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Voices of the Egyptian Revolution: Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous Speaks with Demonstrators in Tahrir Square at “March of Millions”

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In a display of defiance unimaginable just weeks ago, millions of Egyptians marched on Tuesday across the nation against the Mubarak regime. Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Hany Massoud file this video report from Tahrir Square capturing the voices of the uprising. “Finally I feel it’s my country. It’s not the country of the police. It’s not the country of the governing elites or ruling elites,” one protester said. “I’m really proud to be an Egyptian today.” [includes rush transcript]

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StoryJan 31, 2011Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous Live from Egypt: The Rebellion Grows Stronger
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif will be joining us in a studio momentarily. But Sharif, before we do, we want to ask you to introduce the piece that you’ve just prepared for us about these historic protests yesterday, a different scene than today, where, well, throughout Egypt, believed more than two million people protested. You were in Tahrir Square.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s right, Amy. Yesterday marked the one-week anniversary of this mass uprising across Egypt, and Tahrir saw the biggest demonstration that Egypt has ever seen under the Mubarak regime. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people streamed into the square yesterday for a very festive and celebratory gathering. They were people from all walks of life across Tahrir. And we went there in the morning and started at 9:30. And this is some of what we found on the way.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: It’s just after 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Today marks the one-week anniversary of the popular uprising that began January 25th. There’s more people here than I have ever seen in Tahrir yet in this revolt. Today is the day that they say they are going to get Mubarak out. There are throngs of people everywhere, masses. On our way in, three army checkpoints searched us, and five citizens checkpoints, as well. They’re looking for our IDs, checking to see any remnant of the state security forces that tried to beat them down on Friday. People are picking up trash, telling people not to throw anything on the ground, but telling everyone to be peaceful. They’re saying if someone antagonizes you, remain peaceful and don’t respond. It’s an amazing scene here, vibrant energy. And Tahrir is just absolutely packed.

NAZLY HUSSEIN: I’m Nazly Hussein, an Egyptian citizen and activist, if you would. And it’s a revolution of everyone. It’s really everyone’s revolution. And I think a lot of people have made it seem like it’s just for the radicals on either side or really a certain party, but that’s not true. If you look around, there’s everyone. Everyone, everyone, everyone, side by side, all with one cause. Women were treated with a lot of respect. I have never been treated with this much respect in Egypt, I must say. I was amazed, amazed at the Egyptian people. They have qualities that I thought they had lost. But no, they haven’t.

MAHMOUD AYMAN: My name is Mahmoud Ayman. I’m a student at the Faculty of Engineering. You know, I came here today just to tell all the whole world that we’re not asking for much. All we’re asking for is when we vote for someone, we want that person to be in control. You know, we want our votes to go for the people who we vote for. We’re not asking for much. I just want to deliver a message for the whole world about the way the Egyptian government treats us. Those days the Egyptian police let the criminals in the streets so that the Egyptian people will be afraid and stay at their homes and defend their homes and defend their earnings. So, it that’s the way the Egyptian people — or Egyptian government treats us at the crisis, so how they will be treating us at the normal situation?

WALID HEGAZY: My name is Walid Hagazy. I’m a lawyer, and I live in Egypt. And I’m coming here to participate in this event, which I think it’s unprecedented in Egyptian history. I’ve never seen the Egyptian people get together and do something so successfully and so neatly. We are all one hand together. I have never actually seen this square as clean as it is today. Despite the Million Man March, I don’t see anything on the floor. I see that people are really expressing themselves in a very civilized way. I’m very proud of my country. For a very long time, I feel that I’m really — I own this place; this is my country. Finally I feel it’s my country. It’s not the country of the police. It’s not the country of the governing elites or the ruling elites. It’s my country. So I’m really proud to be an Egyptian today.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: In the middle of Tahrir, there’s a patch of grass where people have spent the night here for days. They’ve camped out. You can see some tents. Many have just slept out into the open. There’s rugs. And even though tens of thousands have been here refusing to leave Tahrir Square, there’s very little trash around. People are still picking up. And they are resolute. There’s people handing out water. There’s people handing out food. They’ve kept the place organized and clean. People are so determined to use this as their protest space here in Cairo.

TAREK SHALABY: Tarek Shalaby, a 26-year-old web designer and social media consultant, also a blogger, from Cairo, Egypt. And right now we’re in Midan Tahrir, and I’ve been camping out with my friend here in Midan Tahrir for the past two days now. So it’s two nights. And we’re going to remain here until Mubarak leaves.

