him and essentially escorted him out of the syndicate.
AMY GOODMAN: This just came from the New York Times’ live blog Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite channel reports the higher military council will sack the cabinet, suspend both houses of parliament, and rule with the head of the supreme constitutional court. Where does media stand now? What does this all mean for journalists, and of course, for the people of Egypt?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well this latest development that you just announced is a very promising one. The head of the constitutional court is one person that has definitely not been tainted by the Mubarak regime and the things it has done over the past 30 years and it has particularly over the past 18 months, and this is a good omen for all Egyptians, but particularly for the press. He is a man that had long complained and had long used his official post to talk about and to illustrate forged elections and other irregularities in the 2005 election, and also in the most recent one in late 2010 so this is a promising development and I hope it has positive reflections on journalists.
I would like to briefly mention that whoever takes over next has to make it clear immediately to journalists that they will be allowed to report openly. That media, that this is a new day for Egypt and a new dawn for Egypt and that media will start doing what it is supposed to do, to report the news and let people make their own decisions.
And we urge whichever authorities solidify and take their place in the coming days, to also tell journalists and the people of Egypt what happened to Rida Haddad, a senior editor at Al Haram, that was snatched off the streets in August of 2003. We still don’t know what happened to him. It’s been 8 years now. CPJ and other have advocated vigorously on Rida Haddad’s behalf, and many suspect that he’s in state custody, or worse, and we simply don’t know and the time has come for whoever is in charge to let the people know what has happened to Rida Haddad.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, are you still with us on the line from Tahrir square? I can hear you.
Just describe for us still what’s going on now and then I want to ask you, on these last days before Mubarak fell, pushed out by the Egyptian people, they were starting to say that you had to sign up, that you had to sign up with the Minister of Information or Interior, that you had to get some kind of license to practice journalism, but you had chosen not to do that, not to register.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Firstly I’m standing here, on the El Jamil bridge, near the entrance to Tahrir, and it’s, just the entire bridge, from back to front, width to length, is just filled with people heading to Tahrir, they’re waving flags, people have climbed the two lions, famous lions that border the bridge, and everyone’s streaming into Tahrir, everyone is cheering and they’re saying, as I said before [speaking Arabic], which means "Lift your head up, you’re Egyptian".
And as far of the Ministry of Information is concerned, that’s true, I’ve met several reporters who are here who were told that they have to register with the Ministry of Information as a journalist in order to be accredited. Jon Alpert, from DCTV, former home who’s here in Egypt now, had his camera confiscated at the airport when he was coming in. And told he had to register with the Ministry of Information, he still has not gotten that registry.
I decided not to register, I didn’t want to give my name and number and photograph and address to a regime that was cracking down on journalists. I just saw no use for it. I could enter next to Tahrir. I’m an Egyptian, I have Egyptian ID, and there was no need to. And this was the same Ministry of Information that was spewing lies that the deceit and propaganda and you know, I saw no reason to register with that same body.
Again right now in front of me there’s a massive crowd coming in holding the biggest Egyptian flag I think I’ve seen in my entire life, over their heads, and they’re chanting coming in, there’s somehow a car, as well, and they’re all just streaming into Tahrir, it’s probably going to be, you know how we kept saying, "today’s the biggest day, today’s the biggest day". Today is the biggest day for sure.
Because I’m looking at other parts of Cairo, across the Nile I can see people everywhere, just simply everywhere. It’s going to be a night to remember. As you said it’s important to remember that this is just one battle in a lot more, that we’re not where we need to be, that this is not a free country yet, but we have toppled someone who has repressed us, who has kept many Egyptians hungry, who has beaten us down for so long, and Egyptians have always... seemed to walk in shame, being a puppet of the United States, being complicit in the siege of Gaza, of being an ally to Israel, the same Israel that punishes so many of its Arab neighbors, and now Egyptians can stand proud. I think that that’s what everyone is feeling today. That when you go tell anyone you’re an Egyptian, you say it with pride. So it’s a very special moment.
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to tell you that a spokesman for Egypt’s military has just appeared on television to read a new statement. Reading in flat monotone the statement said "the supreme council of the armed forces is currently studying the situation, and will issue further statements to clarify its position." The military also had a farewell message for Mr. Mubarak, they said "the supreme council of the armed forces is saluting president Hosni Mubarak for all he has given in sacrifice in times of war and peace."
