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Massive protests in Egypt have entered their seventh day as tens of thousands pack into Tahrir Square in Cairo. Protesters are vowing to stay in the streets until President Hosni Mubarak resigns. A general strike was called for today, and a “million man march” is being organized for Tuesday. We speak with Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is in Cairo. “This is a popular uprising across all segments of society,” Kouddous says. “People are so fed up with Mubarak, it’s hard to describe. They curse him. They want him to step down. And they will not leave the streets of Cairo, the streets of Egypt, until he does.” [includes rush transcript]


By Sharif Abdel Khouddous

CAIRO, EGYPT —In the second day of defiance of a military curfew, more than 150,000 protesters packed into Tahrir Square Sunday to call on President Hosni Mubarak to step down. The mood was celebratory and victorious. For most, it was not a question of if, but when, Mubarak would leave.

Military tanks have been stationed at entrance points around the square with soldiers forming barricades across streets and alleyways. In another departure from ordinary Cairo life, people quickly formed orderly queues to get through the army checkpoints. Soldiers frisked people and checked their identification cards. One soldier said they were making sure no one with police or state security credentials could enter.

Reports are widespread that many of the looters in Cairo are, in fact, remnants of the police and state security forces that were forced into a full retreat during Friday’s mass street revolt. In addition, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners were released from prisons in Fayyoum and Tora. Many believe it’s all part of an organized campaign by the regime to create lawlessness in the city in a last gasp attempt to maintain its grip on power. The headline of Al-Masry Al-Youm today blared: “Conspiracy by Interior Ministry to Foment Chaos.”

But those concerns largely evaporate inside Tahrir Square where a blossoming of mass public political expression is taking place. Never before during Mubarak’s reign have so many gathered in one place in popular protest. Tens of thousands of people clapped in unison and chanted slogans ranging from the serious and patriotic to humorous rhymes filled with biting wit. Many had spent the night in the square and scores planned to stay longer.

A helicopter hovered overhead and two military fighter jets made repeated flybys, coming in at a lower altitude each time until the noise became deafening. Whatever the intended message, the crowd was not intimidated. They cheered, held up victory signs and waved in defiance. After emerging victorious in Friday’s battle with the interior ministry’s forces, there is little that can quell the enthusiasm of the Egyptian people or their full-throated call for change.

Mubarak’s attempt to placate the mass uprising by naming two of his top party officials, Omar Suleiman, the country’s infamous intelligence chief, as his first Vice President and Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force commander, as Prime Minister have been met with strong opposition amongst the protesters.

“Omar Suleiman is not an option. The people are chanting against him today,” said Nazly Hussein, a 30 year-old protester in Tahrir. “People want to bring down the system…I don’t think anyone is going home until the president and everyone around him leaves.”

Mohamed El Baradei–the Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency–arrived in Tahrir Square today to address the crowds. Baradei’s reputation is beyond reproach and he commands respect amongst most Egyptians but many say he has lived outside of the country for too long and criticize him for not taking part in earlier street protests. Nevertheless, some are calling on him to be included in some type of transitional government.

The one unifying theme, however, remains Mubarak. Everyone wants him out and it is difficult to imagine what iota of support he holds in any segment of Egyptian society save for his very small inner circle. And so, the people wait. It turns out six days of revolt will not be enough to overturn thirty years in power. But patience is wearing thin.

One man who is sure Mubarak’s time is up is my uncle Mohamed Abd El Qudoos [Arabic is phonetic and the English spelling of our last name varies within the family].

A leading opposition protester, Mohamed is the head of the Freedom Committee in the Press Syndicate, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been arrested countless times over the years by police and state security forces for leading small-scale demonstrations. Last week he was arrested on Tuesday and then arrested again during Friday’s uprising. A picture of him being dragged away by plainclothes police was shown on international news outlets across the globe. He was eventually released and able to join Saturday’s protests. In Tahrir Square Sunday, dozens of people came to pay tribute to his struggle. They shook his hand, kissed him hello and took pictures with him.

“This is a dream come true,” Mohamed said, sitting in the middle of the packed square in his standard attire: suit, flag and megaphone. “Remember when I would stand on the steps of the press syndicate to protest? I would stand alone. Now look at everyone. They are all here.”

Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a senior producer for the radio/TV show Democracy Now.

Follow his Twitter feed at @sharifkouddous.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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  1. Lord Aymz says

    God Bless Egypt

    Those that Support and those that Oppose

    In this day in age, it is impossible to believe that there are some people whose very thoughts and opinions oppose all that which the world has agreed to be the norm.

    I had to suffer through the indignity of hearing people actively voice their support for the current regime in Egypt, not only that, they were begging “The Clan Dragon” to remain, screeching that the opinions of the demonstrators are not of the entire Egyptian Populace.

    Not only that, I have heard one person, who works right here in Kuwait, an Egyptian national, condemn Al-Baradei and say that the blood of the Iraqi’s is on his hands, and that he wishes to re-enact the same destruction in Egypt.

    First off, I support El-Baradei. Second, I denounce all opinions supporting the current regime as deluded, misguided and foolhardy.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but lets back them up by putting forth some facts, not just ideologies and blind faith.

    Regarding El-Baradei, one of the few, charismatic, well-respected leading Egyptian figures in the world today, Mohammed El-Baradei is a Nobel Peace Laureate and former Director General of the Internal Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    In 1997, when Elbaradei was elected to his first term as DG of the IAEA, he said in his speech that: “for international organisations to enjoy the confidence and support of their members, they have to be responsive to their needs; show concrete achievements; conduct their activities in a cost-effective manner; and respect a process of equitable representation, transparency, and open dialogue.” This is pretty much the same stance he is taking at the moment given the current regime in Egypt.