SONDA SHABAIK: My name is Sonda Shabaik phon.. What’s happening here is different than what’s been happening since Tuesday, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, where women were protesting just the same way men were. Women were jumping on the cars of the police forces just the same — because we’re both very angry. It doesn’t really make a difference. Women are not less angry than men. But now that we’re actually here, you can see women distributing food, taking care of the first aid. I can’t really define roles, because we’re both doing the same thing. Roles are divided, but not according to gender at all. I thought maybe the people staying the night would be mostly men, but I was proven otherwise.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And how long are you going to stay here?

SONDA SHABAIK: For as long as it takes. I have nothing to lose. If Mubarak stays, then I don’t think I have a life anymore, because they took pictures of me saying, “Down with Mubarak!” So, this means, if he stays, we all go down. We all go, as they say, behind the sun.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: There’s have been tens of thousands of people here for day after day. Yet it’s remarkably clean.

TAREK SHALABY: Yeah, of course. Well, that’s the thing. It’s a big “to hell with the government,” like it’s a big message we’re sending to the minister of interior, especially. After they did the very low move of pulling out all the police force from everywhere, we had to do everything ourselves. So, there was a couple days of anarchy, that we’re kind of still in, so people have to protect their buildings. We have communities, families organizing themselves to have like checkpoints on every corner. We have young people from every house or from every family protecting. But we’ve also gone out in the streets to clean up the garbage and to organize traffic. And so, here we’re trying to make a big point that we’re not going to make anything — we’re not going to make any mess here. And actually, people are going around with trash bags and saying, “Donations to the National Democratic Party, anyone? Donations to the National Democratic Party!” And people throw their trash. And so, they’re making sure that we keep this as clean as possible to show that we don’t need this government, we don’t need the minister of interior. We can do this on our own, and we can do it better. It’s safer, cleaner and a much more pleasant life for everyone.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: This is an example of what people call the new Egypt, the Egypt without Hosni Mubarak. They’re cleaning up their own trash. And they’re piling garbage into a corner. They’ve been doing this around the week. They’ve been sweeping their own streets. And they’re very proud of what they’re doing right now. I’ve never seen this kind of community action in Egypt in such a chaotic situation. What’s even more amazing is not only are they gathering the trash, but they are actually separating plastic, doing recycling here Tahrir. It really is quite an astounding scene and a symbol of the new Egypt that people hope for.

So, at the edge of Tahrir Square, just next to the Kasr al-Nile Bridge, which is the main bridge leading into the heart of Tahrir Square, we bumped into Hossam el-Hamalawy, a longtime dissident, blogger, journalist, socialist. He’s been at this for years, organizing. This is a very special day for him.

HOSSAM EL-HAMALAWY: The atmosphere here is a carnival, in every sense of the word. You find, you know, I mean, banners that are just hilarious. I mean, if you can read in Arabic, they are all denouncing Mubarak as a dictator, as an agent for Israel and U.S. imperialism, denouncing him for what he did to this country over the past 30 years. Of course, I mean, the activist community here is a tiny minority for a change. It’s a different picture from what we’ve been seeing over the past few years. It’s ordinary men and women from all sects, and from all the provinces, actually, they descended here. And today, I was also happy to know that there will be simultaneous protests happening, coinciding with the Tahrir occupation, in Suez, in Mahalla, in Alexandria and also in other provinces.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Do you think Mubarak is aware of what’s happening here?

HOSSAM EL-HAMALAWY: Mubarak is hiding as a coward in his home in Sharm el-Sheikh, and he’s definitely watching what’s going on. And we can’t believe that, you know, he’s got the guts to stay, even after all of these protests. But we’re very hopeful that he will be overthrown soon.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: After we left Hossam, we walk around the square. Everywhere we go, people clamor to be on camera to have their voices heard. After being stifled for so long, having their voices silenced for so long, they are dying to speak out and to let the world hear what they have to say.

Do you think Mubarak and his regime will be ousted?

TAREK SHALABY: Oh, yeah. Are you serious? There isn’t a single doubt in my mind, or anyone else here, that it’s only a matter of time. I’m optimistic enough to think that tonight’s the night. And everyone says, if it’s not tonight, by most like the latest will be Friday. Friday is like — we kind of put a deadline. Remember how Bush told Saddam, “You have 48 hours to leave”? Well, we’re telling Mubarak, “We’ll give you 'til Friday, alright? But we'll make your life a living hell every single day. So, if I were in your place, I’d leave tonight.”