Mohammed Abdel Dayem, before you go, I wanted to ask, because the significance of this goes beyond Tahrir square, beyond Cairo, beyond Cairo and Alexandria and Suez and Mahala, it goes to the Middle East, it goes to the entire world. But I wanted to, from your prism of looking at journalists, what this means for journalists in the Middle East?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well in the past two weeks or so, and again, this morning, governments throughout the Middle East are trying to repress free reporting, are trying to repress impartial reporting. Just today a journalist in Ahman, Jordan at a demonstration that was calling for more political and civil rights, had his camera confiscated and smashed. Earlier last weeks similar things happened in Yemen and Sudan. Again with journalists who were covering protests and social unrest.
And it would really behoove these governments now to take a short time out, and to reflect on what’s happened in Tunisia, and to reflect on what happened in Egypt, and to realize that the status quo that has been in place for decades upon decades of simply cracking down on the media, controlling the flow of information, is no longer the order of the day. It hasn’t worked in Tunis, it hasn’t worked in Cairo, and it’s not going to work elsewhere. And there are lessons to be learned, both for the demonstrators throughout the region, but also for the government. It would be a really good time to think about these things.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk to you I want you to take a look at what is on television, because it’s very significant now. Let’s show the video, of Nile TV. Nile TV, which when the uprising happened, made no mention of what was taking place. It’s a little fuzzy, but we’re going to show it right now, a very different picture than we say a few weeks ago. They would not go to the protests in the streets. Your response Mohammed.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yes, well they’re finally transmitting news, it’s about time, it’s the Nile TV news channel, and for the past 18 days they weren’t transmitting news. They weren’t even frankly transmitting propaganda they were transmitting outright lies, and when people started criticizing the coverage by state-owned media, after days and days and days of furious criticism, they best they could do was do a very long shot of the protests from far, far, far away, so far away that you couldn’t see the signs or the flags or anything, and then they titled that shot as "Pro-Mubarak demonstration".
So even when they showed the right footage, they editorialized in such a way as to mislead the people, and the people simply have too many sources of information, and...
AMY GOODMAN: Shahira Amin is one who left, you know her.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yes, absolutely. And the people simply have too many sources of information that it doesn’t work anymore. It might have worked in the 1960s and 1970s when all the Egyptians had was 3 state-owned newspapers and one channel on TV. Now they have hundreds of newspapers and literally thousands of channels on their satellite receiver. So it simply doesn’t work, it simply doesn’t work, and that’s precisely what I was talking about, with regard to other governments in the region.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to the other governments, let’s just play a clip, let’s remember a few days ago when Shahira Amin, a well-known host of state television, of Nile TV, walked out of the studios and into Tahrir Square.
SHARIRA AMIN: I’m here in Tahrir Square and I’m determined to be on the side of the people, not the regime and that’s why I’m here.
AL JAZEERA: Right and so you’ve resigned from Nile Television?
SHARIRA AMIN:I walked out yesterday. I can’t be part of the propaganda machine. I’m not going to feed the public lies.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Shahira Amin, quitting Nile TV and joining the protesters in Tahrir. Again Egypt state TV is the largest in the world–It comprises 8 networks.Mohammed Abdel Dayem: That’s correct.
AMY GOODMAN: So more specifically, very quickly, Tunisia right now, which continues to unfold. The reporters–how much freedom they experience? And what about Saudi Arabia?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Well the reporters in Tunisia, I’ve been in touch with people on the ground since last month, and people are able to report freely for the first time ever. There’s obviously security concerns at at one point there was still a curfew and moving around was very difficult. But people are reporting openly and they’re not scared, they’re not worried about the secret police tearing down their door in the middle of the night.
And they’re no longer worried about being slapped around by a military official or a police official in front of their young children, which was standard practice in Tunisia for many, many, many years, and they’re ecstatic to be able to report openly. And I think something very similar awaits Egyptian journalists and they’re also euphoric right now for all the obvious reasons, because primarily because first and foremost these people are Egyptian, but also because people have been working for decades under the yoke of a censorship regime that has finally crumbled and they can’t wait to write openly, they can’t wait to appear on camera and say what’s really going on in the street.
AMY GOODMAN: But isn’t that why governments are now trembling? Saudi Arabia. Jordan. Syria. Yemen.
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: Yes. It seems that they are. You know it would be wise of them to try something different than Ben Ali and Mubarak tried. Because they’re batting at zero percent. The repression, the attitude of repressing the media, and repressing the people as well I might add, is one that has proven its failure, two times out of two times. They’re batting at zero percent.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to break in because we have Salma Al Tarzi on the line, and whenever we get someone right in Tahrir we want to go right in so we don’t lose you. Salma, can you give your response to this latest news today, the forcing out of Mubarak?