    As a direct result of the events of September 11th, he established a nuclear security programme to combat the risk of nuclear terrorism by assisting Member States in strengthening the physical protection of their nuclear and radioactive material and installations.

    To the misguided, disillusioned fool who claims ElBaradei is accountable for the blood of the Iraqi’s; he disputed the US rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the time of the 2002 Iraq disarmament crisis, when he, along with Hans Blix (former DG of IAEA), led a team of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. ElBaradei told the UN Security Council in March 2003 that documents purporting to show that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Niger were not authentic.

    ElBaradei described the U.S. invasion of Iraq as “a glaring example of how, in many cases, the use of force exacerbates the problem rather than solving it.”

    ElBaradei agreed with the administration of US President George W Bush on a number of key nuclear-related issues, but was not afraid to speak his mind.

    He particularly voiced his discontent with what he saw as double standards on the part of countries that have nuclear weapons, but which seek to prevent others from procuring them. “We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security – and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use,” he once declared. He went on to say “If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction.”

    ElBaradei’s political credibility in the Middle East comes from the time when he questioned the claims about weapons of mass destruction that were being used to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He QUESTIONED it, he did not SUPPORT or CAUSE it. After taking over from Hans Blix in 1997, Mr ElBaradei employed diplomacy to deal with other nuclear rows in North Korea and Iran. Diplomacy, not autocracy.

    ElBaradei is quoted as saying, “Israel would be utterly crazy to attack Iran.” He considers an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would “turn the region into a ball of fire and put Iran on a crash course for nuclear weapons with the support of the whole Muslim world.”

    ElBaradei believes the nuclear non-proliferation regime has “lost its legitimacy in the eyes of Arab public opinion because of the perceived double-standard” in relation to Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

    For the first time, the Arab world has produced someone who is not afraid to voice their opinion, no matter how many toes he steps on, openly criticising the existance of double standards.

    He has charisma, and he has my vote for anything; I would follow him to very pits of hell if need be.

    Second, to all Egyptians living abroad or within Egyptian borders and all Foreigners, living within or outside Egyptian borders, that support the current regime, I pity your ignorance and question your sanity.

    Those who do not live in Egypt do not have a bone in their body that supports Freedom, Democracy and Civil Liberty. Those who live within Egypt and support the regime are the elder generations, and mostly those that benefit from the corrupt system that has been in place for the past 30 years.

    These people, living outside Egypt, understand. You, believing in the current regime, are nothing but a fool.

    Mubarak came to power when Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated on October 6th, 1981 (there have been conspiracy theories that implicate the then-vice-president Mubarak in the assassination, although nothing was ever confirmed) and since then, has ruled over Egypt with an Iron Fist, enacting and renewing an emergency law that gives him absolute power and control over all that is Egypt. Since then, the pie has been distributed to those that hold economic clout and power in Egypt, business owners were made into ministers, and the plundering of Egypts wealth further deteriorated the already sub-par living standards of the poor within its borders.

    Anwar El-Sadat, another Nobel peace prize laureate, was the answer to Egypts prayers, a leader who had the foresight to request stepping down from the presidency, but was met with demonstrations begging him to remain in power after the defeat in 1973. Some of his most memorable quotes are as follows:

    “Fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual – and the soul of a people.” – Mubarak’s regime is built on the sole basis of fear.

    “Peace is much more precious than a piece of land… let there be no more wars.” Mubarak has declared war on the Egyptian populace.

    “There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones.” What kind of family pulls out during a time of crisis? Mubarak.

    “He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never therefore make any progress.” Mubaraks key disillusionment.

    Egypt boasts one of the worlds most diverse economies, however, the trickle-down economy has been nabbed by those with greedy fingers; subsidies have been removed from necessities for the Egyptian population, whilst Israel is given gas at a throw-away prices, some Egyptian estimations claims that the country is losing $9 million per day due to the under market price set.

    The older generation does not have to go through the trenches that the youth face today. Rising unemployment, a product of the system refused a job by the system due to their being deemed “unqualified”. The youths inability to find a home, a sure-fire prerequisite in Egypt for marriage, due to sky-rocketing real-estate prices. Inability and ineligibility for marriage as a direct result, and those that are married find themselves unable to support their families on the meagre rations and crumbs they are thrown by those that hoard all of Egypts wealth. The elderly do not have to go through the scrutiny of police check-points, nor be harrassed on a daily basis by a system of corrupt law-men. And let me tell you, the majority of the police force is corrupt, indulging in the vices they vehemently swore to protect the people from.

    The Pareto principle appears to be formulated specifically for the Egyptian population; 20% of the populace reap 80% of the countries income, whilst the 80% subside on 20% or even less.

    Egypts population is nearing 87 million, half of them are uneducated and are living below the poverty line, valued at $2 per day.

    For all of his accomplishments and accolades during the war as an airforce pilot, and we do not question that, his failures to protect his own people from internal threats far outweigh those accomplishments.
    Anwar El-Sadat is not the first president to be assassinated on a global scale. Yet since then, Egypt has been oppressed beneath the boot of the Emergency Law, giving the corrupt Ministry of Interior unabashed power to do as they wish to whomever they wish, ensuring that no rival shall ever rise to the presidency. Take a look at the “fair” elections that occured in Egypt, what ever became of the opposition? All were arrested or demoted, under fabricated pretences.

    Some people should learn to keep their opinions to themselves, and that is for everyone that believes in the current regime of Egypt.
    If you do not support democracy, and human freedom, then you are but an infinitesimal spec in the plethora of world, and your opinion is worthless, baseless, and pointless.

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