MOHAMED MOUSA: I’m Mohamed Mousa from Al-Shorouk daily news. I’m a journalist. I’m here today because every person who used to complain from Mubarak’s regime, if he is not here today, I cannot — I have no excuse, if I don’t come today. For 30 years — I was a student in the university when Mubarak started running this country, and for 30 years we were humiliated in the police stations. We don’t have enough freedom. I’m a journalist. I cannot issue a newspaper like any country in the world without [inaudible] by the Ministry of Interior. Everything is closed. He’s running the whole country for the interests of his own family and his own interests. It’s incredible.

MOSHIR ISMAIL: I am Moshir Ismail. I’m a lawyer in Egypt. I think President Mubarak — I realize that he doesn’t want to be dethroned. He wants to lead it himself. I realize that’s what he has in mind. He wants to stay in power until his period comes to an end in September, next September. But I think, for both parties, him and these people, he should dethrone himself now. Being in power until September will cause anarchy, will cause disturbance. I think the relation between President Mubarak and the people has come to an end.

AMR HAFEZ: Amr Hafez, an engineer. I’m here to basically say that it’s time for this regime to go. I think the last few days have really demonstrated to everybody what a police state means, and it really demonstrated and proved that this state security apparatus that we have is really a regime security apparatus that has no interest in actually guaranteeing any security for the people themselves. I think it’s time for this regime to go and time to have major reforms, until we have presidential elections, whether in September or earlier than that.

SAMI HASSAN: Hi, my name is Sami Hassan. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, U.S.A. I’m here on vacation, but when I heard about this protesting, I decided to join in, because I’m still Egyptian. And I’m very happy. And I want to tell everybody that we got our freedom by ourselves. And we deserve it. Egypt deserves a lot better than what we have right now.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And how does it feel to be here today with everyone?

SAMI HASSAN: I cannot describe what I’m feeling now. I feel like — I can’t describe it. It’s a great feeling. It’s a great, great feeling.

WALID HEGAZY: We want to have free elections. We want to choose our parliament. You know, you can’t believe — the parliament doesn’t represent us. Can you believe that? In a country that says it has a democratic constitution, we have not elected the people who are speaking on our behalf. We have not elected Mr. Mubarak. And in order to save this country and to save any more trouble — save Egypt any more trouble, he really needs to step down. He needs to do us a big favor at the end. We will always remember him that he finally, at least at the end, his last decision was a good decision, which is to leave the country and to leave power and to let us lead Egypt. This is a popular revolution.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And why are you here today?

KHALED NABAWI: My name is Khaled Nabawi. I’m an actor. Listen, he has to — he has to please these people. He has to — he has to be up to their will. That’s their will. And he’s been always saying, “I will follow the simple people. I will follow the normal people.” That’s the time. OK, follow them. Follow them. This is very important, to follow them. This is the Egyptian people. You have to follow them. What do they have to do more than this to prove that they want a change?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Tahrir has been filled with an ocean of people today. This is the largest protest since this popular uprising began one week ago. It was one week ago, January 25th, when people first started taking on the state security forces of Mubarak’s regime. They have owned the streets since then. They have flooded in Tahrir. It’s unclear how many people have come, but it is filling the streets around Tahrir. The citizens are taking care of this place. They are picking up the garbage. They are recycling the garbage. They are giving out food. They’ve set up tents. They’ve set up a medical center. This is the convergence point in all of Egypt for this popular uprising. Egyptians from all walks of life are here, young and old, rich and poor. We’ve spoken to lawyers, journalists, men, women, laborers, peasants, actors, from all walks of life. And they’re here in Egypt to come to speak with one voice. They want Mubarak to step down. If he doesn’t step down, they say they will keep coming here until he does. I’m Sharif Abdel Kouddous in downtown Cairo.


AMY GOODMAN: That report from Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Democracy Now! producer Hany Massoud. They are both in Cairo.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. From the massive historic protests that took place yesterday, today pro-Mubarak forces have moved in. We just got word that CNN reporter Anderson Cooper — this coming from a tweet from Democracy Now!'s Anjali Kamat — was punched 10 times, reports are, by a pro-Mubarak mob. The scene has shifted very dangerously today in Tahrir Square. We're going to go directly to Tahrir Square with Sharif Abdel Kouddous when we return. Stay with us.

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