SALMA AL TARZI: Overjoyed, you cannot imagine what the square looks like, what Tahrir square looks like, we had plenty of people fainting from happiness and we had to run get the ambulance for them. And obviously first thing I cannot believe it, I’m under shock, I’m smiling and dancing but I did not totally realize the immensity of what we’ve done, it’s incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: Salma, when we last talked to you, you were in Tahrir when the pro-Mubarak forces moved in, on camel, on horseback, flogging people, you were horrified, you saw someone shot in the head. This is a very different moment.
SALMA AL TARZI: It’s completely different and honestly, I think it’s partly thanks to all the brutality and violence they used against us that turned this from the 25th of January from a simple demonstration into a revolution. That very action that detonated empowered us. I think the people that died...
AMY GOODMAN: And now, how, Salma, do you ensure that what we’re seeing now, the ouster of Mubarak, yet the supreme military council in charge, not clear how Omar Suleiman fits into this with a very bloody past involved with extraordinary rendition and torture, how does this proceed democratically?
SALMA AL TARZI: How does this proceed – sorry, what?
AMY GOODMAN: Democratically.
SALMA AL TARZI: Uh…I, I think in the square, all the news service…it’s a bit chaotic. People chanting and dancing. But I think, the military just __ a few hours ago, that it’s going to be a civil state. It’s not going to be a military state, and that, the justice, the jury- the, you know what I mean?
AMY GOODMAN: The justice system.
SALMA AL TARZI: Yes, is going to be monitoring the transitional period, so we are quite comfortable with this.
AMY GOODMAN: How long do you plan to spend in Tahrir right now?
SALMA AL TARZI: Right now we are going home to take a shower because we all plan on coming back tomorrow to Tahrir and start cleaning the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much, Salma al Tarzi. In fact, the role of journalists this minute in Egypt, Mohammed, is so important because this is the moment that, well, it’s determined which way this country goes. Does it lead into a military coup? Does it guar- does it have watchdogs that ensure a democratic process?
MOHAMED ABDEL DAYEM: The two most important professions in Egypt as we speak are the military and journalism. They – they are the ones that are going to determine Egypt’s future, they are the ones that are going to determine, ah, in which direction Egypt goes, and journalists have a very, very important task to play now. And, from everyone I’ve talked to, hundreds and hundreds of journalists over the past 18 days on the phone, early in the morning and in the middle of the night, at every hour of the day and night, have been fully aware of what awaits them when this regime falls, and it has fallen, and they are anxious to play that role. They are anxious to play that role professionally, and they are anxious to play that role as Egyptians who have waited far too long for this moment to arrive, and it is finally arrived, and they are willing and ready and able to fulfill that role.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Abdel Dayem, thanks so much for being with us of The Committee To Protect Journalists, and we’ll link to your website at democracynow.org. As we turn now to Robert Fisk who has been in the streets when the news came down of the fall of President Mubarak. This is the Independent reporter, that’s the Independent of London. Robert Fisk has been voted Best Foreign Correspondent by editors and reporters of Britain year after year. A veteran war correspondent, beaten almost to death covering the war in Afghanistan, has covered Iraq innumerable times. Also, Lebanon occupied territories, Gaza, West Bank, Israel, now in Cairo. I ask Robert Fisk: Your response to the latest news?
