On Wednesday, University of California-Davis Professor Noha Radwan joined Democracy Now! for an interview from a studio in downtown Cairo. Just after finishing the interview, she was attacked in the streets. “I got attacked by the mob and beaten half to death by the Mubarak thugs, who were happy to snatch my necklaces off my neck and to rip my shirt open,” Radwan said. We speak to her again today by telephone, asking her to describe what happened. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We’re live on the ground in Cairo in Tahrir Square with our senior producer, Democracy Now!'s Sharif Abdel Kouddous. We're also joined by Noha Radwan, assistant professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Davis, who is currently taking part in the protests in Tahrir Square. She joined us yesterday with Sharif in studio.
Noha, describe what happened when you left the studio.
NOHA RADWAN: Hi, Amy. What happened is I left the studio with Sharif and your cameraperson Jacquie, and they were stopped at the Ramses Hilton and had to stay inside the hotel. I actually moved towards the square. And as I approached, I could see the thugs, the Mubarak mob, but I totally underestimated what they’re capable of doing.
They asked me why I was trying to get into the square. I said I had friends and relatives who are injured, and I’m just checking on them. But then the big question came: “Are you pro-Mubarak or anti-Mubarak?” And I didn’t want to answer the question. I just left the person who was asking the question and tried to get in.
Two, three meters later, somebody caught on to the fact that I was trying to get in anyway, and then they yelled to the mob, “She’s with them! She’s with them! Get her!” And I found two big guys who came and held onto my arms and took me out, and they kind of handed me on to a mob that started beating me and pulling my hair. They ripped my shirt off. They ripped a gold necklace. If you see the recording from yesterday, you’ll see that I was wearing a very close-to-the-neck kind of big necklace. So, in ripping this, they actually injured the neck. And through all the beating, I had to get a couple of stitches to the head yesterday.
I’m fine now, and I actually really wanted to give this report as a minor, you know, firsthand testimony to what is happening. What has happened to others is a lot more. We have seen people get hit by the stones thrown in by the mobs, and they have lost their eyes. There are people with concussions. I was taken in an ambulance much, much later to a hospital, where I had to spend most of the night, because there was no way of getting out. The mob is really singling us out.
The worst part of it is that the Egyptian media has been broadcasting nonstop that we are infiltrators, that we are foreign-paid, that most of the people in Tahrir are not actually real Egyptians, they are, you know, paid by foreigners outside. There have been reports about a Belgian who was caught and turned out to be a spy, Israelis who were caught in the demonstration, and so on and so forth.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of being caught, Sharif, the reports of the number of pro-Mubarak forces that have been captured by anti-Mubarak forces, the protesters in the square, The Guardian has something like 120 IDs of police. What do you know about this? And as you were reporting, Juan, the busloads of these pro-Mubarak forces being shipped — shipping them in.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, the New York Times, Sharif, is reporting that they were bused in systematically throughout the day, apparently, obviously by the government. Who else would pay for all those buses?
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s right. I mean, there’s no question who these people were who attacked last night. I have seen, myself, at least four police IDs. People say they grabbed — as you know, on the ground, it’s difficult to get numbers. I get between dozens and hundreds of them. And they say that 90 percent of them had some sort of ID that linked them to the police or state and Central Security forces. They say many of them are baltaguias, just these kind of — these thugs that the Mubarak regime has used for many years.
And let me just say also that I watched as they arrested a policeman in uniform today, two policemen in uniform. And in stark contrast to the way that they beat the members of the popular uprising here, like Noha Radwan and others, they arrested this man very peacefully. You know, they had just held him stiffly and put him into an army tank. And so, the difference is very clear.
And let me just add, I was devastated to hear that Professor Radwan came under attack. We left the hotel maybe 20 minutes after her. We tried to re-enter Tahrir Square. These mobs are very intimidating. They’re very hostile. They’re men, mostly, that range from about 20 to 45 years old. They wear sweaters and thick leather jackets. And they were basically holding a mini riot at every entrance into Tahrir, preventing anyone from going in. We tried to force our way in, Hany, Jacquie and I. We held each other and tried to go through. But we were on the verge of being beaten ourselves, and we backed off and then had to go home, and we were unable to go inside. It was a very dark day in this struggle, but the people are very proud here in Tahrir that they held their ground under this brutal assault. And to this day they remain defiant. And it remains to be seen what will happen tomorrow, but I think it will be a decisive day in this struggle.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Noha Radwan, I’d like to ask you about what I asked Sharif, the role of the military, because obviously many of the protesters at first felt that the military was on their side. Your assessment now, after what happened in the past 24 hours?
NOHA RADWAN: Can I answer that question?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes.
NOHA RADWAN: I was actually saved by the military. I was going to practically die on the street, had it not been for the fact that some very low-ranking army officer — and I cannot give any more details than that — actually asked his soldiers to pick me up and put me inside the tank, and where I stayed until it got dark. And then they called an ambulance for me to get out in the ambulance and go straight to a hospital. The mob outside were really calling for my head, as a traitor, an American-paid Baradei supporter.