Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! senior producer
Nazly Hussein, Egyptian demonstrator
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Amy Goodman: We begin the show in Cairo, where mass protests continue following President Hosni Mubarak’s refusal to immediately step down. The Egyptian army has called for the protests to end, but thousands remain in the streets. Violent clashes have broken out between pro-Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
We’re going to go right now to Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! senior producer. He’s just come from Tahrir Square. In a moment, he’ll join us in studio, but this is too important to wait for that studio satellite to begin.
Sharif, tell us what’s happening now in Tahrir Square.
Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Amy, I just came back from Tahrir Square. I’m standing, talking to you on a building on top of Kornish Al Nile, which is right on—just a few hundred yards from Tahrir Square near the Nile. I don’t know if you can hear in the background, but there are hundreds, thousands of pro-Mubarak crowds who are streaming towards Tahrir.
In Tahrir, they have actually made it into the square. The army let them in. And now they are facing off. [inaudible] pushing. There’s a lot of cursing. This is mostly coming from the pro-Mubarak forces. If you walk in the street next to them, they’re very in-your-face. It’s a much more aggressive stance than we’ve seen. And we spoke to people in Tahrir who say that they’re basically coming from three different areas. There are Central Security forces who are dressed in civilian clothes, a lot of what we call baltaguia, who are also known as thugs. There’s also reports that the oil minister, Sameh Fahmi, issued orders for employees at oil companies to show up today in Heliopolis, another district in Cairo, and to demonstrate for Mubarak. And many of them are suspected to be government employees and members of the National Democratic Party.
This is an ominous development that’s happened now. They’re trying to take back Tahrir Square. They’re facing off right now. Protesters of the pro-democracy movement have linked arms. They’re holding strong. But the numbers are not what they last night in Tahrir. Many people went home. So it remains to be seen what is going to happen. I don’t know if you can hear in the background right now. The chants are getting louder. They are streaming in. This is a big coordinated effort to come back and take Tahrir. It remains to be seen what’s going to happen.
Many of the protesters in Tahrir said, “We’re going to stay here. We’re going to spend the night. If we get beaten, we get beaten. We will not hit back. But we are not leaving.”
Amy Goodman: We are also joined by Nazly Hussein, along with Sharif Abdel Kouddous, in another part of the area around Tahrir Square, an Egyptian woman who’s been taking part in the protests, has been involved in opposition politics in Egypt for several years. Nazly, what do you see right now in Tahrir Square from your vantage point?
Nazly Hussein: I am currently trying to make it into Tahrir Square. I’m not on the square yet. The entire people on the square feel safe and say it’s calm and it’s OK inside the square. I’m trying to make it into the square. But the entire square is surrounded by thugs, and apparently there are more coming on the way. So we’re trying to make it into the square. People on the square are more [inaudible]. There’s a lot of efforts to bring people outside—
Amy Goodman: Have you seen any—Nazly, have you seen any injuries?
Nazly Hussein: I saw injuries. I have not seen the thugs with weapons. I can—you recognize them. After a few days on the street, you recognize them. But I have seen people come out injured. I was standing, two minutes ago, by a—when you first called me—by a medical point, and I saw people carried into the medical center injured. I have not seen anyone use violence. But you recognize them. And it’s really difficult to make it into the square. I have to go to another entry point right now and try to make it into the square.
Amy Goodman: Well, I want to thank you, Nazly Hussein, speaking to us from Tahrir Square. And Sharif will be joining us in a studio momentarily.