ROBERT FISK: Well, you can have a little bit more than two minutes. I was actually on the street with the protesters outside the state television center on the Nile at the moment they heard the news that Mubarak had, um, had effectively resigned. Resigned, mind you, to the army, I noticed, not to the vice president, which may be something they’ll think about tomorrow. But, the crowds, they – they – that wonderful line from Siegfried Sassoon about the crowds on the day the first World War ended, suddenly everyone burst out singing, came to mind. Here, in this case, it was and shouting and screaming and praying, and there were men literally kissing the filthy tarmac of the road and praising god, and there was a soldier in the Egyptian third army who just burst into a smile of joy when he heard the news. It was quite clear that the soldiers themselves were immensely relieved that the man had gone. Um, and I suppose, you know, I’ve been through a few revolutions including the Iranian one, which turned into a very sinister affair, and obviously revolutions often end in betrayal and sub-revolutions, and there’s always that moment when you’ve been out in a place like this, for 36 years in the Middle East, and you say, “Well, hold on a minute, what happens tomorrow?” The army council took over from Mubarak. This country is now being run by the army. Countries run by the army are not always very pleasant democracies. But, the army has insisted there will be fair elections. They want the people to go home, which I think they will not do immediately, but I think the relief of Mubarak going, especially only 24 hours after he told them in a miserable, self-regarding, narcissistic speech, that he was staying on, which no one could believe this morning, couldn’t believe that he was actually, you know, he had chosen to stay, that within 24 hours he is gone. It’s an enormous relief. These people, remember, many of them are frightened to go home in case they’re arrested by state security police if Mubarak was staying on. They believe that, you know, that this was a situation which they had to fight on and continue to refuse to be afraid, because if they didn’t cling on in Cairo, and today they were taking up more and more of Cairo, walking to the presidential palace here in Cairo and in Alexandria, ah, moving in on Tahrir Square, they were taking over more and more of the parliament grounds right up to the steps of the parliament itself. And I think it was – I think it was inevitable, although my understanding from my own sources is that the army simply gave up and said, we cannot, you know, we’re being humiliated by this man. I should add, however, that, and this is sort of the dark side of, I suppose, my response to all this, that effectively generals now run Egypt. And you’ve got to realize generals brought Nasir in in 1952. It was the army who – Nasir being a colonel then, of course – it was the army which introduced dictatorship to this country so many year ago. It has been the army who’s propped up, um, the regime. You’ve got to realize even the current cabinet, and so far it still exists, which was appointed by Mubarak, the new cabinet. You know, the vice president was a general, the prime minister was a general, the minister of defense was a general, the Minister of the Interior was a general, and now we’ve had a whole series of generals meeting today, fighting like vultures over the political corpse of Mubarak for new ministries, and that’s what this is about – it’s about an army takeover, whether you can have a coup de tat when in fact the people demanded the revolution, I don’t know. The revolution got rid of Mubarak, and this is undoubtedly, tonight, a risen people, but I always put up the word “but” after such statements.
AMY GOODMAN: And what you see, I mean, it’s of course impossible to see exactly what will happen now, though it is hard to believe that millions of people in the streets, not just of Cairo but of Mahala, Alexandria, and Suez, all over Egypt, that it could lead to anything, that this is certainly a trajectory toward democracy, but it, as you’ve said, isn’t necessarily, so what formations do you see could send it in that direction? Shape it?
ROBERT FISK: Well, the people who have been, um, trying to curry favor with the vice president, Omar Suleiman, Israel’s favorite Egyptian because he’s in charge of negotiations, Hamas Palestinian negotiations former intelligence chief, a rather ruthless man, um, they will – the 25 wise men, as inevitably the BBC clichéd them, um, various businessmen and leaders who offered their services, they will now have to go and plead with the army for the reforms which the army has promised. What we don’t know, you see, since the constitution itself was made of rubber since it was invented by the various dictators, Nasir, Sadat, Mubarak, is the way in which these negotiations could be carried out. Armies love power. They don’t like giving up power. So, the next question becomes, ok, if you have a democratic constitution, limited terms for a president, only two terms for example, as in the US, maybe four years rather than six years, fair elections so you don’t have this merry-go-round of fake elections which effectively kept Mubarak in power on a spinning merry-go-round for 30 years, um, will the army want a few of its generals in the government? We have extraordinarily seen today of Mohamed ElBaradei, famous Nobel Prize winner, UN ex-arms inspector, turning up in the square and saying, ‘Egypt is going to explode. We need the army to step in.’ I mean, I thought Baradei was supposed to be a civilian who wanted civilian rule in Egypt. And the big question next, of course, is will the army who have claws like talons for the rewards of office – I mean, most of the modern top generals here at the moment in the army council who – to whom power is being given – they all reap the awards of the regime in shopping malls, hotel chains, banking acquisitions, are they going to give up all these wonderful gifts they receive from the Mubarak regime and in some cases from the Sadat regime in order to have a true and functioning democracy? Or are they going to say, ‘Well, we’ll have a few nice civilians to represent the people, we love the revolutionaries, now go home.’ State security comes back, works for the same old masters, and elections, well maybe they’ll be free and fair, but, you know, there’ll be a few colonels, generals who’ll stand, bribes will be handed out. This is the kind of thing in the future, but, frankly tonight you can’t expect Egyptians to go through that.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you think you would see this when you landed in Cairo, Robert? When did you get to Cairo?
