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The Real News speaks to Egyptians in Cairo’s Tahrir Square
DANYA NADAR (VOICEOVER), TRNN: On February 1, the March of a Million rally, estimating well over a million people across Egypt, continued for its eighth day, demanding for President Hosni Mubarak to step down and end his 30-year rule.
AYMAN MONGED, EGYPTIAN CIVILIAN: The march today was very large, it was impressive, but also very well organized. I think it was by far the largest march in this, what people they have called the “revolution”, so far. There was more than a million people marching in Cairo, and in Alexandria as well the number was very large, maybe not a million, but not much less than that. It was jubilant. People felt strong by their numbers, felt strong by their unified message. They felt very strong that there was no leadership giving them direction, and they felt very comfortable with each other. If you were there today, you would have seen people from all walks of life. You’d see very rich people, very poor people, very well-educated people, people from all over the Delta, people from Mansoura, from Banha, from everywhere. Even without the train service, without the bus service, they managed to get into Cairo with a lot of difficulty. They left at dawn to get to Cairo. The mood was very positive. It was very peaceful.
NADAR: As night fell, President Hosni Mubarak addressed Egyptians on national television and stated that over the coming months his primary responsibility is security and independence of the nation, and to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in circumstances that protect Egypt and Egyptians and allow handing over responsibility to whoever the people choose in the coming presidential election. Soon after President Mubarak ended his speech, President Obama urged that the transition begin immediately.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: It is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now. Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties, it should lead to elections that are free and fair, and it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
NADAR: While some Egyptians have accepted President Mubarak’s offer for a transition and maintain that all voices–including that of the present government–remain included, others do not concede to any negotiation with the current regime.
AMR HAMZAWY, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Mr. [Mohamed] ElBaradei does not represent everyone. I mean, he is a representative figure for some, but it’s not ElBaradei who speaks on behalf to everyone. I mean, the people who are demonstrating out there–these are millions of Egyptians–have raised very clear demands, and President Mubarak has not addressed all of them–how to manage to transition to democracy while keeping some elements of the current regime intact to manage a safe transition, and how to get enough of the news, which has been–. That’s what’s unique about this. The big question is: can we read these procedures with President Mubarak leading on behalf of the regime? And why is our position stands where it is, raising its demands? Can we enter into a credible dialog on these procedures with him? Or can we do it more peacefully, more safely, more optimistically with someone else, like the vice president, Omar Suleiman, who enjoys the trust of the military establishment? And everyone here in Egypt trusts the military establishment [inaudible] And it’s extremely [inaudible] to see where to go from here.
NAZLY HUSSEIN, EGYPTIAN PROTESTER: El naharda [today] everyone is [inaudible] against the negotiations. We have nothing to negotiate. We have nothing to negotiate. We have nothing to negotiate. No. Each concession is an indication of the next concession. The concessions that he’s been making would have been acceptable on Tuesday [Jan. 25]. They’re no longer acceptable. I was just telling someone who was, like, asking me, “How long do you plan on being here?” And I said to him, “For as long as I need to.” Yeah. But my dad’s like, “Are you guys mad? Are people out in the square mad?” I’m like, “No, not at all.” And he’s indifferent towards the new cabinet, because it means nothing to us. Until he leaves, nothing means anything. So no one is getting really mad.
NADAR: According to several reports, on January 30, the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions was formed anew in Tahrir Square. As reported by AFP, the March of a Million strike was initiated by workers in the canal city of Suez, indicating that the reforms Egyptians are demanding is not simply a reshuffling of cabinet but also a structural change in domestic economic policies.
MOHAMMED EZZELDIN, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: Many factors that led to this moment and the long history of neoliberal and privatization economic policy in Egypt led to the highest rate of poverty of the Egyptian–among the Egyptian people and the uneven development between the countryside and the cities, the problem of the south of the–of upper Egypt, the problem of peasants, a lot of problems. He has to know that there must be a radical change coming to Egypt.
NADAR: Meanwhile, famed opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei maintained his stance on Mubarak’s ouster.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, EGYPTIAN NATIONAL, FMR. HEAD OF INTERNAT’L ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: This is clearly an act of deception. You know. It’s a person who doesn’t want to let go, a dictator who doesn’t want to listen to the clear voice of the people. Understand, you are in Cairo; you have seen what the city looks like, what the people want. And to continue to try to play tricks, he is unfortunately going to extend the agony here for another six, seven months. He’s continued to polarize the country.
NADAR: As The Wall Street Journal reports, the US State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said in a Twitter message that US Ambassador Margaret Scobey approached Mohamed ElBaradei to encourage him, to engage in a meaningful dialog with the Egyptian government, as pressure mounts on Mr. Mubarak to reform the country’s constitution and move quickly towards free and fair elections. According to some Egyptians, however, Mohamed ElBaradei is not the only perceived leader of the opposition movement.
MONGED: The foreign media has given much more weight to Baradei than the people in the street have. People would–I don’t think they would mind ElBaradei, but they do not see him as a leader of this movement. But they see him [as] one of the acceptable faces to lead the transition. There are three names that are being tossed about, ElBaradei being one. More so, you find people speaking more of Mahmoud [Amr Mohammed] Moussa, which is the leader of the Arab League and an ex-foreign minister of Egypt or ex-foreign minister of Mubarak. And finally, a person who’s, I find, more popular among the masses is an ex-prime minister that people talk about right now whose name is Kamal Ganzouri. So ElBaradei, per se, is not being championed by the masses.
NADAR: It still remains unclear whether Egyptians will accept any negotiation which includes the Mubarak regime.
HUSSEIN: People outside the Square are worried, are scared. If you make more concessions, give it up. People all in the Square are even more persistent every day and they’re more interested on their demands. I’m not leaving.
End of Transcript
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.