ROBERT FISK: On the 25th, the day it started. Um, well, it had already started, but I rushed here from Beirut for it, and on the 25th, so I was here on the day. Um, I thought it would go when I saw the state security police beating and savaging hundreds of thousands of protestors, and in the end I saw them come forward and they fought the thugs, plainclothesed thugs who had sticks and iron bars and knives, and they literally beat them and smashed the state security police and burned their trucks, and I thought, ‘If they keep up their courage and they stick to it, it’ll be okay.’ The famous Coptic philosopher once said, ‘The Egyptians are a remarkably moderate people,’ but I think if you’re trying to fight state power and brutality, you probably have to fight, not just with words. And when I saw them fighting, and they were in clouds of tear gas, I was choking and vomiting on it, I thought that if they stick to it they’ll get it done. And they have. I’m going to have to interrupt you and say I’ve got to do some work for my paper (laughs).
AMY GOODMAN: Hey, Robert Fisk, thanks so much for being there, as you are everywhere through the Middle East reporting for us for decades. Thank you very much.
ROBERT FISK: Take care, bye-bye.
AMY GOODMAN: And that was Robert Fisk of the Independent. His remarkable work, among his books, The Great War of Civilization, about the Middle East, also Pity the Nation about Lebanon where he has lived for more than 30 years in Beirut. He has covered Afghanistan, he has covered Iraq, he has covered Lebanon, he has covered Israel, West Bank, Gaza, and now in Cairo to cover this great moment in history. The latest news: Mubarak has been forced out. No, last night he would not concede in his address, but today it was announced he had stepped down. Now, military supreme council has taken over, where this goes the people of Egypt will decide. So, we’re going to go right now back to Cairo to one of those people who hopefully will be participating in this process. Her name is Ahdaf Soueif. She is a famous Egyptian novelist who was short-listed for the Booker Prize for her remarkable book, The Map of Love. We’ve just reached her at her home.
AHDAD SOUEIF: I – I am just completely, completely overwhelmed and I’m just trying to kind of, you know, write my copy for tomorrow, my article, but I can hardly breathe... You know, you can – you can hear all the joy cries, the phones – the phones just won’t stop ringing, people just saying congratulations. You know what I first thought? I thought I have seen two women in Tahrir Square fully pregnant and waiting to deliver, and they’ve been saying, you know, ‘When it comes, when it comes,’ and ‘I will call my daughter Liberty,’ and I – my thought was that they can now have their babies. (gasps) Oh boy. (laughs). You know, I – it’s not over. We have to be careful. We have to realize that, you know, the work – the work begins now. The work begins now. But we are so happy. And I cannot tell you the number of people who are now saying they’re coming home. People who work abroad and who now want to come home and just do everything that they can for this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what you, uh – where were you when you heard the news? And how do you think this happened?
AHDAD SOUEIF: Well actually, I was – I was home with, with, um, my brother, and various young people, our young people, my son and so on, are out in the streets, but I was trying to, to write copy, and as I was about to go out there was the news that there was going to be a statement, and so I thought, well if I’m just in the street I won’t know exactly what the statement is, so I stayed behind to hear it. And so, basically, this was in front of the television, and you can hear the streets and, I mean, you can just hear the streets, um, and the great cry that’s gone up. And we’re, I’m going out, I’m, you know, in five minutes, to just be part of all this, um…
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you think this happened?
AHDAD SOUEIF: Well, I think that we’ve, we’ve thought now for a couple of days that there has been, uh, you know, there has been a struggle, um, and that the army just has been on one side and, uh, the president and vice president and so on on the other and, um, you know, I mean it will all come out, and we don’t know, but it would seem that the army would not guarantee the president, if you like, that…We had 20 million people. There are 20 million people out on the streets of Egypt tonight, and they marched all day, and they remained good humored. It is incredible...
AHDAD SOUEIF: ...and basically they just took over. I mean in Asyut in upper Egypt, the governor of Asyut, who is an ex general in state security, who had been saying until yesterday that there are no problems in Aysut and people there are very happy with the development programs he’s put in place – well, two hours ago, the Army had to smuggle him out of his building because the protesters took over the building. So basically people have been on the march, and they have been taking over buildings and institutions and public spaces without one single incident of vandalism or violence. And I am just so moved and so proud that this is the way it has been done.
AMY GOODMAN: Well it’s truly amazing...
AHDAF SOUEIF: I also think that this sense of the world watching us, of the people of the world watching us and the people of the world just holding their breath, because this is really not in the end. I just have the sense now that this is not just about Egypt, this is about the power of the people. That people, with a just cause, and prepared to get out there and stand together for it, can actually take their lives and their future in their own hands. And I think this is a moment of great hope for all us civilians, citizens of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahadaf, it’s the military council, the supreme council that will take over now, announced by Omar Suleiman, who has quite a bloody history. How do you ensure that this goes towards democracy, what we are seeing now, this formation?
AHDAD SOUEIF: This is what I meant by we are entering a new stage where we have to be very vigilant and we still have to work very hard. Basically, for the regime to depart immediately it’s hard to see another form that they could have departed with. Because, what we are saying that we want, of course, is a civilian council to either be a de facto presidency and to form a cabinet of technocrats and so on to run the country so that we can fix the country and have elections. But to put such a council…you know, you would need at least two or three days to set up the apparatus, the civilian apparatus for the transition to democracy to start happening. And I guess if they were going to leave straight away as they’ve done, then the only institution that is in place and can be entrusted in the country is the Army. And the army has over the last two weeks, I won’t say it’s proved, but, well, it has stood in the public places, it has intervened between the people and the thugs from time to time, and the people have been engaged in a protest of, you might call brainwashing it. They have sat on the tanks, they have lifted their kids onto the tanks and lifted photographs of them. Every tank that we have seen on the streets has had whole crowd of civilians around it engaging the soldiers. Basically we’ve been talking to them and so on. And the chant has been “the people, the army, one hand.” So for the moment I think that we need to accept that this is an acceptable way of transferring power and to believe the Army when it says that it has understood what this revolution about and that it will guarantee the process of realizing the demands of the revolution. And we’re not going to leave them alone to do it, I’m sure that even now, well people have been in talks with the army anyway throughout the last few days. So it will be a question of defining and limiting the role of the army. And I think that will just happen over the next couple of days. I think that things will move pretty quickly now.
AMY GOODMAN: I know that you are coming to New York to deliver the Edward Said address on March 8th, international Women’s Day at Colombia and last night I was with Professor Rashid Khalidi of Colombia, who invited you. And one of the things he said in a speech that he gave last night was in the first military communiqué yesterday, what he noticed when the military spoke to the people is it was the first time when he saw an official speaking that he did not see a photograph or a painting, an image of Mubarak behind him.
AHDAD SOUEIF: That is so true. That is so true, you know I hadn’t even noticed that. Absolutely, yes. You know they’ve been keeping themselves, I think they really have been very careful to keep themselves and to keep their image separate, even though, of course, Mr. Mubarak is a military man. But I think, you know just this feeling, he was so unmistakable, and that was what came through after his speech, that the mood up there was simply one of disbelief, that how could he still be talking the way he did and how could he [inaudible]…. it was really like they were in an alternative universe. Because it is just, you know, I don’t know…
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ahdaf Soueif, the great Egyptian novelist, author of Map of Love and so much more speaking to us from her home in Cairo. She had just gone there from Tahrir square when the news came down that Mubarak is out. What happens next has yet to be determined but there is a supreme military council that is in charge and the announcement came from Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s, handpicked, hastily handpicked, vice president. We’re going to turn right now to reach someone else in her home. She’s the great Egyptian feminist. 79 years old, she was imprisoned under Sadat, she has resisted dictatorship for decades, been in exile for years, but now has been going every day to Tahrir square. We just reached her in her home. The Egyptian feminist, the novelist, the psychiatrist, the writer, Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, and we asked her, “Hey, how do you feel right now?”
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: We are dancing in all streets of Egypt! Rejoicing!
AMY GOODMAN: How do you think this happened, Nawal?
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: By the power of people. You know, as I told you before, there were a conflict of powers, against Mubarak regime and men in the military, in the police, the media. So they used all that against the people. But the power of the nation, conquered all these small powers. Because the greatest power is the power of the nation when the nation is united. And Egypt was united – men, women, children, Christians, Muslims – we were all united. And unity is power. The power of unity and the power of millions. So he couldn’t stay. He tried all his best for 18 days, the revolution. He tried to maneuver, to stay in power, to beg the power, the support of the US and Israel. And many the military, the police he was begging for power, different powers outside Egypt and inside Egypt. And including Zarodia. Zarodia Arabian King came and said “I support Mubarak and I’ll give him money if the USA will not come.” So he was begging for power to support him against his people, against the Egyptians. But the 85 million conquered all Mubarak’s powers outside the country and inside the country.
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